Monday, April 4, 2011

Book Nook - First Grave on the Right

Can't-Put-It-Down books are both a blessing and a curse.  Laundry sulks.  Tumbleweeds blow across a sink full of dirty dishes.  Toy Story 3 plays a great deal of the day.  And yet, there is an upside: a great book that you can devour in a short period of time.  Your household will thank you for that last detail.

First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones is such a book.  A quick & fun read that will have you skirting all your responsibilities.  In the story, Private Investigator Charley Davidson is the actual grim reaper.  Newly departed souls need to go through her (she's beaming & sparkly in their eyes) in order to get through her portal to that great big party in the sky.  Actually, most dead people just go straight to the party; those that are murdered are especially in need of Charley's services.  This helps her Uncle Bob, detective for the Albuquerque Police Department, a great deal since she can actually talk to the murdered person and get all the details.  Charley and Uncle Bob are drawn into a case involving 3 murdered lawyers, a murdered informant, an innocent man in prison, his missing nephew & a slew of bad guys.  In the mix are some humans like Charley's maternal, caring assistant Cookie, who has the incredible talent of suspending disbelief; there are the dead, like Aunt Lillian who thinks she is making a mean cup of coffee; and then there's Reyes, a supernatural being who wisps in and out of Charley's life.

Reading this book, I couldn't help but think of the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlene Harris.  Let's look at some of the similarities, shall we?
-Both Charley and Sookie are real lookers, bosomy & have every non-related male wanting her
-Both are sassy, call-it-like-it-is, fearless to the point of stupidity, & compassionate
-Both Charley and Sookie have a supernatural talent (the former is able to see and talk to dead people and has the ability to take a beating better than the average human; the latter is telepathic and can heal faster than the average human - with some help from her vampire friends)
-Both endure repetitive butt-kickings that would send any other mortal to the hospital - or the morgue.  But they both wake up the next day, ready for more!
-Both have many steamy scenes with their supernatural paramours
-Both are involved in overly complicated plots
-Both tend bar (although in Charley's case, it's a mere mention in the story)
-In both stories, knitting proves to be a deadly hobby (although this happens later in the Sookie series)

I'll stop there.  You get the point how closely related these characters and books are.  Which, if you liked the Sookie Stackhouse series, you will probably really like this one, too.  However, these similarities drove me a little crazy after a while.  I really hope if Darynda Jones has a second book about Charley Davidson, it's not set in Dallas with Sookie (I mean Charley) and Bill (I mean Reyes) battling an anti-vampire cult (I mean an anti-grim reaper cult).  Just sayin'.

Anyway, I will say there were a couple more tiny things that bugged me about the book.  One, Jones' descriptions of heaven & hell are incredibly stereotypical.  I would have loved if the inventive idea of the female grim reaper had translated to the afterlife as well.  I would have loved to see something like "Beetlejuice" for instance.  But no, heaven in this book is a bright place above where you get to hang out with all your friends.  Hell is not as well defined, but there are gates, it's dark, down a tunnel and bad.

My second little nitpick is that Charley's character is bestowed with a lot of sass, but it ends up being too much of a good thing.  I found several instances where I was quickly trying to read through all the snide comments just to get back into the dialogue.  It was laid on a little too thick, especially in the first half of the book.

But I'm making it sound like I don't like the book & that's not true.  I really enjoyed it - it's a fast paced, funny, can't-put-it-down chick-lit read.  But now that I'm finished with the book & writing about it, I guess its flaws (and those neglected dishes) have come to my attention.


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