First, as noted previously, I am sick. I am not so sick that I'm only watching reruns on TV, and it only lasted about a day and a half, but it was kinda bad. I tend to want un-challenging reading material when I'm this sick. For reference purposes, I was unwilling to finish reading the third Alacrity Fitzhugh/Hobart Floyt novel by Brian Daley, because I wasn't sure I could keep track of the plot. That's a genre sf novel that I've read and reread (altho not recently).
Second: SPOILERS! RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN
Okay, everyone gone? Yippee.
This is what I would call a paranormal erotic romance series. There is one relationship for the female protagonist, altho she flirts with other people, she only has sex with the one. And he suffers from The One trope in a huge way, so if you are allergic to that, probably stay away. The author does have a pretty relentless sense of humor, which mitigates the offense. As is fairly typical for these kinds of series, the protagonist has Special Powers that meant she is/was persecuted for having Amazing Abilities that she Must Conceal from (most) other people. As is also fairly typical for these kinds of series, there's a whole lot of what I've started to think of as pain porn (which I recognize does have other meanings): lovingly detailed descriptions of the protagonist or the romantic counterpart of the protagonist having the crap beat of them in some detail, possibly (and in this case, repeatedly) extending to near-death experiences and often followed up by the victim/heroic person insisting on not going to the hospital and/or having the ability to heal somewhat miraculously. Throughout the series, the characters mostly maintain their capacity to banter, with an incredibly relentless use of ZAZ style humor (think Naked Gun or Airplane! style jokes in which phrases that have two meanings, and the one that is obviously not meant is repeatedly assumed to be the one intended and responded to straight). I was sick while I read this series, so that kind of humor worked for me; ordinarily, I'm not sure I would have liked it as much. Some people have described the humor/language as sarcastic; it actually isn't often sarcastic within the strict meaning of the term, and is only sometimes sardonic.
The paranormal universe is essentially Xtian: there is a heaven and a hell and they are assigned the usual values and those values are not directly questioned (that is, God/Heaven = Good, Satan/Hell = Evil). Earth is the place where redemption can occur, and when incarnated, creatures from heaven and hell can switch sides. The romantic relationship that is the centerpiece of the series is between a man whose body is a map of the way out of hell, and a woman who sparkles to the dead who have not yet crossed over, because she is a portal to heaven. Satan has sent his son, the man with the gateway art, to kill the woman, but Earth being a place of redemption, and the son having gained wisdom over the bloody centuries in service to Dear Old Dad isn't really interested in following the plan. Antics ensue.
Charley's dad and uncle work for Albuquerque PD, and she's been helping them solve cases with her Special Knowledge (gained from helping the dead cross over through her and depositing memories along the way) since she was 5 -- she's in her mid 20s during the series. Reyes had a much worse childhood, being repeatedly tortured by the man who acquired him after he was kidnapped from his family of origin (pretty sure more details on that in upcoming entries), and he's been protecting her since she was tiny by out of body walking about (and slicing) which his body presents to reality as seizures. So we have a whole Guardian Angel type thing going on, too. A really scary, Angel of Death type Guardian Angel.
So there are a couple of levels to this series: there's the snarky, bantery, PI/police procedural solve-mysteries-and-get-beat-up level and then there's the War Between Heaven and Hell and Who Can You Trust and What Can You Believe Level. Also, soap operatic family dynamics and increasingly suspicious upper management at APD. Did I mention the dead gangbanger sidekick named Angel? Or the dead people living in the abandoned insane asylum? Biker gang? That robs banks but in a sort of charming way?
Easily, the most evil people in the stories are the domestic cases that Charley gets involved in through her PI job. I had a bit of a problem with the fifth book, because it really made me realize how much old-fat-guy was sort of a proxy for Evil, Evil Man who will kill women and possibly rape them also little girls. There is, in fact, a whole lot of trigger-y stuff in here involving physical body descriptions (and I don't just mean the torture).
Many, many, many series have a person with supernatural powers of uncertain extent gain new ones when super-stressed, and this series is no exception, complete with somewhat mysterious injunctions by other people telling her she really needs to figure this out quickly. In combination with the massive amounts of caffeine consumed, it feels like part of the ADD-eye view of the world.
In addition to the continuity issue I noted in a previous post (yellow vs. blue blanket), Gemma's education and profession are not described consistently. In the first book, she is described as getting a bachelor's in psychology, then a master's, then a PhD. This is a path compatible with being a psychologist. In the fourth book, however, she is referred to as a psychiatrist. Twice. I wasn't reading carefully or critically -- I noticed but made no effort to note down the location of word-os. But things like this _really_ stand out. The blanket stands out because Charley was using it to gauge the accuracy of the prophetess -- for Charley to get it wrong really reduces this reader's ability to suspend disbelief (or to trust Charley, who supposedly has near-perfect memory all the way back to the day she was born). The sister's profession stands out because it's a common mistake, but not one that Charley would make (pretty sure someone with a minor in psychology knows the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist). FWIW, you have to go to med school to become a psychiatrist, so it's not likely that when Charley mentally reviewed her sister's educational career she would have left that out. The reference to Gemma as a psychiatrist was an off the cuff mental thought (both times) unrelated to prescribing medication, which is really funny since apparently New Mexico is one of the very short list of states that allow psychologist to prescribe. Finally, Charley supposedly was born knowing every language ever (including lots of sign languages); it's hard to believe she'd ever think the wrong word with reference to her sister. (Seriously, this is what's wrong with writing characters with super powers. A known problem.)
Basically, it's good if this is the kind of thing you like and/or you're in the mood to like this kind of thing. I was. We'll find out in May whether I will still be in the mood.
First Grave on the Right
Second Grave on the Left
Third Grave Dead Ahead
Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet
Fifth Grave Past the Light
The books are coming out pretty fast; Sixth Grave On the Edge is due in May and Seventh Grave and No Body in November.