Grind Slowly, Grind Small

A Big Ray Elmore Novel

Fiction - Mystery - Murder
414 Pages
Reviewed on 06/28/2022
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite

To read a novel by Thomas Holland is to come away impressed by so many things that it's almost hard to know where to start. Was it the plot of Grind Slowly, Grind Small that kept me turning the pages long into the night? Was it the laid-back, raw, almost rambling, but never boring narrative of Big Ray Elmore that captivated me? Was it the intimate, often amusing look into how the inhabitants of a small town gossipped and explained the inexplicable? Was it the colorful vernacular that characters used to describe someone that had me smiling? It was all these things and so much more because Thomas Holland is a master storyteller. Holland isn’t the first to write a mystery novel based around the discovery of 20-year-old bones, but he’s among very few authors who don’t feel compelled to rush readers. After an omniscient opening where a young woman waits to be whisked off to a new future with a married man, he lets his story unfold in an almost relaxed manner. Like the locals ever chewing their tobacco, Big Ray turns over information, not content with easy explanations. Bit by bit, conversations yield clues and Holland teases the reader to pick up the hints and pull everything together, just as Big Ray does.

Along the way, readers feel compelled to keep reading as their fondness grows for this intriguing narrator/protagonist: Big Ray is deep, caring, and kind. Like all of us, he is plagued by his weaknesses but, unlike many, he acknowledges them and constantly struggles to overcome them. In only a few words, he speaks volumes, e.g. “He didn’t approve, but he didn’t scold me either. He didn’t need to.” The result? While Thomas Holland cleverly unfolds a complicated plot through Big Ray, readers witness the further evolution of a wonderful, legend-like hero: Big Ray Elmore. I use the adjective “further” because some readers will already have met Elmore in Holland’s previous book, Their Feet Run to Evil. I did. I liked Big Ray Elmore in that novel and liked him even more here. The title, by the way, describes perfectly how Big Ray Elmore thinks. Better yet, it describes how Thomas Holland writes: beautifully! He is not only a reader’s author: he’s an author’s writer. Whichever you are, or if you are both, read Grind Slowly, Grind Small.

Alma Boucher

Fragments of a female skeleton are found on a construction site and Chief of Police Big Ray Elmore is called in to investigate. During the autopsy, it turns out that the victim was a young petite girl. She was 5 months pregnant, and her skull was shattered. They must identify the young girl before they can find her killer. Big Ray begins to piece together the horrific events behind the skeleton and he wants justice for this poor girl. He is married to Ellen Mae who has depression and mood swings and he never knows what will trigger them. His lost love, Grace, is now married to another man who has no moral values. During Big Ray’s investigation in Grind Slowly, Grind Small: A Big Ray Elmore Novel by Thomas D. Holland, he has a lot to do with Grace and he does his best not to give his wife reason to be jealous.

Grind Slowly, Grind Small by Thomas D. Holland begins with two different events that occur 15 years apart, and at the end, everything comes together. The novel had enough action and suspense to keep me turning the pages. The main plot is the mystery around the discovery of the skeleton of a young girl. The description of the murder and what happened before were very vivid. I felt part of the young girl’s pain and experienced her sadness when she realized that she meant nothing to her lover. The characters were well developed, and I could relate to them. I was part of Big Ray’s search for justice. Grind Slowly, Grind Small is well-written and kept my attention. I recommend this novel to mystery and crime readers.

K.C. Finn

Grind Slowly, Grind Small: A Big Ray Elmore Novel is a work of fiction in the murder mystery, suspense, and drama subgenres. It is best suited to the mature adult reading audience owing to adult scenes and the use of explicit language and was penned by author Thomas Holland. In this thrilling work with plenty of murderous twists and turns, we find ourselves deep in the heart of a web of intrigue in Split Tree, Arkansas. A small-town construction site reveals the skeleton of a young girl, and from here a more recent death holds a strange connection. It’s up to the local police chief, Big Ray Elmore, to put his haunted past behind him and see what sense can be made of matters.

This is an in-depth work of mystery fiction that works its way through an evenly-paced story, but it’s well worth the read for fans who want a more involved mystery with lots of atmosphere and effective character development. You’ll certainly never want for detail in this work as author Thomas Holland leaves no stone unturned. I found the clue elements that were laid out easy to follow but also suitably complex to piece together and still leave room for the element of surprise. Another standout feature for me was also the superb characterization of the lead figure Big Ray, who was endearing and enjoyable despite his hang-ups and reservations. Overall, Grind Slowly, Grind Small is a recommended read for murder mystery fans of small-town suspense and strong character-led fiction alike.

Anne-Marie Reynolds

Grind Slowly, Grind Small by Thomas Holland is a Big Ray Elmore murder mystery and the second book in the series. Split Tree Police Chief Ray Elmore has his hands full when he is called to a building site. A skeleton has been unearthed, a young girl buried decades before but the evidence found with her body links her to a much more recent death, an apparent suicide. It’s down to Elmore to find the truth but he’s looking for answers to questions the townspeople don’t want to hear. His investigations open old wounds and dig into a past people would rather stay closed with consequences that threaten everyone who dares to find the truth. Can Elmore link the past and the present and learn the truth about the victims?

Grind Slowly, Grind Small by Thomas Holland is an excellent story with a great plot. The opening scenes pull you right into the story and you are held there until the very end. Set in 1960s Arkansas, the author has clearly researched what life would have been like then. The main character’s backstory adds another dimension that runs in undercurrents throughout, playing a large part in the overall outcome. Although this is a murder mystery, it incorporates personal stories too, giving us well-developed characters with real flaws and real problems, people we can easily identify with. With plenty of action and twists and turns, this is one story that you won’t want to put down once you start reading. I would recommend reading the first one in the series before this one, just to understand Elmore and what drives him. Looking forward to the next story in the series.

Vincent Dublado

Grind Slowly, Grind Small by Thomas Holland is the second offering in the Big Ray Elmore series. While digging a trench for a construction site, two Mexican workers find a female skeleton with a bullet wound to the head. This more than a decade-old find appears to be connected to a recent incident where the body had also sustained a bullet wound matching in caliber with that of the female skeleton. This recent find was recently ruled as suicide, but Police Chief Big Ray Elmore thinks otherwise. He is about to cause a stir as his investigation will pit him against many who don't want him to uncover the truth. As he investigates the folks who used to live at the site before the construction began, Elmore is about to discover a secret that threatens to snap the town's moral fiber.

The procedural moments of Grind Slowly, Grind Small are meticulously constructed and you can tell that a considerable degree of research has been done to make it appear realistic. It is equally interesting when we learn that something sinister lies at the core, and we want to see how Elmore is going to dig it up. Thomas Holland doesn't just establish a premise. He knows how to fill the pages with investigative intensity until the plot's climactic moments. He has no trouble convincing you of the story's logic. It just flows and coalesces into a satisfying reading experience. The story has its own voice and Holland succeeds in making this novel what he wants it to be. The writing sets the bar high when it comes to the genre that it represents.

Asher Syed

Grind Slowly, Grind Small: A Big Ray Elmore Novel by Thomas Holland is a historical mid-century mystery and the second book in the series that follows its titular protagonist, preceded by book one, the critically acclaimed Their Feet Run to Evil. Set in 1960s Split Tree, Arkansas, police chief Big Ray is at the helm of a murder investigation when the skeletal remains of a 1940s teenage girl are found. The tiny bones of her second-trimester baby are found alongside her. Brutally murdered, the bullet in her skull matches the same caliber found in a recent murder victim. Amidst his PTSD as a war veteran, his support of his ill wife, and occasional path-crossing with a former love who has moved on, Big Ray must piece together a set of crimes in a small town.

Thomas Holland has crafted a fantastic character-driven plot with Grind Slowly, Grind Small, and while this is my first initiation into the world of Big Ray Elmore, it reads perfectly well as a stand-alone. That said, there's no question I have my mind set on going back and catching up with book one. The plot itself is intriguing but it's actually the private struggles of Big Ray that flesh the novel out and push deeper than I've come across in quite some time. The battle between Big Ray and Sheriff Cecil Ben Cooper allows for rural politics and the true implementation of law in the era and space Holland builds, where Split Tree is really a character in and of itself. There are omniscient flashbacks to the first murder that give the reader an advantage over Big Ray's first-person narrative. Overall, this is an exceptional mystery that I believe lovers of old-school Americana and the battle of man will enjoy. Very highly recommended.