I'm treating this series as a read-once-but-don't-save series; I'm not even pretending there's a chance this will stay in my library. This volume has not changed my mind, but it's got some really interesting characteristics for an urban fantasy/romance/whatever you call this stuff that I read so voraciously.
Heroines of urban fantasy such as LKH's Anita Blake, Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan, Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse and Jeaniene Frost's Cat (*sigh* That nickname may, all by itself, be why I can't imagine keeping this series around) seem to suffer from a moral/value system significantly at variance with their lifestyle. The series tends to chart (along with a lot of violence, which is why I read this stuff, and some sex, which is also good, albeit with more exceptions) the difficulties this causes them and how they manage the internal conflict and the chaos that plays out in their external life.
I abandoned LKH when the violence was replaced almost entirely by sex. It may well be that this shows how un-enlightened I am, but that's just kinda the way it is.
As Rachel Morgan listens to her friends, learns more about her past, and increasingly understands how the people she loves and who love her manage living a life of integrity in a situation that is profoundly destructive of integrity, she's getting a lot better at lying to other people *instead of* to herself. I view this as admirable progress, and I'm enjoying the series more as a result.
Sookie seems to be getting a little less judgmental, and is also ditching people in her life who are causing her problems (haven't read the latest entry); I'm still waiting to see how this turns out.
Cat is perhaps the most fascinating of the batch. She seems to just be about loyalty, pure and simple. She's loyal to her mother, despite a truly appalling upbringing. Fortunately, the author killed off her grandparents, because I don't know how she could have survived that conflict in an open-ended way. She's loyal to Bones, to the guys she works with, and by the end of this book, to Rodney and Don and a few others as well. She _tries_ to maintain some other moral/ethical standards along the way, but it's quite clear that they're getting burned away in a hot, hot fire of blood and predatory male longing.
And therein lies the part I _don't_ like about _One Foot in the Grave_, or, for that matter, any of the rest of these series, including Kelly Armstrong's books. I can tolerate the "I'm special" thing in a romance -- I'm the Only Woman This Guy Has Ever Twuwy Wuvved. I'll humor a book about how I'm the Person Who Can Tame This Beast who's really just a sad, abused, lonely little boy inside a great hulking alpha male-beast. After all, he's looking for love, and between my magic hooha and my close-knit circle of wacky friends-and-family, I got what he needs.
But being the Only Female Werewolf, or the Only Telepath, or the Only Half-Breed, or the Strongest Necromancer Evah, or Demon Wrangler Extraordinaire tends to be a bit wearing. I honestly like it better when it's, I'm the Only Telepath HEY! You're a telepath, too! Can we be FRIENDS!?! Which was one of the charming moments recently in the Sookie Stackhouse series, spoiled slightly by her increasing ability to read even Undead minds.
With that standard set of complaints as set up, I'll supply a mild spoiler for the end of the book, because it's an example of something that annoys me in Real Life as well. There's this fantastic scene in which Someone is being Raised From the Dead and it's taking a lot of blood. This is actually a really interesting scene, in that urban fantasy rarely takes such an industrial approach to things; it's not unlike the scene in Buffy (alternate timeline Buffy) with the machine that bleeds a person and all the vamps sucking it up happily. Except, like, more medical and multiplied by a dozen (or a hundred, or whatever). But it's a striking scene because as near as I could tell, Cat is the only woman there -- and there are a _lot_ of people present. It reminded me of my friend C., who is maybe 15 or so years older than me. Her politics are often at odds with mine, but we absolutely agree on several really basic things like Feminism -- except she really likes being the First/Exceptional/Only woman doing a job, especially if it's a very Man-Job. She loses interest pretty fast as soon as there are a lot of women doing that job. And that's very much not my style (which is actually kind of funny and ironic, given some of the decision making associated with picking my major in college: I wanted a male-dominated field to avoid the "feminizing" wage effect; but it was really all about the money).
You know, it's one thing to be the Strongest Necromancer Evah, Demon Wrangler Extraordinaire, the Only Telepath (who can read Undead Minds), the Only Half-Breed, the Only Female Werewolf or whatever. It's okay if she finds someone to love her and lust after her and compensate her for her crappy childhood or whatever. But does she also have to be followed around by a crowd of lusting males of every species and variety (and some women, too)? At what point does this become Urban Fantasy Mary Sue?