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Ever since she was born Charley Davidson has been a grim reaper, helping the souls of the unlawfully killed move on to the afterlife. Charley uses her ability to aid her professional life by working as a PI and a consultant to the local PD - where she regularly helps her Uncle Bob, a detective, to solve crimes.
FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT starts with a dead lawyer turning up in Charley's apartment, asking for help. However when Charley does a bit of digging to help the murdered man seek answers and closure, she stumbles across the ghosts of two of his colleagues, who have also just been murdered.
It seems the lawyers were working a case for a prisoner; the young man in question has been convicted of murdering a boy and, as he is missing, for the suspected murder of his teenage nephew. But the lawyers and Charley can see that the man has been framed. The murders of the lawyers are most likely connected to this case, so Charley and her uncle are going to have to follow the path created by the lawyers deaths, and find out who is responsible for the death and disappearance of the children, which in turn will lead to the killer(s) of the three lawyers.
As she helps the three ghosts and the wrongly imprisoned man, Charley comes across a guy she met when she was fifteen. It was a brief crossing of paths, but she could sense that Rayse wasn't a regular human either, so she is thrilled that she has found him again. However there are two slight problems to overcome before we have a happy reunion; Rayse is now in prison - for murder. AND he is in a coma, following a prison brawl.
Is Charley prepared to dig around Rayse's past to try and help his situation somehow? Will she likes what she finds if she does?
I've been interested in reading this series for a while, as the reviews are glowing. After failing to get hold of FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT in the library, I bit the bullet and just bought the kindle version, as I was so confident that I'd love it. Sigh, I've still not learnt to ignore hype. Anyway, lets get right to my issues with the book...
Countless reviews tell me how sassy and funny Charley is, but to me the author is trying too hard, giving the result of Charley constantly sounding like a bratty 14 year old. She is not hilarious and sassy - she is rude, abrupt and antagonises other people for no real reason. To me she is really like a sulky teenager, convinced that the world is against her.
As she seems to go out of her way to piss of the people who she routinely works with and relies on for assistance, I come to think of her as being a bit, well, stupid. For instance whenever Charley works with the police in the book, she gets her own way over the people who are actually meant to be at the various crime scenes by constantly batting her lashes at her Uncle and reminding other people, that yes, they are related. And then she wonders why people on the force don't respect, or even like her that much. By the end of the book I'm still not sure whether the author knows how Charley seems to readers, or not. I suspect that she is seeing Charley as a spunky, yet misunderstood snowflake.
The romantic angle was the other thing that drove me nuts, as Charley keeps on shelving her murder case [the bunch of murdered people clearly aren't important] to obsess over Reyes - leading to the pace dragging. Maybe if the author had kept the murder investigation as the central focus of the book, I would have been able to overlook my niggles with Charley, as I really did want to like the book.
The premise of this 'romance' is more irritating and alienating to me then Charley's attitude, as I don't emphasize with her in the slightest and, as a result, dismiss her as being melodramatic from the start; Charley only meet Rayse once as a teenager, and he wasn't exactly warm and friendly towards her, and she is now nearly 30 and has been living a Rayse free life happily up until now. The whole set up makes everything here seem abrupt and bunny boilerish.
Over the course of the book she increasingly sounds like a 14 year old, crushing over some boy-band member. At one point Charley actually says that she can't live without him - she hasn't seen or heard from him for over fourteen years, so where are these feelings coming from? The author hasn't shown me anything convincing to explain Charley's feelings. After a few chapters of listening to Charley's dramatics and general obsession with him, I honestly wouldn't be shocked if Charley snapped and clambered aboard Rayse's comatose body and had her way with him.
She somehow just knows that Rayse is in prison or something he didn't do, and the prison brawl? Rayse was clearly injured when he tried to protect somebody; her excuses for him are really quite sad, as he is a total stranger and she is busily building a happily-ever-after around him. I have to admit that I kept reading the book in the hope that he does turn out to be guilty as charged, to give Charley a slap in the face and a reality check.
Oh yeah; didn't the author tell us earlier? Charley can apparently also 'sense' guilt and lies. I found the way that the author failed to mention this ability of Charley's earlier, and then casually tossed it abruptly into the book to belatedly attempt to rationalize things, makes it seem like something that she made up on the spot. Charley's ability doesn't matter when it comes to Rayse anyway, because of the coma thing - something else the author has overlooked. This means that all of Charley's ramblings on the subject of Rayse and his supposed innocence mean very little anyway, so the whole sensing ability is wasted. I felt that reading all of the excuses Charley makes us read through is just a waste of time.
FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT had a interesting and promising concept; I love urban fantasy and mysteries, so having them combined into a series which has a sprinkling of Dead Like Me added in, sounded like a winner. However in the end I found the lead character annoying and the 'romance' subplot failed to draw me in and I soon became bored as this subplot began to take over the story and distracted from a otherwise promising read.
It's frustrating because the author has everything here for a great read, but, for me at least, she has misjudged how the lead's attitude and actions come of to other people. It's also frustrating for me to read so many positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads- what am I missing here? I want to read the awesome series that everyone else is reading.
Part of me is tempted to try the next book and see if the author is actually aware of Charley's attitude problem, but I think that she isn't, so I've been put off for now. If I come across the books in the library in future, or there is a price cut on the kindle versions, I might be tempted to brave book two...
Second Grave on the Left
Third Grave Dead Ahead
Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet (released October 30th 2012)