Meet a February novel that has some of the best buzz of any fiction release this year. Darynda Jones' debut, First Grave on the Right, won the Golden Heart Award for best unpublished manuscript from the Romance Writers of America and has drawn raves from the likes of J.R. Ward, MaryJanice Davidson, Jayne Ann Krentz and more. It's the story of Charley Davidson, a P.I. who sees dead people. The twist: she sees them because she's the Grim Reaper.

Jones is being hailed as the next Janet Evanovich—but we'd like to let readers be the judge. First, the opening lines:


Better to see dead than be dead.
—Charlotte Jean Davidson, Grim Reaper


I'd been having the same dream for the past month—the one where a dark stranger materialized out of smoke and shadows to play doctor with me.



Next, we're putting the book to Ford Madox Ford's "page 99" test:


I turned back to Mr. Weir. "Sorry about that. It's a voices-in-my-head thing."


His expression changed, but not as I would have expected. He suddenly looked . . . hopeful again. "Can you really do what they say you can?"


Since I wasn't sure what he was talking about—who they were and what they said I could do–my brows raised in question. "And they would be . . ."


He leaned in, as if that would help me hear him better through the glass. "I heard the guards talking. They were surprised you'd come to see me."


"Why?" I asked, surprised myself.


"They said you solve crimes nobody else can solve. That you even solved a decades-old cold case."


I rolled my eyes. "That was one time, for heaven's sake. I got lucky."


A woman had come to me who had been murdered in the fifties. I'd convinced Uncle Bob to help, and we'd closed her case together. I couldn't have done it without him. Or all the new technology law enforcement had on their side. Of course, it helped that she knew exactly who murdered her and exactly where to find the murder weapon. That poor woman'd had one mean stepson.


"That's not what they said," Mr. Weir continued. "They said you knew things, things that no one could know."


Oh. "Um, who said that?"


"One of our guards is married to a cop."


"Well, then, that explains it. Cops don't really think—"


"I don't care what cops think, Ms. Davidson. I just want to know if you can do what they say."


A dismal sigh escaped through my lips. "I don't want to get your hopes up."


"Ms. Davidson, your mere presence is giving me hope. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is."



Does the book pass the tests? Tell us in the comments.

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