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First Grave on the Right    by Darynda Jones order for
First Grave on the Right
by Darynda Jones
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Charlotte Davidson keeps busy balancing her dual careers as a PI and the Grim Reaper. That's right. Since the age of five she's been a magnet for the departed, her body the shining light that dead people must pass through on their journey to the other side. But once and a while these souls aren't ready to leave, due to extenuating circumstances surrounding their deaths - like murder. It's up to Charley to see that these stragglers understand the how's and why's surrounding their demise so they can make that final ascent.

On this particular day, Charley is getting ready to do a little moonlighting for her uncle Bob, a police detective. She's also looking forward to irritating the hell out of her arch nemesis and woo-woo sceptic, Garrett Swopes (or as Charley prefers to call him, that 'pain-in-the-ass skip tracer') when three lawyers from the same firm appear before her and request that she track down their killer. The increasingly erotic dreams she's having involving a dark, powerful and mysterious entity that Charley's named Big Bad, are also heating up. Why the sudden escalation and why does the entity keep calling her Dutch, as if he's known her forever? When Big Bad turns out to be human and wearing a prison jumpsuit, Charley's dance card gets even more complicated.

Charley shines as narrator of this enjoyable, fast paced and very original story. Her sarcastic quips and observations about just about everything in life - and death - are hilarious, but also nicely balanced with the action. Jones' secondary characterizations are spot on as well, but the sometimes overly busy plot didn't leave room for much insight into Charley's powers. I'm hopeful future instalments will clear up some of these mysteries and tie together other threads, especially those surrounding the origins, and the intentions of Charley's dream lover.

First Grave on the Right is an impressive debut; Darynda Jones breathes new life and direction into a genre that, for me, has been getting a tad ho-hum!

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