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Saturday, October 27, 2012

THIRD GRAVE DEAD AHEAD by Darynda Jones (Review)

My rating: 4.5 stars

In the third book of the Charley Davidson series, Charley stays awake for almost two weeks straight (endangering many a citizen with her sleep-deprived driving) in order to avoid Reyes, who keeps showing up every time she nods off in order to first inspire and then assuage her lust even though he's enraged with her because she bound him to his body. Reyes is in jail again. At first he refuses to see her, but then he summons her to ask/demand that she track down Earl Walker, the man whom he's convicted of murdering but who is, Reyes claims, still very much alive. Charley's also trying to find the missing wife of a sociopathic doctor, the poisoner of a motorcycle gang leader's Rottweilers, and the source of her dad's sudden strange behavior.

Like the previous two books, Third Grave Dead Ahead is funny, sexy, intriguing, and action-packed. Jones has me giggling with phrases such as "it was like fighting a tsunami with a spork" and drooling/panting over the white-hot fire between Charley and Reyes.

**Spoiler Alert** Do not read beyond this point if you don't want the spoilers.

For the first time in this book we start to see Reyes-the-human as well. He's vulnerable. He's loving, generous, and loyal to his friends. He's also still wicked sexy and dangerous. I thought I might like him less as a human being, that he'd seem less impressive or be less sexy in the flesh, but I was wrong. He's becoming more three-dimensional, and now instead of just lusting after him, I'm kind of starting to fall in love with him too.

I've also thought long and hard (no innuendo intended) about why I like Charley so much. I love that she's so damned sassy. That she doesn't give a shit what anybody--except the people she loves--thinks of her.

I love that she's not defined by her relationships to men. Yes, she got into the P.I. biz because of her uncle and father, but she does it because she loves it, and rather than her depending on them for work, they depend on her to provide significant help toward solving their cases. Without her, they'd have no career. And she's butt-hurt when her father betrays her (twice), but she doesn't lose her sense of identity or self-esteem over it.

And I don't get the impression that she is defined by her relationship to Reyes, either. She doesn't think of herself as his lover or his girlfriend. She cares about him and wants him and gets jealous of other women, but there's no sense of entitlement there, no indication that she thinks he's "her man" or that her identity or self-worth depends on his interest in her.

And finally, although both Reyes and Garrett Swopes save her life several times, it's clear that she's more powerful than any man (or demon) and doesn't actually need them. Or at least she wouldn't need them if she knew what she was capable of. That's another reason I love Reyes, by the way: he's encouraging her to come into her own power, to save herself, to stop depending on him. He's indicated that she has a lot of power over him, though she's still in denial about it, and he continues to urge her to come into her power even though it will mean that she will then be a serious threat to him.

There were two things about Third Grave that bugged me, though. First, the sudden, heavy attention to Charley's ability to sense emotions. For some reason I did not remember this from previous books. When I went back and looked, yes, she's always had this ability, but it stood out way more in Book 3 than it previously had. I'm not suggesting she shouldn't have this ability--it's awesome and she relies heavily on it in Book 3--just that...I dunno. She should have relied more heavily on it in the previous books? Maybe this is my own hang-up.

Second, dude, come on. Garrett Swopes should totally have been Charley's guardian angel. He should have stayed dead. Not only was the way he was miraculously brought back to life short on credibility ("They said it wasn't my time yet"? Really? And then Cookie's calling, saying that Garrett came back to life and the hospital had sort of forgotten to tell anyone, except his ghost is still sitting in her living room. Oops.), but it also wasn't necessary. It was an extra plot twist, and a cheap one at that.

Look, what is Garrett's purpose in this series? He is competition for Reyes, plain and simple. Garrett, like Reyes, looks after Charley and tries to protect her. In fact gets shot twice trying to protect her, and dies once. He's also a very sexy man, and, despite Charley's state of denial, she likes him a lot. Making Garrett Charley's guardian angel actually makes him more threatening to Reyes for three reasons. 1) Garrett died for her. Major, major points. 2) Charley can touch ghosts as though they were living bodies, so sex is still an option. And 3) if God and the angels tell Garrett that it's his job to stick to Charley like glue, if he gets to be with her all the time and Reyes doesn't...well hell! What could be more threatening than that? Not to mention all the sexual tension that could simmer between them as they get on each other's nerves.

I'm sure that Jones has a very good reason for keeping Garrett alive, but at this point I'm just baffled. We'll have to see. Speaking of which...

What I'll be looking for in Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet, which is coming out Oct. 30 (Eeee! Can't wait!):

  • Why the hell Garrett Swopes is still alive.
  • How exactly Charley's guardian angel is going to guard her.
  • Why Reyes calls Charley "Dutch."
  • What new powers Charley will discover.
  • And, of course, more hot sex with Reyes. ;)

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