Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Murder in Passing by Mark de Castrique

First Sentence:  “So, where are we going?”
Investigators Sam Blackman and Nakayla Robertson head out looking for mushrooms on the site of an historic, freed-slave commune called The Kingdom of the Happy Land.  In addition to mushrooms, Sam also finds a body.  Wedged inside a rotting log with a spent bullet, this was no natural death.  When Marsha Montgomery asks the pair to investigate the 1967 theft of a rifle and photograph, taken on the same site, Sam becomes suspicious.  His concerns are realized with Marsh’s elderly mother is arrested for the murder of Jimmy Lang, believed to be the corpse.  The question is whether this is about race, or is it about greed?
De Castrique provides us with a very good, compelling first chapter that makes us want to read more.  His voice is easy with natural dialogue, although the bantering and self-deprecating humor can become a bit heavy-handed.
One of his great strengths is mixing the factual with the fictional.  Learning new things is always wonderful and theirs is so much to learn here, both about recent and distant historical figures, regional and American history, ballistics, and of working with vets at the VA hospital.  All of this is seamlessly woven into the story giving it a richness and veracity which enhances the experience.  There is even a delightful nod to author Lee Child and his Jack Reacher series of books.
Sam, Nakayla—is partner in the firm and in life—and attorney Hewitt Donaldson are very good characters.  Even if this is your first experience with the series, you are provided enough background to know who they are and their relationships to one another.  If anything, a bit of editing could be recommended as we are reminded way too many times of how Sam and Nakayla met.  It’s a smallish criticism but it was an element of which I became very aware.
On the other hand, it’s nice when an author uses coincidence as a deliberate element of the plot structure, rather than the only way they can think to get to the next point.  That’s good writing.
“A Murder in Passing” has a very good plot filled with twists, turns and an excellent surprise.  I very much enjoy Mr. de Castrique’s writing, both in this series and in his Barry Clayton series.

A MURDER IN PASSING (Lic Invest-Sam Blackman/Nakayla Robertson-North Carolina-Contemp) – G+
Mark de Castrique – 4th in series
Poisoned Pen Press, 2013

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