First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

Tofu didn't want to be a book stand.
Tofu didn’t want to be a book stand.

Why I Read It: Darynda Jones is going to be a guest at Bubonicon 2013, the one convention I will be attending this year, so I wanted to check out her urban fantasy series.

Where I Got It: The library.

Who I Recommend This To: If you are an urban fantasy or ghost story junkie, you may enjoy this series.

Narrator: Lorelei King

Publisher: Macmillan Audio (2011)

Length: 9 hours 30 minutes

Series: Book 1 Charley Davidson

Charlotte (Charley) Davidson, a Grim Reaper in her mid 20s, spends her days as a private investigator based out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Coming from a family of cops, she is in a perfect position to assist the newly dead in tracking down their killers. First Grave on the Right unwinds the mystery of the execution of three lawyers plus the fate of a missing teen. All sorts of seedy characters compliment the cast of do-gooders. A heavy romance subplot twists it’s way through the story, by turns dark and lush.

This book is full of quick-snap comebacks and snarky humor, set in the desert Southwest. I loved the quick wit, the murder mystery, and the Hispanic culture and words tossed in. Being familiar with Charley Davidson’s chosen city of Albuquerque, I could clearly see her acting as a portal to the dead (‘Go towards the light!‘) in the heat shimmer of the day. I so very much wanted a hot green chile breakfast burrito to go with this book. An independent strong woman with her share of friends and supportive family, she also has terrors both in the past and potentially right in front of her.

Her whole life, The Bad has watched over her, protecting her in his flowing cloak and death-dealing sword. However, only she can see him. Of course, suddenly slumping corpses following in her wake has caused for some interesting family discussions with her cop family. Add to that a mysterious entity that interrupts her shower, calling her a nick name only one other being (Reyes Alexander Farrow) has ever used, bringing to the forefront memories of a messed up event from her teen years. This book was off to a good start, grabbing my attention straight off and then hauling me around for the rest of it.

The adult romance and sexual tension between Charley and Reyes was exciting and added yet one more thing for Charley to try to track down in the midst of her triple homicide investigation. Deadly handsome and off the radar, Charley feels a great need to track him down, especially since he keeps appearing in a almost-ghostly way to give her waking wet dreams.

Still, with all that goodness, at the end I was a little conflicted. There were parts I so greatly enjoyed, but then parts that quirked my eyebrow in a negative way. First, there is objectification of woman, mostly the main character Charley. And mostly it is Charley doing the objectification. Large breasted, 125 points, a 9 out of 10 on the beauty scale – this is the description of Charley by herself. The book is smattered with compliments on her feminine anatomy and propositions by most of the men. So, sometimes I felt this added to the atmosphere – I mean she works mostly with men – and also a woman should feel free to express her own sexuality. But sometimes I felt it stayed too much on the objectification, especially after the ‘love’ word got pulled out of the closet.

The second point deals with the main love interest of the book. I know messed up shit happens in life and we sometimes choose to move past that and keep the people involved in that messed up shit in our lives. Still, I think if the author through Charley had acknowledged the fucked up nature of this relationship, I could have swallowed it better. OK, so here is the SPOILER ALERT: Charley meets Reyes when she is 14 or 15 and he is 17 or 18. He’s just taken a nasty beating and she threatens to call the cops (to defend him from further beatings). He desperately wants her to leave, so he threatens her with rape. He then gropes her breasts and her sex, making sure she is paying attention to his threat. She promises to leave and he lets her go. OK, messed up things happen. But then fast forward like 10+ years, and for the rest of the book he is the main sex attraction. Um….aren’t we going to talk about whether or not he has a violent (sexual?) streak? END SPOILER. So, yeah, without having a few paragraphs or a chapter for those two to acknowledge their assault & battery beginning, I had a hard time rooting for Reyes and for their potential coupling.

All that aside, it was a quick fun read, complete with a car named Misery, a best friend, neighbor, and secretary all in one Cookie, and evil step-mother and step-sister. Of course there are also other handsome men, such as investigator Garrett – complete with intense eyes and a questioning attitude when it comes to Charley’s ability to chat with the dead. Also, Charley gets hit, a lot, in this book and this, and the resultant bruises, show that she is human, can be damaged, and does need the support of her friends and family.

Narration: Lorelei King was a great narrator for this book, giving voice to Charley’s thoughts and pulling off her humor with ease. Her male voices could use a little more distinction, as I sometimes could not tell from the narration alone who was talking. King pronounced most of the Spanish words correctly.

What I Liked: Quick, snarky wit; the dead still have needs; set in the desert Southwest; some Hispanic culture thrown in; Charley has a series of tough days; the sex scenes were intense.

What I Disliked: Majorly conflicted about the main love interest; objectification of women.

What Others Think:

Candace’s Book Blog

Bookloversity Reviews

Fiction Fool

Heather’s Book Blog

5 thoughts on “First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones”

    1. Yeah, I’m not sure either. I liked the concept, the intensity, the snappy wit….but then there were these 2 down points. I may or may not read Book 2.

  1. I really enjoyed this audio book. Moon Called had the same narrator and I think she did a great job on both. For being the first in a UF series I really liked this one. I was cracking up throughout. Great review, sorry some points didn’t work for you.:)

  2. Sorry some points didn’t work for you. I thought for a first in a UF series I enjoyed this rather well. The narrator is the same for Moon Called and I thought she did a wonderful job with the snark and humor Charley doles out. Great review! 🙂

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