Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Final Undertaking by Mark de Castrique

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of Final Undertaking by Mark de Castrique. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Final Undertaking by Mark de Castrique

Final Undertaking by
A Barry Clayton Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-229-2 (1590582292)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-229-9 (9781590582299)
Publication Date: April 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): When Barry Clayton’s father developed Alzheimer’s, Barry gave up his career in law enforcement to return to the mountain town of Gainesboro and run the family’s funeral home. But even a small town in the Appalachians is not immune to crime.

At a summer street dance, Barry’s friend Sheriff Tommy Lee Wadkins is gunned down by an old man distraught at the death of his wife. To the dismay of Deputy Reece Hutchins, hospitalized Tommy Lee appoints Barry as the deputy in charge of the investigation. Who was the old man stalking? Why was a young woman who was wounded at the scene traveling with the intended victim?

What at first appears to be a case of a mentally unstable summer tourist quickly develops into a tangled web of deceit stretching from western North Carolina to the Florida coast. Someone is preying upon senior citizens.

Barry realizes Deputy Hutchins is undercutting his investigation, but as potential witnesses and informants begin to die under mysterious circumstances, Barry confronts a conspiracy that runs so deep he no longer knows who to trust. One false step, one betrayal, will make this case Buryin’ Barry’s final undertaking.

Review: Final Undertaking, the fourth mystery in this highly recommended series by Mark de Castrique, has funeral home owner Barry Clayton wearing a deputy's badge to investigate the senseless shooting death of a young woman during an evening summer festival in his home town. The sheriff, Tommy Lee Wadkins, wounded while trying to subdue the killer who dies in the process, provides guidance from his hospital room.

Barry quickly discovers the dead man's wife had recently died at their home in Florida of an overdose of a powerful prescription pain reliever. What isn't clear is why he was blaming someone attending a festival 600 miles away for his wife's death.

de Castrique writes in a clear and uncomplicated manner that keeps the plot focused and the reader interested. The plot itself is topical and (from a taxpayer perspective) all too believable though Barry, like almost anyone living in small town America, is slow to accept that a local resident could be involved.

In an effort to keep the series fresh, a new character is introduced in Final Undertaking, Fletcher Shaw, an intern assigned to Barry's funeral home, Clayton and Clayton. In addition to studying mortuary science, Fletcher has special skills in computer graphics and other forms of high technology that are useful in forensic analysis. Assuming that Fletcher will be a recurring character (and from the ending, this seems to be a fair assumption), he will be a winning addition to the existing cast in this series.

Finally, in keeping with Barry's profession, de Castrique handles a death in the community with grace and sensitivity. It's a special moment and it's very well done.

Special thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of Final Undertaking for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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