Book Review: “Eleventh Grave in Moonlight” by Darynda Jones

Disclaimer: I picked this week’s book in a rush and didn’t realize until I started reading it that it is the eleventh in an ongoing series. This won’t effect my overall impression of the book. However, it may mean that I have missed some nuances that could inform my reading of it, and therefore this review.

There’s several elements of Eleventh Grave in Moonlight by Darynda Jones that don’t work very well on their own. The writing style, while a few steps above cheap paperback sci-fi/fantasy writing, is still only just adequate. (It is full of the dreaded one-word paragraphs typical of escapist fiction that annoy me so much.) The humor is downright corny, garnering the occasional chuckle but nothing more. There are multiple plots that in some cases don’t even connect to each other and sometimes meander too much on their own.

Yet somehow, this book works when all of these elements are combined together. Jones’ lighthearted style makes for a breezy, quick read. The reader begins to really care for the main character Charley Jones as she’s trying to sort out her family troubles and work on multiple cases as a private investigator. And it doesn’t hurt the story as Charley is only partially human but mostly a god (actually, thirteen gods that have combined together—or were eaten by the most dominant war god, it’s left up in the air) who also works as the current grim reaper.

The book begins with a quick chapter detailing Charley’s life so far as she talks to a skeptical psychiatrist (in other words, we get a recap of the book series so far). The psychiatrist finally believes Charley when she realizes that she’s actually been dead for a year and Charley is there to help her cross over to the afterlife. We then get to see Charley at work, taking a case from a man, Shawn Foster, who was adopted—or rather, abducted—by the same “foster parents” that did the same to Charley’s husband, Reyes (who is also a supernatural being, a demon who is the brother of Jehovah).

Throughout the book we learn more about the Fosters and their religious fanaticism, a stalker harassing her secretary’s daughter, a malevolent god running amok on Earth that Charley has to ultimately chase, and what exactly has been keeping her secretary’s husband, a police officer, away so often from home. Again, these plots don’t exactly connect cleanly throughout the book but they’re entertaining on their own. I actually found myself holding my breath as the stalker plot reached it’s conclusion, and I started getting angry at the Fosters’ as the details of their fanaticism started to reveal themselves. Jones’ writing allows the characters to feel real, garnering empathy from the reader.

Eleventh Grave in Moonlight left more questions than answers, leading to the next book. The enjoyment of this one piqued my curiosity for what happens in the next one but I can’t say I’m entirely hooked on the series. I enjoyed it as I read it but I didn’t fall in love with it. But if you’re looking for escapism with supernatural beings and humorous crime stories, this series is worth a shot.

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