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by Darynda Jones

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-66275-2
Publisher: St. Martin's

The intended laughs don’t materialize in this supernatural chick-lit whodunit, featuring a back-talkin’ P.I. who sees dead people.

Technically, Charley Davidson is a grim reaper, a term applied to humans (she’s not the only one) who act as a portal for those who need help passing to the other side. To the dead, Charley glows and is an irresistible incentive to leave their worldly attachments. But then there are those with unfinished business, such as the three law partners who were just murdered. Teaming up with her uncle, a detective on the Albuquerque Police force, Charley is remarkably proficient at solving murders—she simply asks the recently departed what happened. But as the three lawyers were shot in the back of the head, they and Charley need real detective work to solve the case. As Charley puts the pieces together (it all hinges on a man wrongly imprisoned for the murder of a teenage boy), she is also wrestling with her own demons—literally. Since her birth, which she vividly remembers, she has been guarded over by an entity she calls Bad. Though he’s responsible for saving her life on countless occasions, Charley is petrified in his presence. This is made all the more confusing by the highly charged sexual encounters she’s been having, first while dreaming and now awake, with a phantom-like presence. She believes her dream-lover to be Reyes Farrow, a young man she once saved, but that he’s in a coma in a penitentiary hospital and that he whispers the name Bad has always used for her, throws everything Charley knows about this dimension and the next into question. Though Jones has created a worthy conceit, her heroine is less than appealing. A little snotty—to both the living and the dead—Charley is an unlikely guide for a series with a foot in the underworld.

This first in a series ends with the son of Satan and the promise of a grand battle between good and evil, but this opening offers little more than a clever premise and a ho-hum murder mystery.