Too Little, Too Much Syndrome

First Grave on the Right - Darynda Jones

I am very conflicted with this book. Because the last 100 pages kinda prevents you from doing anything but pick up the next one STAT... yet the rest felt like watching a Ghost Whisperer episode.

Or what I imagine an episode of that show would be like as I never watched it. Partly because I'm not a big fan of JLH's own Danger and Will Robinsons and, as I've recently discovered, anywhere else other than TV, procedurals are kind of a chore to dig into. Especially if the case isn't that enticing.

Working as a PI with her Uncle Bob, Charley Davidson find herself solving the mystery of 3 dead lawyers (who she can see and talk to), a man wrongfully imprisoned and human trafficking. For a pilot "episode" meant to give us a peek into the life of a grim reaper moonlighting as a detective (wait, or is that the other way around?) it was chockfull of... snooze.

I'm a little confuddled with the mechanics of Charley's grim reaperiness because I have a certain picture in my head on how that will work out before coming into this book and... well, I guess answering "What are you?" with "a portal to heaven" doesn't sound as bad-ass and would certainly earn some bad puns and innuendo-filled responses. I'm still sorting out how I feel about that mild deception. Most of the secondary characters were interesting and entertaining. I liked Garrett, Aunt Lillian, Angel and Rocket the most and I hope to see much more of them in the next books... Cookie, not so much.

Charley, for me, suffered a little bit of the "Too Little, Too Much Syndrome" (you may consult Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine 18th Ed to find it's not there). Specifically, too little feels too much snark in succession. Now I love a strong heroine and I do love some of Charley's quips and comebacks... but she goes off on some major ADD tangents that were amusing for a while but can plateau quickly. 

Ninety-nine percent of the time I don't carry a sidearm--hence the motivation to perfect my death stare. But today all the cool kids were packing. I felt like the girl who showed up at a formal dinner party in jeans and a Pink Floyd T-shirt. Probably 'cause I did that once.

That one was followed by another snarky lamentation two, three paragraphs after with

I'd been solving cases for the man since I was five, and he called Swopes first? Aggravation coursed through me, ruffled my feathers, got my hackles up, whatever hackles were. Was a little appreciation too much to ask? A little nepotistic favoritism?

It's like this woman's always on... and on 'til the break of dawn. Charley just pushes the button too hard and too often, coming across as trying too hard to make me like her. I wanted her to calm down a little because she had me sold already but she just kept on pushing and pushing and pushing and...

I guess I was looking for some vulnerability outside the bruises and the mommy issues, some way to care about what will happen to her. Well the backstory did happen but it came too little and late in the book and the domestic violence case subplot's resolution felt a little too rushed, failing to give me a sympathetic bone to gnaw on. 

But Holy-head Harpies, Batman... Reyes Alexander Farrow. I. Could. Not. Even. Well played Darynda Jones. I usually get exhausted over these tropes but Reyes' mystery was finely crafted in its reveal. I find it a stroke of sadistic brilliance to have put me through all that boring procedural torture then give me something juicy so close to the end making the next book so hard to resist. 

So taking in consideration that this is the first in the series, it was a pretty good promising start. I'd give this a 4 but that would be condescending and I have a feeling I need some room to distinguish my ratings when the time comes and this starts to be mind blowing awesome.