09 July, 2013
Review: Fifth Grave Past The Light by Darynda Jones
Fifth Grave repairs a lot of what was going wrong with the Charley Davidson series before magnifying new flaws. I find Jones so frustrating as an author. There is a great series here, with a strong point of view and a compelling frame, but it doesn't quite hit the page. She constantly uses one pound of story for a five pound bag. The Charley Davidson series is part Charlaine Harris, part Jenny Lawson, part Janet Evonavich. This should be an adorable cracktastic thrill ride, not a misaligned wooden coaster.
When we meet Charley this time her PTSD has died down and so have the abuse dynamics of her relationship with Reyes. He still tries to kill those close to her but Charley finds it endearing instead of traumatic. He's working on his communication skills while still keeping Charley in the dark as often as possible. (No, that wasn't a play on words.) His position of manipulation is absolute. He knows the answers to all of Charley's questions but refuses to tell them. He insists she make choices without being fully informed of the outcomes. Jones moves Reyes out of the Bad Boy mold and into the Benevolent Billionaire a little more in this chapter. Reyes is still the guy all the girls want, who only wants Charley. He is a trophy mate with a taste for terror.
Also disturbing me is an uptick in ghost children. Charley is attracting dead children who don't want to leave. Her assistant, Angel, has shadowed his mother for longer than he was alive. Her (special needs?) assistant Rocket lives in an abandoned building with his traumatized sister Blue and the somewhat disturbed sister of a living cop. In book four a formerly possessed living deaf boy was added and in this volume we meet a murdered elementary school girl. I find a child ghost far less charming than Charley does. There is a horror in early death. There is a horror in children trying to comfort parents who cannot see or respond to them. It it no mystery that most of Charley's young ghosts are disturbed, they are trapped in a cycle of perpetual neglect. It is an interesting choice, this army of dead children, but it's not necessarily a good one.
The weight of the mythology this series wants to hold is pushing the Ghosts Du Jour to the side. With deliberate ADD pacing, action pinballs from terrorized female ghosts to a new therapist, to her sister's side story, to Reyes sister's side story, to Garrett, and so on. At this point Jones needs to drop the mythology or the crime of the day and get serious about one of them. (She also might want to ease up some on the whimsical humor. It's reading like a lack of ideas instead of a style choice.) I've got that 50 volume series feeling happening and there isn't enough at stake to hang in that long. Add in Surprise Bondage plus Pointless Heroine Assault and you've got why I wasn't going to buy Fifth Grave. I'd probably read Sixth Grave if it was free, but I can't promise I'd finish it.