First Sentence: "I think it's broken."
Casey Maldonado's husband and young son were killed in an automobile accident, Trying to deal with her grief, Casey, accompanied by the figure of Death, is traveling the roads, looking for peace. In the small town of Armstrong, Idaho, Casey is given a job and place to stay by the owner of the convenience store. Vern's wife, Dottie, is ill, but that doesn't explain the acrimony and spiteful actions directed toward her which, Casey discovers, stems from an incident which happened 45 years ago. Can Casey find serenity for both the town and herself?
Entitled Chapter One, Clemens opens the books with what is, in fact, a prologue. That is unfortunate in itself. Worse is that the scene is literally lifted from the middle of the story, and it ends with an unnecessary portent. Although the chapter does introduce us to the protagonists, so does what follows, reinforcing that it was really not needed.
The good news is that although this is the fifth book in the series, one doesn't feel the loss of not having read the four previous books. The author provides enough information for new readers to feel comfortable while series readers won't feel bogged down by too much detail.
The best things about the book are the characters. Casey is someone with whom one can empathize. Personal pain is a hard reality of life and Clemens conveys it well. But Casey is also a figure to be admired. To say she can take care of herself would be understating the fact.
When done well, there is something very intriguing about having Death as a character. Clemens does it very well, indeed. It's not every day Death dresses in movie costumes and quotes from "Breakfast at Tiffany's," as well as providing an element of humor to the story.
All the characters are fully-dimensional. Vern is a kindly man who extends that kindness to others. He loves his wife, Dottie, and is incredibly loyal to her. Sheila, pastor of the local church, Officer Maddy Justice, and Nell with the bright white hair personify those we'd like to know. Others, not so much, but even they are recognizable.
Clemens does capture the feel of being in a very small town where everyone knows everyone else's business and grudges are held for generations. Unfortunately, the plot really felt as though it was working hard to work and was only a backdrop to the principal characters.
"Beyond the Grave" is a book whose greatest strength is the characters of Casey and Death. They, alone, made the book worth reading.
BEYOND THE GRAVE (Mys/Para-Casey Maldanado/Death- - Contemp) – Okay
Clemens, Judy – 5th books in seriesPoisoned Pen Press