[ Book Review ] In which the Grim Reaper gets stalked and likes it

First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

Audiobook read by Lorelei King

Who is Charley Davidson, age 27? University and Peace Corp Graduate. Private investigator. Police consultant. Caffeine addict. Smart-alec. The Grim Reaper.

Within the first few pages, the story shoves her headlong into a murder investigation and into her pro-bono business of helping the dead cross over. All the while Charley seeks to uncover the mystery of the spectral creature that haunts her dreams — and sometimes, her waking hours. And have I mentioned she’s The Grim Reaper, the one and only in the entire world?

I was looking for something to wash down my last review, and you’d think I’d have gone straight to the Pulitzer section — but this audiobook was available for instant, online download through my library. Some chick flick lit. Why not?

The premise is silly. Of course, it’s silly. But that’s part of the attraction. I was sold within the first few pages when the main character is woken out of a sound romantic dream by a call from the police, only to find a dead man standing over her.

Yes. Okay, I’m sold. Keep it coming, Ms. Jones.

Plus, there was the cover and the very positive association of the show, “Dead Like Me.”

However, as I read on and the novelty wore off, I found my enthusiasm waning. The story tries too hard, both in the number of characters and parallel plots that it attempts to develop, and in its headlong rush to sketch Charley out as an intelligent, haunted, smart-ass, humorously sarcastic, earnest heroine. Instead, she comes across as immature, capricious, unreasonable, and some fifteen years younger than her age of 27.

“God, all this sounds so awful when I say it out loud,” I complained. “I whine more than a Goth with a blogging fetish. It’s really not that bad. I actually grew up rather happy. I had lots of friends. They were mostly dead, but still.”

Yes, yes you really do whine a lot, Charley.

“But, Uncle Bob,” I said, whining like a child who’d just been told she couldn’t have a pony for her birthday. Or a Porsche.

No, you really do.

“Fine,” I said in a huff. Not that I couldn’t handle Garrett. I just wanted to complain.

Even as the internal narrative — the book is written in first person — tries too much to be clever, the plethora of asides and juxtapositioned phrases becomes exhausting. And that’s a damn shame, because a little less and I might have loved our snappy narrator. Continue reading