Category Archives: deCastrique, Mark

Mark de Castrique. A Murder in Passing. Scottsdale, AZ: Poisoned Pen Press, 2013.

murder inReaders of the previous novels in this series know that author Mark de Castrique serves up engaging mysteries that are rich with literary and local history.  These novels are not just set in North Carolina, they weave our state’s history into the plot and the characters.

In A Murder in Passing, de Castrique introduces readers to the Kingdom of the Happy Land, a communal settlement of former slaves that existed on the North Carolina-South Carolina border in the late nineteenth century.  Detectives Sam Blackman and Nakayla Robertson are at the kingdom site for a mushroom hunt when Sam trips onto a fallen tree and discovers a skeleton. The skeleton is a big story on a quiet news day in western North Carolina, and soon Sam is once again the subject of a lot of talk. Coincidentally (or maybe not), the Blackman & Robertson Detective Agency is approached by Marsha Montogmery who wants them to find a rifle and a photograph stolen in the 1960s.  The photograph was made in the 1930s by the famous photographer Doris Ulmann at the site of the Kingdom of the Happy Land.

When Marsha’s mother, Lucille Montgomery, is arrested for the murder of the man whose body Sam discovered, it’s clear that the two crimes are linked–but how? The police don’t even have a proper ID of the victim, so they attempt to obtain DNA evidence from the family of Jimmy Lang, the man who was Lucille’s lover–and Marsha’s father.  This brings the story of America’s racial history closer to the present–to the time of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia. Did Lucille kill a man who now could, but wouldn’t, marry her, or did someone else kill him to prevent him from making a new life with Lucille and Marsha?  Family relations are under the microscope in a mystery that invites readers to consider how true Faulkner’s famous quote–“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”–still is.

Regular readers of this series will be happy to know that interspersed with the business of the mystery are interludes with some of the characters from previous novels such as the lawyer Hewitt Donaldson, an antagonist deputy sheriff,  Sidney Overcash, and Ron Kline from the Golden Oaks Retirement Center.  De Castrique also introduces a promising new character, an injured young veteran Jason Frettwell, who is in rehab at the Asheville V.A. center.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Buncombe, deCastrique, Mark, Henderson, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series

Mark de Castrique. The Sandburg Connection. Scottsdale, AZ: Poisoned Pen Press, 2011.

As this novel opens, Blackman and Robertson are working on a routine surveillance case for an insurance company.  Has that UNC-Asheville professor really been disabled by a recent back surgery, or is she trying to pull a fast one? When Sam sees her heading for a hike up Glassy Mountain, he follows with his camera, hoping to get evidence that will sink her case.  Instead, after Sam hears the woman yell “NO!” he rushes to her, only to find her barely clinging to life after a hard fall.

Janice Wainwright does not survive the fall. Feeling that Sam is under suspicion, Sam and Nakayla begin to investigate all aspects of the professor’s life.  She is survived by a teenage daughter, a sister who was distant and disapproving, and a colleague with whom she shares a painful history.  Teenage Wendy is distraught but reluctant to accept her aunt’s comfort.  Instead, Wendy throws herself into the care of her pet goat, a goat that is related to the ones kept by the poet Carl Sandburg when he lived near Glassy Mountain.  As in the previous Sam Blackman mysteries, this is a tale that weaves very contemporary interests with the history and literary culture of the Asheville area.  Even when the outlines of the mystery becomes clear, this book still contains surprises that will delight Sandburg fans, history buffs, and those who enjoy a good mystery.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Buncombe, deCastrique, Mark, Henderson, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series

Mark de Castrique. Fatal Undertaking. Scottsdale, AZ: Poisoned Pen Press, 2010.

Barry Clayton learns once again the truth of the old saying “no good deed goes unpunished.”  Barry, the funeral director in the small mountain town of Gainesboro, North Carolina, was reluctant to lend a casket to the local Jaycees for their Halloween haunted house, but the Jaycee president, Archie Donovan, is a persuasive guy, so Barry lent the casket.  But what starts as a story about a haunted house becomes a darker tale in this, the fifth book in the Buryin’ Barry Mystery Series.

Carl Atkinson is no one’s favorite local businessman, but the town is shocked when he is stabbed to death while playing a corpse at the haunted house.  Archie Donovan is convinced that he was the intended victim. Archie has a jealous husband on his tail, but Carl, the murder victim, had his share of enemies too.  Strange things have been happening in the town and county–Christmas tree rustling, a business man with a bag of cash, a shot fired into a local cafe in broad daylight.  Both the mayor and the district attorney see a chance to make political hay by quickly capturing the murderer, and media outlets from all over the country send reporters to cover the ghoulish crime.  Barry’s ex-wife, Susan, is one of those reporters.  Her presence complicates Barry’s attempt to solve the murder (he is a part-time deputy and is put in charge of the case) and ultimately adds poignancy to the novel.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, deCastrique, Mark, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Mark de Castrique. The Fitzgerald Ruse. Scottsdale, AZ: Poisoned Pen Press, 2009.

This novel picks up where Blackman’s Coffin (2008) left off.  Iraq veteran Sam Blackman and Nakayla Robertson have opened a detective agency in Asheville.  Their first client is an elderly woman who wants them to return a manuscript she stole from F. Scott Fitzgerald to his heirs.  Shortly after Blackman retrieves the lock box containing the manuscript from the woman’s bank, the box is stolen from his office and the building’s security guard is killed.  Blackman is also attacked, but the friend who saves him brings the message that rogues operatives from his Iraq days are out to get him.  It appears that two different groups think that Blackman has riches that they want.

Like the earlier Sam Blackman novel, Asheville’s literary heritage figures in the plot.  This new novel also brings in some controversial elements of the area’s past, including the World War II era POW camp in Hendersonville and the American fascist William Dudley Pelley.  It makes for a heady mix and a great story.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Buncombe, deCastrique, Mark, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series

Mark de Castrique. The Sam Blackman Mysteries.

In the first book in this series, Sam Blackman is a wounded Iraq War veteran who comes to Asheville for rehabilitation.  A job offer from the head of a local security firm provides him with a new career path, even though his employer dies before Sam’s first day on the job.  Sam teams up, professionally and personally, with the dead woman’s sister and together Sam and Nakayla Robertson investigate routine and not-so-routine occurrences in Asheville and the surrounding area.

Asheville’s literary past figures in the novels, and each book is rich in local history and culture.  This series nicely weaves the city’s interesting past with contemporary elements such as Sam’s military service in Iraq.

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Filed under Buncombe, deCastrique, Mark, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Series

Mark de Castrique. Blackman’s Coffin. Scottsdale, AZ: Poisoned Pen Press, 2008.

Chief Warrant Officer Sam Blackman lost a leg in the Iraq War and, after testifying in Congress about the treatment of veterans, was sent where they figured he wouldn’t be able to cause any more trouble: Asheville, NC.  He is almost finished with his rehab when a local woman visits him and offers him a job with her security company.  She promises to visit again, but is murdered before she can do so.  After her death, a diary written by 12 year-old Henderson Youngblood in 1919 is found hidden in her apartment … and Sam’s name is on it.  Sam leaves the VA hospital and begins his civilian life by helping the deceased woman’s sister investigate the modern crime and its connections to a death in the diary.  This is the first book in de Castrique’s series of mysteries featuring the Sam Blackman character.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Buncombe, deCastrique, Mark, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series

Mark de Castrique. Grave Undertaking. Scottsdale, AZ: Poisoned Pen Press, 2004.

While moving the coffin of the long-dead Pearly Johnson to a new grave, Buryin’ Barry Clayton unearths a skeleton with a bullet hole in the skull. It turns out that the body belongs to a private investigator from New York and that he has a photo of Barry’s girlfriend Susan in his wallet. Barry investigates the murder with help from his friend, Sheriff Tommy Lee Wadkins, and tries to decide if he should sell the family business to corporate interests.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC Library Catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2004, deCastrique, Mark, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Mark de Castrique. Foolish Undertaking. Scottsdale, Ariz.: Poisoned Pen Press, 2006.

Barry Clayton, a funeral director in fictional Gainesboro, N.C., is back after appearing in de Castrique’s earlier novel, Dangerous Undertaking. Clayton’s business is thrust into the national spotlight when the body of a Montagnard man reknowned for helping American soldiers in Vietnam is stolen. Clayton must deal with the grieving family, angry Vietnam veterans, and powerful politicians while he pursues the case.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC Library Catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2006, deCastrique, Mark, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Mark de Castrique. Final Undertaking. Scottsdale, AZ: Poisoned Pen Press, 2007.

Barry Clayton, the infamous former cop turned funeral director in the fictional mountain town of Gainesboro, N.C. returns from de Castrique’s Foolish Undertaking. The quiet, peaceful town needs Clayton to embark on an undercover investigation after an elderly man from Florida goes on a shooting spree in the middle of town, killing townspeople and severely injuring the sheriff.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC Library Catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2007, deCastrique, Mark, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Mark de Castrique. The “Buryin’” Barry Clayton Mysteries

With his father suffering from Alzheimer’s, Barry Clayton leaves the Charlotte, N.C. police force and heads home to Gainesboro, a fictional town in the North Carolina mountains. His plan is to help his mother and Uncle Wayne with the family-run funeral home, but his plan quickly goes awry when he is shot presiding over the funeral of a local woman. From this point forward, Barry uses both his mortuary and his investigative skills to help solve local crimes. The series also features Barry’s friend and the local police chief, Tommy Lee Wadkins, and his girlfriend, Dr. Susan Miller.

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Filed under deCastrique, Mark, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Series