Monday, January 11, 2016

The Dirt on Ninth Grave (Charley Davidson #9) by Darynda Jones

Charley has lost all of her memories, faced with the horror of losing Beep, she’s forgotten all she is and teleported across the country

She’s now lost and adrift, a waitress in a strange place without even knowing her own name. She tries to keep her small life together, as more figures from her old life arrive trying, hoping her memory will return

Of course, she’s still Charley so, despite all intentions, there’s no way she can stay out of trouble for long

At the end of the last book, I was worried. I was worried because the story ended with Charley having complete amnesia and being magically whizzed to an entirely different part of America

I feared that this would mean a whole book with Charley not remembering who she was and what she could do.

I feared this meant that 8 books of slow revelations, character development, relationship development and expansion and exploration of Charley’s nature and her powers were going to be completely erased. I wasn’t happy at the possibility.

And lo… I was right.

Charley has amnesia. She has no idea who or what she is. She spends most of this book relearning how to use her abilities, what her abilities mean, how she can see the dead, how she can allow the dead pass through her, how she can speak every language

Huge amounts of this book is Charley relearning what it is to be Charley.

Thankfully her friends and family don’t spend a long time finding her. But nor do they tell her the truth or try to. There is something of a reason for that but it’s still frustrating as we see her redevelop all her old relationships, rebuild connections with Uncle Bob and Cookie and Reyes and Garrett and and Agent Kit Carson and everyone else. It feels like we’re leaping backwards – it’s so very frustrating since it has taken a long time for us to get where we are now. Eight books worth, eight books and we’re going back to book 1

She’s even forgotten Danger and Will Robinson.

On top of that we have Reyes. No he’s not the abusive arsehole I’ve hated in past books. But he is hot – and this is the very first time that Charley has seen him. Which means we have pages and pages and pages and pages about how very hot he is. An annoying trope that has been going for so long in the series and was finally being to peter out – and now it’s back full force

Again, this whole book felt like a leap back to the beginning and so very annoying

There were still a lot of good elements. I loved the continuing way Charley bounces off everyone – how she and Cookie and everyone else can have such good banter. I love their humour, I’ve always loved the humour of this series, it has always been a gem. But, even then, without the same level of interactions she had in previous books we still don’t have the same level of fun and joy.

I also quite like how Charley grows into herself. I like how she begins very afraid and determined to stay out of the various dramas that happen around her – after all she has no idea who she is and enough problems of her own. But as her story continues she recognises more of her powers and, beyond that, she simply cannot bring herself to leave people alone who definitely need help, especially since she quickly realises some of them cannot possibly get help without her intervention.

Except… except... we have the abusive cop and the haunted babies and the terrorist plot – all in the few months that Charley has been in town? I mean, as a private detective it made sense for numerous problems to arrive on Charley’s doorstep, especially since she works with the police as well. It doesn’t make sense for Jane Doer, anonymous waitress to have this much drama fall on her doorstep in such a short space of time. I’ve complained repeatedly over and over about how much this book series tends to cram far too many storylines in far too small a space.  Here we had a perfect excuse to cut a few storylines – to not have Jane Doer, a waitress, decide that she really needs to be front and centre of a terrorist hostage situation. To have Jane Doer decide that, hey, maybe the police can handle that one – and leave her with just the haunted fellow waitress and the abusive cop (a much better storyline).

And that storyline was good – the way it shredded the idea that Charley owed a guy for saving or helping her, the way it excellently challenged the his entitlement, that he’s done something wonderful for her rather than his job and the way she’s supposed to respond with sex to him doing is job is outrageous. That whole storyline was very well done, including the ending

Even if it did lead to ANOTHER time when Charley gets horribly tortured and abused. Honestly, is there a reason this is essential in every single book? Really, it’s becoming compulsory

And towards the end we did get some excellent development of her storyline – the fear of Charley and what she’s become; how she has all this immense power and not really the mind and experience and perspective to use it wisey and how this is making some very powerful beings very very worried.

Now, a whole book based on that, especially given how impulsive she is, would be very very worrisome for everyone concerned.

We do have a number of excellent female characters – Charley and Cookie of course. I also like how even women who were created and presented to be enemies of Charley all ended up being humanised and developed so they’re more than being avatars of hatred and spite. In a genre completely full of girl-hate and pettiness it’s nice to see even relatively tiny roles developed to be more than random avatars of nastiness. There was also a lot of nice challenging of misogyny with the police man storyline

We do have Garrett, a Black man, playing a very minor role. And, of course her obsessive love interest fascination is Reyes who is latino and does play a relatively large role. There is a tiny role for an Asian cook but she’s an extra – but this series has also tried to include POC extras as well as main characters. There’s also another Latino employee who has an interesting mini storyline about him being noticed and appreciated as attractive despite being fat. We continue to have Angel, the latino ghost as well, challenging and running with stereotypes at the same time.

Unfortunately the only middle eastern characters in this book are terrorists – and ye gods this has been done to death and I’s not like the series has a huge selection of middle-eastern characters to counter this representation.

There are no LGBT characters in this book

This book is good. This book is immense fun. This book has a lot of humour, a lot of excellent interactions and, at the very end, it finally comes together and advances some more of the plot. Not for a second would I say this isn’t a decent book to read.

But this isn’t a stand alone book. It’s book 9 in a series and having most of the book scrap the previous 8 books is so incredibly frustrating! It’s a good book, but it isn’t what I wanted. And I fel like a right whiny child for saying that, but I wanted something so very different.