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First Grave on the Right – Darynda Jones [review] 2011, paranormal romance/mystery

First Grave on the Right – Darynda Jones [review] 2011, paranormal romance/mysteryAuthor: Darynda Jones
Title: First Grave on the Right
Series: Charley Davidson #1
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 338
Release Date: July 5, 2011
Genres: Mystery & Thriller

First Grave on the Right is the smashing, award-winning debut novel that introduces Charley Davidson: part-time private investigator and full-time Grim Reaper.

Charley sees dead people. That's right, she sees dead people. And it's her job to convince them to "go into the light." But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (i.e., murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice. Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she's been having about an Entity who has been following her all her life...and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely.

This is a thrilling debut novel from Darynda Jones, an exciting newcomer to the world of paranormal romantic suspense.

First Grave on the Right is the winner of the 2012 Rita Award for Best First Book.
Format: Paperback
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This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to sexual content.

First Grave on the Right is the first book in the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones. This book is a mixture of romance, mystery, and fantasy.

  • Point of View: first person
  • Tense: past
  • Setting: New Mexico
  • Pet Peeves: the character has names for everything, including her Jeep, her ovaries, and her breasts (***eye roll***)

Although I enjoyed reading First Grave on the Right, it wasn’t what I expected. I had heard so much praise for the series that I think I may have set my standards too high. I was a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong: I liked it. It just wasn’t as spectacular as I was expecting.

About the plot

The story is about Charley, a woman who was born a grim reaper. It took a while for the author to explain what exactly her job entailed. I finally understood that her job is to help people cross over, which is different from the soul-collector type of grim reaper I am used to reading about. Charley isn’t present when the people die, nor does she go to them. They go to her, in a way that reminds me of The Ghost Whisperer. Charley is also a private investigator.

In this book, Charley has to help three lawyers who were killed. However, the book sidetracks and becomes more about Reyes, Charley’s dream man, than about the lawyers and who killed them.  It does get back on track, eventually.

There is also a subplot about a “demon child” who is stalking a police officer, and another subplot about a man who has been wrongfully imprisoned (also this man’s son is missing). But, the author didn’t stop there. She kept cramming stuff into the book. There’s another story line about a client with an abusive husband.

At first, I thought I disliked that the book had so much going on. As I thought about it, I realized that it’s kind of like Charley. She’s all over the place, too, because she claims to suffer from ADD. So, thinking about it from that perspective, it’s somewhat clever on the author’s part if she intentionally made the book cluttered like Charley’s brain.

About the writing and other elements

I agree with many reviewers who have said the book is cheesy at times. However, I think the author did a good job of putting some serious parts into the story that made it balanced enough for me to enjoy it as a whole.

The book was also redeemed by Charlie’s sense of humor. She was sarcastic and funny, but knew when she need to reel it in. The world wasn’t always filled with darkness or sunshine; Charley had a well-balanced personality. I also liked that Charley was a real person physically–she could be hurt like anyone else.

For me, the characterization was the strongest aspect of First Grave on the Right. Although I hated her having to name everything (because that is so overused in this genre), I really liked Charley as a person. I plan to read more books about her.

My overall opinion

Despite some complaints, I do recommend reading First Grave on the Right if you haven’t read it already. If you like snarky humor, hot sex scenes, and mysteries, give this one a try.

I give First Grave on the Right 4 out 5 stars (a B).


If you’ve already read First Grave on the Right, what did you like the most about it? What did you like the least? Does the characters-naming-body-parts-and-vehicles thing bother you? Why or why not?

The Charley Davidson series Reading Order

First Grave on the Right
For I Have Sinned
Second Grave on the Left
Third Grave Dead Ahead
Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet
Fifth Grave Past the Light
Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet
Sixth Grave on the Edge
Seventh Grave and No Body
Eighth Grave After Dark
Brighter Than the Sun
The Dirt on Ninth Grave
The Curse of Tenth Grave
Eleventh Grave in Moonlight (2017)


Jen Schaper
I am a mom of three kids, a wife, and a wannabe author. For Books That Hook, I review books, create features and discussions, design the website, and do all the administrative stuff.

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