First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson #1)

First Grave on the RightBy Darynda Jones

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: February 1, 2011
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Source: Publisher

Charley sees dead people. That’s right, she sees dead people. And it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light.” But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (i.e. murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice. Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she’s been having about an Entity who has been following her all her life…and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely.

Goodreads Summary

I’ve had this poor book on my to-read shelf for so long, I felt like I ought to have apologized, stroked its cover and told it how pretty it was before I started reading it.  I don’t generally go too crazy about reading and reviewing something before everyone else does, but I did mean to get to this almost as soon as I got it.  It was endorsed by a few of my favorite authors and from what they said, it sounded right up my alley: death, snark and smut, three of my favorite things!

Does it make me extra weird that I pulled this off the top of my stack because I finally couldn’t stand that foot staring at me?

Charley Davidson isn’t just a grim reaper, she’s the Grim Reaper – with capital letters, as in the only one.  She’s also got three other jobs: she’s a bartender at her dad’s place, a P.I. and a consultant for the Albuquerque Police Department, where she uses her handy little talent for talking to dead people to help solve homicide cases.

The morning after the latest in a series of seriously orgasmic dreams with a faceless stranger, Charley is awakened by a deathly cold touch on her ankle, the phone ringing and a dead guy standing next to the bed.  Most annoying is the phone call, which turns out to be her Uncle Bob, a cop who’s on the scene of a double homicide – and one of the victims just happens to be her early morning visitor.  When Charley gets there, there’s another dead person wandering around and the double turns into a triple.  All three were attorneys representing a man they believe was wrongly convicted of killing a teenaged boy and were pursuing evidence that might clear him.  Now the cops – and the three dead attorneys – want Charley to help find the killer.  Coming along for the ride is hunky skiptracer Garrett Swopes who gets on her last nerve (although he might be wanting to get on her last something else).

Adding to Charley’s stress is her nighttime visitor who’s begun intruding during the day.  Oddly familiar, comforting, scary and arousing beyond belief, Charley is obsessed with finding out who he is – or what he is.

I can’t count how many ways I loved this – when I was flipping through it to remind myself of a couple of plot points, I ended up just re-reading it and smiling a lot.

Charley is full of just enough attitude to toss out snappy one-liners on the spot without being obnoxious enough to really piss people off with them.  She’s got a bone-dry sense of humor but she’s also a decent person who cares about the dead people she’s got to usher to the other side.  She’s…spunky?  Sassy?  The secondary cast of characters is just as terrific – Jones didn’t skimp on their development.  From Garrett to Uncle Bob, Charley’s best friend and secretary Cookie and a couple of hilarious ghosts permanently inhabiting her apartment, it’s easy to see who are going to be fixtures in the series.

The mystery of the murders gets a little winding, especially as Charley jumps from the case to her search for her mystery visitor, back and forth, but the resolution is satisfying and makes sense.  Any cliffhanger is minor and shouldn’t be an issue for anyone who doesn’t want to continue with the series but will still be a good tease for someone who does.

My Summary:  I hate to put any pressure on Ms. Jones, but if she can keep up the quality of the series based on this book, I’ll be clearing some keeper shelf space for the series and buying the bound and digital versions.  This was a blast to read – it has everything I want in a lighter urban fantasy – a heroine who’s smart and funny, strong, sexy and compassionate and with a hero (or two) in the mix who can start the story simmering.

My Rating: A


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