Thursday 18 July 2013

#CBR5 Books 69-71 . "Charley Davidson books 1-3" by Darynda Jones

Total page count: 986 pages
Ratings: First Grave on the Right - 3 stars
Second Grave on the Left - 3.5 stars
Third Grave Dead Ahead - 4 stars

Charley Davidson is a private investigator in Albaquerque. She's also the Grim Reaper. She can speak every language in the world, she pretty much remembers every thing that's happened in her life, from the moment she was born, and dead people pass through her as a portal to the next world. Because she constantly sees dead people, she's been able to help her father (now a former cop) and uncle (still a cop) solve crimes since she was a little girl. It's much easier to solve a murder if the dead person can tell you who did the deed. Her office is above her father's bar, and her best friend and next door neighbour is her extremely over qualified secretary. Charley loves coffee, slogans with cheesy sayings on them (most chapters begin with said cheesy lines), and has a dreadful relationship with her stepmother.

As the first book begins, she's been having super sexy dream encounters with a mystery guy. Who sort of reminds her of the scary dark presence that's been shadowing her on and off since the day she was born, and who's even saved her life on occasion. As Charley's dream encounters continue, she starts getting tiny hints as to who her shadowy seducer may be, and she tries to discover his true identity while also trying to solve the murder of three lawyers.

In the second book, Cookie, Charley's secretary and best friend drags her out of bed in the middle of the night because a close friend of hers has disappeared, and sent a text asking Cookie and Charley to help. As they start investigating, it turns out that several people Mimi (the missing woman) went to high school with, have started turning up dead recently. Reyes Farrow, Charley's mysterious life-long protector, has abandoned his corporeal body and is determined to let it die. He's not at all impressed when Charley is determined to track said body down to save it, as he claims the dangerous entities that have control over it, are trying to trap her, and want nothing more than to see her dead.

In the third book, Charley is doing everything in her power to stay awake. Every time she falls asleep, Reyes is there, accusing and upset because of what she did at the end of book 2. Hence, Charley pretty much mainlines caffeine and does her best to never sleep. She's trying to solve a missing person's case, prove that an arrogant doctor is a ruthless murderer, and the less sleep she has, the crazier and more unpredictable things become. Reyes also wants her to prove that Earl Walker, the man he was sent to prison for killing, is still alive, so he can clear his name.

I bought the first of these books while on holiday last year in the US, because the description on the back intrigued me. I didn't really get round to checking it, or the other books out until this summer, until Reyes Farrow, Charley's very sexy, very bad boy love interest ended up beating two paranormal heroes I very much love in Vampire Bookclub's Alpha Showdown. Naturally I became curious as to what sort of an amazing character he was, if he could beat Curran Lennart (from Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series) and Adam Hauptman (from Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thomson series). As it happens, I still think these two characters are more awesome than Reyes, but who am I to argue with a random internet poll?

I was entertained by the first book, but as seems to be the case with a lot of paranormal/urban fantasy series out there at the moment, it wasn't really until the second and third book that I got really into the series, and was sure that I wanted to keep reading about these characters. I decided to blog all three books in one review, because I read the books so closely together, that I'm honestly not entirely sure if I remember what happened, and what was revealed about Charley, her growing Reaper powers, Reyes and his complicated story, in each of the three books. I've tried really hard not to spoil too much about Charley and her abilities, or much at all about Reyes, because part of the joy of these books is for the reader to discover these things gradually.

I liked that while she's not had an easy life, Charley is a very positive and cheerful person. She's tough, and capable and doesn't take herself too seriously. She has a great relationship with her dad, who now runs a bar, and her uncle, who she still helps solve murder cases. Her antagonistic relationship with her stepmother is perfectly understandable when you find out how Denise treated the strange little girl who claimed she could see and talk to dead people. The supporting cast of the books are great. Charley's friendship with Cookie is wonderful, and her banter with Garrett Swopes, the handsome skip tracer who's slowly coming round to the fact that Charley has powers out of the ordinary, is lots of fun too.

I like that there isn't any sort of forced love triangle being set up in these books. I'm still very ambivalent about Charley's feelings for and continued relationship with Reyes, because while he is smoking hot, I'm not kidding about him being a bad boy to the Nth power. It's quite clear from the way their relationship keeps developing and is depicted, and the amounts of people warning Charley away from Reyes (including, at times, Reyes himself) that the readers aren't supposed to be entirely ok about their romantic future.

There is a lot of humour in the books, while Jones doesn't skimp on the action, danger or smexy times. As paranormal fantasy goes, the series is doing something a bit different from just more vampires, werewolves, fairies, shapeshifters or what have you. The world building and character gallery is well done, and now that I've completed the first three, I'm well hooked. I can't wait to read the next two in this ongoing series.

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