Book Review: Darynda Jones’ Fifth Grave Past the Light

Posted August 24, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Darynda Jones’ Fifth Grave Past the Light

Fifth Grave Past the Light


Darynda Jones

urban fantasy that was published by St. Martin's Press on July 9, 2013 and has 339 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include First Grave on the Right, Second Grave on the Left, Third Grave Dead Ahead, "For I Have Sinned", Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet, Death and the Girl Next Door, Sixth Grave on the Edge, Seventh Grave and No Body, Eighth Grave After Dark, The Dirt on Ninth Grave, The Curse of Tenth Grave, Eleventh Grave in Moonlight, The Trouble with Twelfth Grave

Fifth in the Charley Davidson urban fantasy series revolving around Charley, a grim reaper with Satan’s son as her bodyguard. Based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

My Take

It’s a cute story, but the quality of the writing and my interest in this series is going downhill a star at a time. I really enjoyed the first three, and I’m wondering if the “adulation” is going to Jones’ head.

I am so irritated with Jones’ having Charley resist Reyes. It’s not how I interpret Charley’s interest, and Jones doesn’t provide (what I consider) valid reasons for this. Oh sure, the arson. Annnddd, just how much actual evidence does she have for this? NONE. Nor is this the only situation in which Charley leaps to conclusions on little to no evidence either. Wait’ll ya get to the end…somehow Charley leaps to her final conclusion…and we are given NO CLUES! Humph, at least she’s being consistent.

Yet more leaps when masses of dead women start appearing in Charley’s apartment. It’s the youngest girl’s appearance that sends Charley in a sort-of correct direction with totally wrong results. And has me totally foaming at the mouth for Jones’ lack of thinking through her plot. Hey, the plot is an interesting one, and I would have enjoyed the story if only Jones had spent some time on it. What was she (or her editors) thinking??

Charley employs Angel to help her, so when she ignores his warning…um, hullo…?? Is this the best Jones can do? Neither of them ever thought this would come up?? Then there’s the scene with the old Bandits’ house and the asylum. There’s her dad’s end-of-story decision that hits us out of nowhere. I love it, but…huh, what? The Post-It notes were another bit of potential that falls flat. Jones sets us up, again and again, doesn’t take advantage of any of this to create any drama or tension. I don’t get it.I can’t help but feel that Jones was late to start writing this and was rushing to deadline. It’s the only excuse I can come up with as to why she just carpet bombs us with possibilities. That. Go. Nowhere.

The writing in this was so dorky, that even when the fun scenes cropped up, I kept waiting for the stupid to hit.

Other than my whines, this is something of a tidy-up story. Gemma’s love life is changing, Reyes is gittin’ busy behind the scenes (too bad Jones didn’t incorporate this in and give us some giggles and chances to anticipate Charley’s reactions), Ubie’s romantic inclinations could have been played up and teased along just as Cookie’s could have been, Garrett’s reveals fall flat, and her dad’s new choices have potential.

Marvin Tidwell’s reasons for straying are rather funny, in a sad way. Not exactly encouraging for his wife, but then again, there is that ending! Eeek! I must confess that I’d’a thought Charley would have been a touch more professional placing that mic.

I did enjoy Charley’s playing with her GPS. Makes me wanna get one.

I get the impression that the night raid on Garrett is tossed in to keep continuity flowing from the earlier books. Otherwise, I don’t see any purpose in it, nor why she has to visit the night after the failed Tidwell surveillance. What’s with Ubie’s romance? Garrett’s later revelations about Rey’aziel? There’s just so much in this story that Jones simply dips into or skims along the top of. She doesn’t take it and fly, develop it, create any drama or tension…arghh…

Crack me up…loved the snark about changing her name to Splenda to reflect all that fake sugar she’s throwing at Jessica.

As I said, an interesting story that simply isn’t developed to its best potential. Borrow this one from the library just so you can catch up on the changing events.

The Story

Surveillance on Marvin Tidwell at the suddenly very popular Calamity’s and Charley’s encounter with Reyes start us off, but it’s a nasty wake-up for Charley when she discovers a whimpering girl ghost, Faith, under her bed, and it seems as if every time she turns around yet more dead women are populating her apartment with all sorts of people getting up in her face.

The Characters

Charlotte “Charley” Davidson is a PI who “consults” with the police, a.k.a., Uncle Ubie, and is a grim reaper who knows every language on earth. Mercy is what she’s named her red Jeep and Danger and Will Robinson are her tits. Artemis is the ghost of Donovan’s Rottweiler; she’s now Charley’s guardian dog.

Gemma is her psychologist sister trying to help her cope with the aftermath of Third Grave Dead Ahead, 3. For all Charley’s talk about her sister and stepmom, I’m beginning to wonder if Gemma, at least, hasn’t been wrongly maligned. Uncle Bob, a.k.a., Ubie, is a detective with the Albuquerque PD, who frequently uses Charley’s skills to solve his cases. Her betraying dad, Leland, had cancer from which he miraculously recovered.

Cookie Kowalski is her best friend and receptionist for Charley’s agency, Davidson Investigations, which is upstairs in her dad’s bar, Calamity, which has acquired a hot new cook. Amber is Cookie’s very-knowing twelve-year-old daughter. Angel Garza is the thirteen-year-old gangbanger ghost Charley has employed for the last three years.

Reyes Farrow, the Son of Satan, was cleared of the murder for which he was imprisoned. He’s just moved into the vacant apartment at the end of the hall in Charley’s building — all the better to protect and seduce Charley. Kim Millar is the girl he was raised to view as his sister, and the lever his “father” Earl Walker used to control him. Amador Sanchez is his BFF.

Officer David Taft doesn’t like Charley, but he does like her reports on his dead sister, Strawberry Shortcake, a demon with a hairbrush. Blue Bell is her best [ghost] friend, and her brother is Rocket Man. He’s a ghost savant who tracks every person who dies and they live at the abandoned nuthouse. Noni Bachicha teaches gun safety. Captain Eckert, a widower whose wife died of cancer, is Uncle Bob’s boss and getting suspicious of Charley.Too bad Jones doesn’t up the tension with this… Special Agent Carson is with the FBI and very willing to put up with Charley as she provides so many clues that solve her cases. Officer Wyatt Pierce is one scratched-up cop; it seems he has issues and a few hang-ups.

Dr. Romero is the shrink with whom Gemma arranged an appointment for Charley. Snicker…Charley’s old routines ain’t a’gonna work on her! Pari is a tattoo artist and Charley’s friend who also sees dead people. Garret Swopes is a skiptracer who’s been ignoring her since he “died” in Third Grave Dead Ahead and got proof about Charley’s vocation. Seems he got a lot more he’s suddenly willing to spill. Interesting family background as well! Mr. Zamora is the building superintendent for Charley’s, Cookie’s, and Reyes’ apartments. Mrs. Allen is one of the neighbors; she’s got a psychotic poodle named Prince Phillip. Patrick Sussman is Charley’s dead lawyer.

Sister Mary Elizabeth can hear angels speaking. Mr. Wong is the ghost who lives in a corner of Charley’s apartment. Quentin is a formerly possessed deaf teenage boy Charley takes under her protection who spends his weekends with the sisters at the convent and the weeks at the School for the Deaf in Santa Fe.

Valerie Tidwell has hired Charley to follow her husband, Marvin. Duff is the newest Dead Guy, and he finds Charley very shiny. He’s got some inside info for her on Tidwell, and there’s something about Mr. Wong that scares him. Doyle Knight had been in a wheelchair for the last thirty years of his life, and his wife, Alice, who is in a nursing home, currently owns the Knight Ranch. Kenny Knight is a champion bull rider building a home where he thought his wife would have wanted it. Saul Ussery was Kenny’s cousin.

Jessica Guinn is a former best high school friend of Charley’s, who does her best to tear Charley down. One in whom Charley placed too much trust. Nicolette Lemay is a post-op nurse at the hospital with her own special power of seeing into the future.

The Bandits are a biker gang Charley met: Donovan, Eric, and Michael who lammed out to Mexico when they became wanted for bank robbery (Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet, 4).

The Cover and Title

The cover is a pinkish purple with smoke gently swirling up the center as background to a silver necklace from which a diamond-encrusted skull-and-crossbones dangles.

The title provides the chronology: it’s the Fifth Grave Past the Light.