Sixth Grave on the Edge by Darynda Jones
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Book #6 picks up only a few days after Book #5 ends. Charley's life hasn't become any less chaotic or complicated. Since Reyes proposed, Charley has been stalling and trying to uncover more information about his background, namely his human family. As a favor to FBI Agent Carson, she's looking into a long-unsolved kidnapping where the missing child just happens to be the one and only Reyes Farrow--a fact Agent Carson does not know. However, it's not as straightforward as Charley thinks: there is more than one kidnapping in this particular story, which mucks everything up.
While she's trying to figure out what to do, gunmen break in and threaten to harm her nearest and dearest if she doesn't track down a witness to a murder who is being kept in protective custody. Again, there is more to this story, and not everyone will escape unscathed.
She also gets a visit from a panicked man who lost his soul to a demon in a card game and needs her to get it back for him so he can someday go to heaven to be with his 3-year-old daughter who just died. Over Reyes' objections, she goes to meet the demon and makes her own bargain with him. A demon with an ulterior motive? What a shock!
Then there is the ghost who so terrifies her teenage friend Quentin, that she traps him on a tram car until Charley can come to his rescue and help the girl cross over. The child's abusive life and horrible death prompt Charley to make it her mission to discover what really happened and ensure supernatural justice takes place.
In the midst of all this, Angel's mom tracks Charley down, demanding a truthful explanation for the money Charley has been depositing into her bank account every month. Angel is furious when (some of) the truth comes out, and it leads to more revelations of what really happened when he died.
Add to that Charley's "ingenious" plan to make Uncle Bob jealous enough to ask Cookie out...by setting her up on several consecutive blind dates. As with all of Charley's plans, it goes awry. It's a busy week in Albuquerque.
There is actually so much going on in this installment of the series, that it felt very much like a middle book--a way station enroute to a larger climactic moment in a later book. Lots of loose ends that don't get tied up, especially with Charley's dad's mysterious behaviour. It feels to me like it ended mid-scene, in fact. I was a little startled when the credits music started playing, as I had been expecting another chapter to follow.
While I still enjoy the author's style, I did find myself a little frustrated that there really wasn't any character development for Charley. Despite all her catastrophes and near-death misadventures, she just never seems to grow up at all. I appreciate that much of her attitude and banter is a defense mechanism, yet I really wished she would learn to think things through a little more, to heed other people's warnings and not barrel head-down into danger all the time, forcing others to come to her rescue. She's got a big heart, but I'm growing a little weary of her foolish recklessness.
I wonder how much of my dissatisfaction has to do with the fact that I listened to the book instead of reading it? The narrator, Lorelei King, did an excellent job, I thought, of giving each character a distinct voice and personality. I'm not sure why Cookie's voice was so deep as to sound masculine, but otherwise I thought Ms. King did an excellent job of bringing to life the words on the page. However, when read out loud, I really noticed the repetition of certain elements, like Charley asking, "What can go wrong?" or all the ways to talk about Reyes being hot--in all senses of that word. I found myself much more impatient than with earlier books. I think I'll go back to print rather than audio with Book #7.
For readers' advisors: story doorway is primary. There is a great deal of swearing and sexual content. I've seen this book characterized as "urban fantasy," which makes a certain amount of sense--it's too chaotic and lacking a central mystery to call it a "mystery." I listed it as "suspense," but it's also not terribly suspenseful, although "humorous romantic paranormal suspense" is more or less how I'd describe it.
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