Monday, August 06, 2018

Beyond the Grave by Judy Clemens

Judy Clemens' fifth Grim Reaper mystery, Beyond the Grave, is creepy, disturbing, and darkly humorous. And, it's not the Grim Reaper who makes the novel creepy and disturbing. In fact, he's the comic relief, although he's also a thoughtful entity.

Casey Maldonado is still haunted over two years later by the deaths of her husband and young son. She's been traveling ever since, accompanied by Death, in the form of the Grim Reaper. Or, sometimes, he changes clothes to fit whatever is happening. The Grim Reaper is particularly fascinated by clothes in movies, including Murder on the Orient Express in an early chapter. But, Casey gets off the train because she's desperate to escape all the young children on it. If Casey is looking for peace, she isn't going to find it in Idaho.

In Beltmore, Casey is attacked by three men, but fends them off and flees for shelter to a church. It's there she meets Pastor Sheila, who wants help in cleaning up the evil in the area. She can only trust a female officer because others have ties to the men who attacked Casey. After she makes her report, Casey heads on, ending up in Armstrong, Idaho. From the frying pan into the fire. Armstrong - "It's a strange town with dark undertones. Lots of old grudges, unsolved mysteries, and layers of resentment."

Casey finds a place to stay, with Vern and Dottie, owners of Vern's Market. But, because she's part of their lives, she finds herself caught in the center of the town's troubles. "Something's festering in this town." Although Casey thinks she's moving from town to town to find peace in her own life, she actually ends up taking care of the people around her. And, there's a lot to clean up in this little area of Idaho.

There's a menacing sense of foreboding in Judy Clemens' Beyond the Grave. There's a strong sense of place with the isolated, semi-rural location, and that creates a brooding atmosphere. Only the Grim Reaper provides the humor needed to alleviate the darkness of these towns. Clemens' fifth in the series is an intriguing novel that's hard to put down.

Judy Clemens website is

Beyond the Grave by Judy Clemens. Poisoned Pen Press, 2018. ISBN 9781464209888 (paperback), 280p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.