"First Grave on the Right" (St. Martin's Press), by Darynda Jones: When one thinks of the grim reaper, the image that comes to mind is a creepy, black-cloaked, scythe-wielding figure. But Darynda Jones has given the reaper a sexy, sassy makeover in her debut novel, "First Grave on the Right."
Charley Davidson's motto is "better to see dead, than be dead," and she's been seeing the dead since she was a child. Using her cheeky charm and sarcastic wit, she compassionately guides _ and sometimes tricks _ the departed "into the light."
Reaping isn't a paying gig, so Charley works as a private investigator and consultant for her police detective uncle. Because she can communicate with the dead, Charley can help the police solve murders by asking the victims who killed them.
"First Grave" begins with a visit from three dead lawyers, murdered after learning their client had been falsely accused of murder. Through Charley, they help the police solve the murder and free their client. However, the murder-mystery isn't as compelling as the arousing entity that appears whenever Charley is in danger.
Charley meets skepticism from the public and law enforcement. She's a messenger between the deceased and the living, and her privacy is constantly invaded by dead people (even when she's in the shower).
Her characters, both living and dead, are colorful and endearing, including best friend Cookie, who is fully accepting of Charley's abilities, and Angel, a dead teenage gangbanger who serves as her errand boy in the spiritual world.
Readers may expect a morbid story line, but Jones skillfully fuses tragic events with amusing dialogue, keeping the story lighthearted.
Another installment is due this summer.