Title: First Grave on the Right
Author: Darynda Jones
Release Date: February 1, 2011
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Crime Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Charley Davidson is a private investigator and a consultant for the police department, but her specialty is not exactly standard. Charley can talk to dead people; when someone dies in an unnatural way, she can help them achieve justice and encourage them to “go into the light”. But lately things have been different. Charley’s been having dreams about a shadow that has been following her (and protecting her) over the course of her life. Charley must figure out who this entity is and what his connection is to her, all while solving the latest murders thrown her way.
First Grave on the Right was a surprising novel in many ways. I knew that there would be elements of the paranormal, but I expected this to be a sort of crime fiction novel, and there definitely were mysteries to solve. However, the story and overall plot development take a backseat to Charley. Above all, this is a novel about a woman, rather than about ghosts, dead people, or murder.
Charley sets the tone of the novel through her sass and wit. She’s appealing, funny, and has a great attitude about life. This could have easily been a serious, even gloomy, novel, but Jones keeps it lighthearted through Charley. That’s not to say Jones doesn’t deal with weighty issues or that the book as a whole is fluff, but that Charley ensures that the book maintains a light and easy pace. There is also a serious romance novel-esque relationship running through First Grave on the Right, and since I don’t love that genre, I’ll admit that wasn’t my favorite aspect. The mystery is interesting enough, but since it’s not the center of the book, it’s not incredibly important.
The backstory that Jones presents in First Grave on the Right is certainly interesting, and there are some surprising revelations about Charley over the course of the book. Jones begins to develop a mythology, especially as the novel comes to a close, but doesn’t explore it as well as I’d hoped. Presumably that will come in the next few books, but it seems as though this was written as the first in a series, rather than a standalone book. As a result, I wasn’t completely satisfied with how it ended.
That being said, First Grave on the Right was an enjoyable read. Charley is an incredibly refreshing heroine, and I love how creative Jones was with her story and characters. I will not hesitate to pick up the next book in the series to see where Jones takes Charley next.