Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet
St. Martin's Press / October 30, 2012 / $24.99 print, $11.99 digital
In Darynda Jones's Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet, sometimes being the grim reaper really is that. Grim. And since Charley’s last case went so awry, she has taken a couple months off to wallow in the wonders of self-pity. But when a woman shows up on her doorstep convinced someone is trying to kill her, Charley has to force herself to rise above. Or at least get dressed. She quickly realizes something is amiss when everyone the woman knows swears she’s insane. The more they refute the woman’s story, the more Charley believes it.
In the meantime, the sexy, sultry son of Satan, Reyes Farrow, has been cleared of all charges. He is out of prison and out of Charley’s life, as per her wishes and several perfectly timed death threats. But his absence has put a serious crimp in her sex life. While there are other things to consider, like the fact that the city of Albuquerque has been taken hostage by an arsonist, Charley is having a difficult time staying away. Especially when it looks like Reyes may be involved. Just when life was returning to normal, Charley is thrust back into the world of crime, punishment, and the devil in blue jeans.
The fourth entry in Darynda Jones's wildly popular Charley Davidson series is every bit as solidly successful as the first. In fact, this might be the best yet. Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet continues to blend paranormal, romance, and mystery better than any other contemporary work out there, and besides its wonderfully unique heroine, this is its true claim to fame. At its heart, Charley is still perfectly Charley, well-adjusted PI/grim reaper, and one of the elements that works so well is that right strike of outrageous humor one moment and teeth-chattering suspense the next.
“Miss Charlotte, you're the grim reaper,” he said with a snort. “You're always floating.”
“So, I could die for real? At any second?”
“Oh.” That was disappointing. “Well, thanks for giving it to me straight.” I blew dust out of my bangs.
“You could be killed by a bicycle. Or crushed by a big rock. Or stabbed with a knitting needle.”
“Or even pushed down some stairs.”
“Right, I got it. Thanks.”
“Or you might be shot in the head with a gun.”
“Rocket! I'm good. Seriously, no more elaboration needed.” But he grabbed my arm, and all the innocence drained from his face. He wasn't a little boy anymore. He knew too much. Had seen too much. “Or,” he said, his voice taking on an eerie depth, “you could be killed by the one you love most. Along with everyone else.”
Just as the last book opened with Charley's hilarious bout of self-induced insomnia, Fourth Grave finds Charley completely holed up in her apartment, becoming a self-appointed recluse after the horror she endured being tortured by a madman. She wallows in typical Charley way, giving additional names to various body parts, until she is prodded back into the land of the living—and the dead—by the delightful slew of characters we know and love as well as a juicy new case.
I wondered if it was wrong of me not to want to deal with anything beyond lethargy at that moment in time. I'd just been robbed blind by a parking attendant, accosted by a demon, manhandled by the son of Satan, and withheld vital information by a group of nuns. I didn't know how much more of this I could take.
Though the tone of the series has always been brightened by Charley's witty asides and general takes on life, her investigations into cases of murder and mayhem provide genuine mystery in spades. Four books in, the mystery is still fresh and intriguing as Charley is presented with the case of a young woman convinced that she is being stalked and terrorized, while no one believes her. The evidence is creepy but inconclusive. Jones doesn't shy away from tough calls and really shocking outcomes, building suspense along with a touch of forbidden love and seamless side stories involving a group of bank-robbing bandits, an enigmatic arsonist attacking the city, and growing mythology of the great battle brewing between heaven and hell.
One of the best parts is the fact that Reyes Farrow, irresistible son of Satan and Charley's weakness, is now free from prison and fully in human form. They are together for much more of this novel than previous ones, and this is a big part of its success as their chemistry is explosive and the sexual tension is finally rewarded.
“Why don't you tell me?”
“So you can hate me ever more?”
I looked up in surprise. “I don't hate you.”
His jaw flexed in reaction. “There is a fine line between love and hate, or haven't you heard? Sometimes it's hard to decipher exactly which emotion is strongest.”
I raised my chin. “I don't love you either.”
He lowered his head and watched me from underneath his dark lashes. “Are you certain? Because the emotion pouring out of you every time I'm near you is certainly not disinterest.”
“That doesn't mean it's love.”
“It could be, I promise you. Take off that sweater and give me ten minutes, and you'll believe beyond a shadow of a doubt you're in love.”
Reyes and Charley are settling into a new phase where they work together to fight the evil invading their world and targeting them specifically, and this will be fun to see as they develop their relationship in coming books. Not every question is answered, and as in any great paranormal series, we're heading for a climax that could well be apocalyptic. The great thing is we have Charley, Reyes, and their band of lovable misfits in tow, along with page-turning cases of mystery where we get to see our female character solving crime and saving the world, one fabulous one-liner at a time.
For more Darynda, check out the H&H Darynda Jones Collection, which includes an author guest post on preparing for the apocalypse (hint: beef jerky's a must!) and an excerpt of Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet.
Tiffany Tyer is a writer and editor who loves reading and analyzing all things romance. She also works as a vocalist, a tutor, and a non-profit ministry assistant, and she loves it that way. Her book reviews can be found at Happy Endings Reviews, a blog she co-founded.