First Grave on the Right is a debut novel for Darynda Jones, as well as the first in a series of books. Have you ever wondered what happens to the victims of horrendous crimes when they die? Is the story we hear is really what happened? Jones has created a world where a modern-day grim reaper not only ferries souls to the other side, but also tries to provide closure to the departed by bringing wrong-doers to justice.
Charley Davidson is a part-time private investigator, part-time consultant for her uncle in the Albuquerque Police Department, and full-time grim reaper. Charley’s job as grim reaper is to allow departing souls to pass onto the next plane of existence. Most are draw to her brilliant light automatically and need no help crossing over. However, there are some that are not ready for reasons like not wanting to leave loved ones behind or they have been wronged in some way, like murder, and seek justice. That’s where Charley’s private investigating comes in handy.
Three lawyers from the same law firm are murdered in the same day. They don’t see who killed them, but know it’s all connected somehow. They find Charley at one of their crime scenes and tag along with her, telling Charley their stories from their point of view as the victim. Throughout the story, the reader encounters several other departed souls that are not ready to cross over, like Mr. Wong who stays in Charley’s bathroom corner and Angel who is a teen gang-banger who likes to assist on investigations. The reader also meets Reyes, a sex-driven, passionate, and intense being that appears to Charley mostly in dreams, she thinks. Charley is not sure what he is, but she enjoys his visits no matter when they are. The most feared presence in Charley’s life is the mysterious dark and misty hooded figure, whom she calls Big Bad, that appears without warning when she is in the most dangerous of situations. Is this figure like Charley? Is it evil or is it protective?
Throughout the story, Charley leads her Uncle to clues provided by the victims that will eventually identify the lawyers’ killer and their motive. Despite her proven accuracy in closing previous unsolved cases, the members of the APD are skeptical of her and give minimal respect. However, by time Charley and her crew discover the person behind the three murders, she has not only put herself in danger to uncover a ruthless market for local children, but she has earned the respect of the members of the APD. She even learns the true identity of Reyes and Big Bad.
You’ll have to read the book to find out for yourself!
The book’s premise and the story driving this series is unique and interesting to read. It is definitely a young adult series as there are many scenes with language and sex, but Charley’s dialogue and inner monologue are too immature to be considered more than young adult. As a 30-something year old, I found the language annoying at times and tempted to skip over some parts. I also found a couple of storylines that were incomplete at the end of this book, but could be settled in the second book, Second Grave on the Left. I suppose there is only one way to find out!