Book Review: First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

Originally posted 12/27/11 in my meta/review blog

First Grave on the Right is a urban fantasy/paranormal romance with a thin candy coating of mystery. Our Heroine is a private investigator named Charley Davidson who sees dead people. Or rather, they see her, because she is apparently “the light” you’re supposed to go toward when you die. She is the Grim Reaper, and she is largely responsible for helping first her father and then her uncle become police detectives. (It is super easy to solve murders if you can talk to the victim!)

Our Heroine is awakened by a dead man who is hoping she can solve his murder. Then she gets a call from her uncle for a triple homicide. (The dead man is one of three lawyers, the partners of a small legal firm.) Charley is drawn into the case which involves human trafficking, while she attempts to settle the business of a few of the various ghosts in her life with limited success.

If that were not trouble enough, Charley has been getting visitations from a mysterious figure who has been appearing in her dreams (extremely explicit dreams). This entity may or may not be dead and may or may not be human. She spends a great deal of time obsessing over him in between dodging skeptics and talking to dead people. She spends a great deal of time trying to find out what or who he is, much more time in fact than she actually spends on the case she’s actually getting paid for. (I am deeply unhappy when someone who is supposed to be a professional spends more time with her romantic life than with her career.)

Our Heroine eventually learns that her mysterious dream-visitor and a much scarier visitation that has haunted her since the day she was born may be connected, but this does not stop her from pursuing him. She is one determined lady, but it’s really too bad she can’t seem to put all that determination into her actual job. (This is illustrated very clearly throughout the book in painful detail.)

This book is a very light, fast read. It does manage to be engaging and the main character is not quite as incompetent as she sometimes appears. (I blame this on the writer occasionally trying to make things that are not actually funny into jokes.) The worldbuilding is somewhat shaky, but that can possibly be attributed to unreliable narrator, since Our Heroine does not really know very much about the supernatural aspects of her world, despite being a supernatural being herself. While the story does have its good moments and it did keep me interested in finding out what happens next.

I did have some problems with the romantic development between Our Heroine and romantic interest. My problem with the romantic development is that it is kind of nonexistent. There is no relationship here, there is just steamy dreams and an occasional ghostly presence and Charley’s obsession with finding out who the guy is.

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