Review: To The Grave by Carlene Thompson

As you all know with baby MinnChica on the way, we wanted to add another reviewer to the blog to help out. We’ve finally chosen our new reviewer, and we want to give a big welcome to MiscJoy. MiscJoy is a big romance reader, and we think she’s going to fit in fabulously! Here’s MiscJoy’s first guest review.


Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Where did you get the book: Publisher
Release date: Out now

As a psychologist, Catherine Gray understands the power of first love. As a woman, she still has feelings for her first crush, James—a handsome lawyer who was trapped in a bad marriage for years. Now that Catherine has returned to Aurora Falls, and James is divorced, they can finally build a life together. But then she stumbles onto his first love—his ex-wife Renée, missing for the past three years—murdered…

Catherine is stunned. How well does she really know James? What secret destroyed his marriage—and who killed his wife? When a mysterious fire destroys the crime scene, Catherine starts looking for answers. In a portrait for a masked woman, she sees Renée’s eyes looking back at her hauntingly. And when the next victim is revealed, it becomes terrifyingly clear that an obsessed killer is on the loose—and Catherine is next in line…

After completing her graduate work and licensing requirements, Catherine returns to her hometown of Aurora Falls to start her practice as a psychologist. Once home, she begins dating James with whom she has secretly been in love for many unrequited years. James is newly divorced from Renée – a woman who had cheated on him left and right and made no secret of it. Until one day when Renée simply vanished, forcing James to eventually get a divorce in absentia all the while enduring further humiliation and speculation that he was somehow involved in her disappearance. But without a body or any evidence to suggest foul play, it was just a missing‐persons case. That is until Catherine discovers Renée’s body.

From that point, we are introduced to a bevy of characters who may or may not have reason to want Renée, or anyone connected to her, dead. But to go into further detail would be spoiler‐ish. And frankly, I found the story to be so convoluted with such a large cast of characters that it would be exhausting to try to summarize it.

I was drawn to this book by the description. I enjoy a good thriller with my romance. Sadly, this book did not deliver on that premise. We do not get to experience much in the way of romance as the actual relationship between Catherine and James does not seem to be central to the story. o_O? Nor do we get to experience much of the thriller component as the majority of the action happens “off stage.”

While I found many issues with this story, there were three related issues that had me wanting to chuck this book against the wall:

  • Heavy on the Tell, very little Show…except for people and surroundings, then we get LOTs of meaningless Show every single time. A new character could not enter a scene without the entire story flow stopping so that the character could be described in superfluous detail including hair color/texture/quality, eye color, lash length, facial structure, each article of clothing, and some reference to body type or part. Every. Single. Time. As for character’s emotions, their motivations, the mood of a scene or events that happened or information that needed to be conveyed – all Tell. I know there is a finebalance between Show/Tell, but I didn’t find that balance in this story.
  • Where’s the actual action? Stuff happens and most of the time we don’t get to experience it until after the fact, usually in the form of back‐story, a telephone conversation or waiting for a character to come on scene to disseminate the information. This results in a weak plot. My experience as a reader was that the story always felt just a little bit off‐focus and disconnected. Unfortunately, this also removed me from any sense of story tension or suspense.
  • Back‐story in the guise of dialogue: this is really just another form of Tell, but to consistently put it in the form of dialogue kept me from connecting to the characters and made interactions feel superficial and at times awkward.

The story shifts POV’s frequently as a means to introduce the potential villains. The way it was done resulted in plot foreshadowing that felt staged. I was not at all surprised when certain characters ended up dead. The misdirection technique of throwing so much suspicion onto certain characters while making other characters seem to fade into the background was a bit too obvious. I had it narrowed down to three suspects before I was even mid‐way through the book and I was right about two of them, and the third was guilty of something just not for the murders. Ultimately, considering how much back‐story we were fed, I still felt like the ending came out of left‐field.

There were logic and sequencing issues as well resulting in an awkward read. Instead of the stimulus‐then‐reaction pattern, often times the character’s response would be described before the stimulus is introduced leaving me wondering why something was happening. Or the sequence of events in a paragraph would be out of order. There also were problems with continuity. Timelines would be inconsistent. Character reactions in a later scene would not be consistent with what had happened previously. Events as they happened would not agree within the same scene. Descriptions of events as they happened would not agree with the later summation of those events.

It bothered me that the female characters were portrayed in mostly melodramatic and stereotypical ways. Responses to stressful situations were some mix of overreaction, near‐hysteria, jealousy and/or irrational behavior. None of the female characters, including Catherine, were particularly likeable except perhaps Catherine’s sister Marissa.

Having said all that, it is clear the author has a solid grasp on the basic skills of writing – grammar, punctuation, sentence structure. That is the only reason I was able to finish this book as it was very nearly a DNF. I persevered despite the problems I had with the story and my inclination to stop. My rating: D‐

About Joy: Being a bit of a hermit, Joy’s love affair with reading began early on in life when she discovered the rich solitude that comes from experiencing a good story. When life isn’t busy intruding, she can usually be found holed up somewhere in her house with a book (usually on her Kindle), a cat or two and at least one dog curled near her feet. She is currently giving her life a complete overhaul (‘cuz hittin’ the forties is a bitch! But in a good way;-) and trying her hand at various creative endeavors including blogging (ok, so I only wrote this one blog article, but that totally counts!), maintaining her farm on Farm Story (yes, that is a creative outlet. Don’t laugh.) and finding ways to cook for her veggie family that don’t include gluten, grains, dairy or sugar (it’s not as bad as it sounds).

Amazon Book | Kindle eBook

2 thoughts on “Review: To The Grave by Carlene Thompson”

  1. Hi Joy, welcome to the blog! I am looking forward to reading more of your reviews. Thrillers are not really my kind of books, but this one sure will not make my wishlist. Great review, I enjoyed reading it, as you state very clearly why you did not like it, and what was still good in it.

  2. @aurian: Hi aurian! I’m so sorry I’m just now noticing this comment. Talk about a lag-time response on my part. >_< I'm still getting the hang of things. Thanks for the welcome:-)


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