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Formats
Ebook Details
  • 03/2022
  • B09VF6HL83
  • 415 pages
  • $2.99
Paperback Details
  • 03/2022
  • 979-8413305867 B09VF6HL83
  • 415 pages
  • $14.99
Grind Slowly, Grind Small
The chance discovery of a young girl's skeleton at a construction site in the small Arkansas delta town of Split Tree is anything but routine. Evidence found with the decades-old bones is seemingly linked to a recent death, one that the local sheriff is all too quick to pass of as a suicide, and it soon falls upon Split Tree's war-haunted police chief, Big Ray Elmore, to investigate. When Big Ray's probing begins to pierce the delicate social façade that the townspeople have maintained for years, wheels are set in motion; wheels that threaten to crush anyone in their path.
Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 8 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 9.00 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot: In the second installment of Holland's Big Ray Elmore series, the titular sleuth investigates the remains of a young girl discovered at a construction site. Holland creates a page-turner of a story with equal parts Southern charm, grit, and tenderness.

Prose: Holland has a clear handle on storytelling and firmly establishes a vivid sense of place and character. Big Ray's narration no-nonsense narration will pull readers into the mystery.

Originality: Holland's distinctive protagonist with deep roots in his community and no false conceptions about human nature uplifts the more standard mystery elements.

Character/Execution: No characters are wasted in Holland's storytelling; rather, each feels organic to the setting and circumstances, with Big Ray being the most endearing and vivid of them all.

Date Submitted: April 22, 2022

Reviews
Haunting characterizations and evocative settings distinguish this mystery set among interconnected families in rural Arkansas in 1960. Big Ray Elmore, chief of a two-man police force, investigates when a skeleton turns up at a construction site. As flashbacks to 1946 hint at the victim's history, Elmore strives to get justice for the unknown girl. His sleuthing involves a pair of reclusive brothers and a neighboring family with whom Elmore has a dark history, even as he copes with his own family issues. As Elmore gets closer to the truth, he must address his own past and doubts to resolve his personal and professional mysteries.

Holland (Their Feet Run to Evil) has populated the mystery with an exceptionally large cast, but has given every character such a rich personality that none of them disappear into the woodwork. Best of all is the deeply introspective Elmore, a World War II navy corpsman who harbors no illusions about war: "Watchin’ young men die doesn’t make anyone a hero." His wife has apparent depressive issues, but the tenderness in how they cope with it together is heartbreaking. At the same time, Elmore's infatuation with an old girlfriend, as he attempts to recapture his youth, comes across as deeply poignant. The plot gets a little tangled, and over-relies on coincidence, but the engaging characters carry the story well.

Nor do these characters exist in a vacuum. Holland, an Arkansas native himself, has a good ear and eye for the time and place. For example, his description of the importance of the church in that milieu comes across perfectly, and integrates deftly into the mystery, as pies and sweet tea smooth the subtle interrogations. He also understands the nuances of race relations: what could get you shunned in 1960 could get you killed in 1946. Absorbed into this complex and engaging universe, readers will be rapidly turning pages to see if Elmore can save the town—and himself.

Takeaway: An offbeat sleuth and a lively cast of suspects make for a true page-turner.

Great for fans of: Allen Eskens’s The Stolen Hours, Ace Atkins.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A-

Formats
Ebook Details
  • 03/2022
  • B09VF6HL83
  • 415 pages
  • $2.99
Paperback Details
  • 03/2022
  • 979-8413305867 B09VF6HL83
  • 415 pages
  • $14.99

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