Review: Flowers for Her Grave

Flowers for Her Grave (Grim Reaper #3)
Judy Clemens
Poisoned Pen Press
$24.95, hardcover, 250 pages
$14,95, trade paperback, 250 pages
Release date: Aug. 2, 2011

When the Grim Reaper is your only constant companion, life can be strange. That’s how it is for Casey Maldonado, heroine of Judy Clemens’ Grim Reaper series. Death and Casey have been constant companions since Casey’s husband and son were killed in a car accident that Casey managed to survive.

Flowers for Her Grave is the third book in the series. It finds Casey and Death in Florida, on the the run from police and the manufacturer of the car that killed Casey’s family. Explanations about how Death became Casey’s companion are absent, and readers new to the series may want to jump back to an earlier book for the background.

The background may not be all that necessary. All a reader needs to know is that Death hangs around Casey, serving as a combination of a Greek Chorus, Jewish mother and Cat-in-the-hat-esque observer. Death’s real purpose is to give Casey someone to talk to in order to provide exposition for the reader.

The plot centers around a mysterious death at an adult community where Casey, under an alias, finds work as a personal trainer. Casey plays Nancy Drew to solve the crime, all the while hoping the local police don’t discover her true identity and trying not to act on her growing attraction to one of the detectives. Readers can easily keep up with the twists and turns of the murder investigation, spotting red herrings as they appear and vanish.

Clemens tries to make the novel a mix of humor, pulp crime and the paranormal, with a dash of romance and female empowerment thrown in for good measure. As would be expected in the growing genre of supernatural chick lit, Casey doesn’t need a man to help her get things done. She’s a martial arts expert who’s inevitably smarter than those around her, except when the plot calls for her to forget something or overlook an obvious clue in order for the story to advance. The mishmash of genres works against developing affection for Casey. Her backstory is tragic, but the lighthearted tone of the books clashes with the few times Casey is reminded of her losses.

Death’s main character feature is sarcasm, and the other characters are virtually indistinguishable from each other apart from gender, occupation and name.

The end result is a harmless, lightweight novel, the sort you might buy in an airport, only to leave behind unfinished on the plane. Flowers for Her Grave has some entertainment value, but it doesn’t grab a reader’s attention and make you anxious to read the previous books or look forward to the next.

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