Thursday, July 5, 2012

On Grim Reapers: A Review of First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson, #1)This book came to me with nothing but great reviews. And not just great reviews from readers, but also from writers like J.R. Ward and Kresley Cole. People genuinely love this book. Now, having finally read it, can I just say...meh?

Whatever magic everyone else feels for this book honestly eludes me, and it's hard to say how much of my reaction is due to a genuine lack of quality, and how much is due to a let down from all the build up of my expectations going into this. Because believe me, a recommendation from the great authors of paranormal romance will always stack my expectations sky high--and maybe that's a bad thing.

The story is about Charley Davidson, aka the Grim Reaper. She can see the dead and they can pass through her to the other side. In the meantime she can help them tie up loose ends and settle their affairs and what have you. Unsurprisingly, she is also a private investigator (although, to me, she seems really bad at it). So, in this book there is a big mystery surrounding three dead lawyers, a falsely accused murderer, and another unconnected falsely accused murderer who has been having dream sex with Charley and stalking her for years. No, I'm not kidding.

Positive Comments

So much potential. Seriously, so much freaking potential. You have a quirky heroine. You have a sexy, mysterious hero. Funny ghosts. The potential for heart felt stories about death and moving on. The potential for wackiness. The potential for heart stopping, unique romance.

I really liked where the book was going with Reyes. I wanted it to be just about him. Honestly, that would have put this book easily in the 4 to 5 star range for me...

Critical Comments

...but Reyes isn't really a character. Well, he is, but he isn't. He's a being. He's a mystery. Which is fine, up and to a point, but won't work for an entire book if what you intend to do is write a romance. We see Reyes and a sex symbol, a problem to be solved, a puzzle piece, but we don't get to connect with him as a person. You can't call what he has with Charley a relationship, because it's formed in this vague smoke-and-mirrors telling that leaves me feeling distanced from it. To me they seem like potential lovers, but not necessarily anything more.

This book does a lot of telling instead of showing. Charley's backstory, for example, get's told via her explaining her past to others. This was so frustrating to me. She talks about these huge events, but she's flippant about them. We don't actually get to feel her emotions in those moments that supposedly shaped her into who she is today.

I didn't feel a connection to Charley, mostly because of the above mentioned problem of too much telling, but also because the narration was trying way to freaking hard to be witty and fun. The events are described as though from a third party commentator with a penchant for sarcasm, rather than from the point of view of someone who this is actually happening to. 

We are told that Charley is smart and good at her job, but I don't see either of those things as actually being true. Mostly she relies on others to help her figure stuff out (a really fantastic PI indeed). She gets her ass kicked more often than not, and we are told repeatedly that she's always having to be rescued. And as for her role as counselor to the dead, she seems kind of whiny about it. She'll help the ghosts with their problems, but only because she's the only one who can, and her attitude about the whole thing is jaded and put-upon. All of these people literally passing through her life, and she can't muster up one emotion that strikes me as genuine (except lust for Reyes).

The plot has ADD. It is seriously all over the place. It wanted to be a mystery...but we also have to fit this romance in...wait, we have to cram some backstory in now....what about these ghosts, maybe we should give them a few subplots...and back to the mystery! I felt distanced from the story because it lacked cohesion.


I just don't know, you guys. I feel like I read a different book from everyone else, because based on the reviews I've seen and the overall ratings on Goodreads and Amazon, this book is much loved. I don't get it. 2.5 stars.

Find your copy here: First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson, Book 1)


  1. I hate when that happens! I loved this book but don't really see a relationship with Reyes working. Sorry you didn't love it!

    1. Hey, I can't love every popular book! Tastes differ :)


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