This is the second in the ‘grave’ series, featuring PI and not-so-grim reaper Charley and her sizeable sidekick, Cookie. It’s a far-from-serious, occasionally spicy (but nothing X-rated) gumshoe story with a side dish of supernatural sprinkles. Set in the USA roundabout now, the story revolves around an ongoing plot with Charley’s lifetime protector and would-be beau, who happens to be the son of Satan and possibly the herald of the apocalypse.
The romantic arc plays second fiddle to the ostensible investigation involving a missing old friend and a bunch of suicides, accidents and maybe-murders which are almost certainly suspicious. Here the story mixes Charley’s ability to see and speak with the dead and – as they pass through her en route to the other side – to experience their lives and memories secondhand, along with time-honoured private investigator stuff… tracking down leads, making calls, interviewing folks, and solving the mystery.
Charley has an easy time of it, as her father’s a police detective and she’s friends with most of the local force. On the other hand, these relationships embroil her in several more scrapes throughout the book as bad guys come creeping out of the woodwork, she starts to learn more about her own paranormal abilities, and wraps up a couple of incidental murders by dint of sharing a shower with a dead guy.
It’s all quickly-paced, rapid reading, with the witty one liners and snappy banter rattling off every page. The main plot, regarding the fallen angel Rey’aziel and his unfeasibly hot body, barely progresses while every other thread scampers along, but that’s the core to the series so you can’t expect to many revelations all at once. We do learn a lot more about Reyes’ origins and, in turn, Charley’s personal mysteries, but there are plenty of threads left dangling for future episodes, including one whopper which radically alters the dynamic between them.
There’s a lot to enjoy in this easy-going adventure and none of it requires too much reader input, nor is it particularly gruelling or gritty. Think Stephanie Plum with a spookynatural twist and you’ll be on the right wavelength. You don’t need to have read the first book in the series to enjoy this one and, unlike some series, ‘Second Grave’ does contain an entire storyline with a beginning, middle and well-reasoned conclusion, so it’s not like you’re reading a book which is all middle with no payoff.
The writing is sharp and sassy and packed with attitude without being nasty. There’s no massively demanding philosophy or great social commentary or such – just a thoroughly entertaining romp. I’d be happy to read the next one in the series.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
‘Second Grave On The Left’ by Darynda Jones is available in paperback and ebook