First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson, Vol 1) [Audiobook] - Not exactly what I expected but good
I'll give this book one thing, it never let me sit back, get comfortable, and laze my way through. No, this was more akin to a zero to sixty roller-coaster with more twists, turns, and loop the loops then you'd believe. Not saying it was bad, far from it, just that it caught me flat footed.
Charley Davidson (and that basically covers most of the humor level in this book - you don't like puns, crazy bumper stickers, and other bizarre forms of humor, get out. She takes no prisoners.) seems to all but attack life every moment, which is amusing considering she is a grim reaper and the portal through which ghosts can finally leave this world. I found it interesting that most people don't leave ghosts, but the ones that do are drawn to her because, to them, she glows. Ghosts can only talk to her and she's the only living being that can touch them.
Now a PI in Albuquerque, Charley has been her father and now her uncle's secret weapon for solving cases and moving up the ranks. Even they don't understand much of her abilities but that doesn't stop them seeking her help. As the first book in the series, First Grave suffers a bit from Introduction Syndrome, the book tries to introduce the characters, back story, regular plot, etc in one book and that can get a bit crowded. To be fair to Darynda Jones, she balances them better than most I've seen; however, I can't deny that sometimes scenes would pop up that were little more then info-dumps.
The characters are clearly the strength of this book; both the living and the dead are interesting and human. Not all of them get the chance to show full faceted personalities but each get a chance to shine in their own ways. Charley steals the show, no contest, but her friend Cookie won a special place in my heart. Our grim reaper seems to have better relationships with ghosts, as most of the people she calls friends and don't try to piss off tend to happen to be dead. The living seem to almost constantly be on her bad side, with the exception of Cookie and her daughter.
And then there is Reyes. For most of the book, this is what we're told:
At times it seemed as if the book was merely building up his obvious blessings in the looks and...other departments, though finally he worms his way into the plot. We learn a great deal about his past from Charley as they have some connections but even Charley has to wait for most of the book to learn some very pertinent facts about him.
Also, while there is a case, I wouldn't call it a mystery. More of a suspense as there are no real clues. The narrator of this audiobook did quite an amazing job, capturing the main characters snark as well as the tangents she goes off on without turning one too harsh nor the other too divergent from the rest of the text. The voices for the other characters were quite passable and all in all I feel her performance greatly added to the story.
So...what do I think? I. Have. No. Clue. I'm going to definitely pick up the second book but First Grave and Charley herself kept me constantly wavering between absolute love and complete aggravation. I can't help but compare this book to one of my favorite Urban Fantasy series, Jaz Parks. The puns, snark, and humor is the same...and yet it's not. I can tell you firmly I fell madly in love with the first Jaz Parks book while this one, I'm on the fence. It might be that I felt Charley's humor and tangents were a bit more in your face and occasionally didn't know when to stop, but I'm not sure that was the full reason. Again, not saying I didn't enjoy it, just not as much as I thought I would.
Now for spoilers:(show spoiler)
To sum up, I'm definitely going to check in on Charley, Cookie, Reyes, and the rest of them again. I don't think I'll really know how I feel about this book or the characters until I see how they fit in with the overarching story. I quite enjoyed parts of the book but parts of it were not what I expected and it didn't work for me as much as I thought it would. But now I go in forewarned and know what to expect.