Review: North Carolina Sheriff Tommy Lee Wadkins is considering retirement and thinks part-time Deputy Sheriff Barry Clayton is just the man to replace him — and this latest murder investigation is the ticket to proving him right — in Fatal Undertaking, the fifth mystery in this series by Mark de Castrique.
The deceased is found in, of all places, a coffin, a knife buried in his back. The coffin setup was part of a Halloween fund-raiser, with volunteers posing as dead, rising when someone walked by. Only Carl Atkinson didn't rise. Carl was the son of wealthy and powerful Ralph Atkinson … and Barry knows that means media attention. But he isn't expecting his ex-wife, Rachel, to show up, who was once a reporter for the NBC bureau in Washington DC but now works for a cable network called "Weird World." Barry can't afford to be distracted, though, especially when someone steps forward to confess to the crime, yet he thinks Carl may not have been the intended victim at all.
The principal and recurring characters in Fatal Undertaking are strongly developed as is the setting — the mountains of western North Carolina — which plays an important part in the story. Barry Clayton is surely growing as a character, a former Charlotte police officer who returned to the area to take care of his father, the owner of a funeral home, and later inheriting the operation when he dies. Barry has since sold off half of the business and now looks to be returning to his professional roots. But this transitional mystery is rather thinly plotted, the suspects — and even the victims — not very interesting and never fully realized. While this is not among the best of the mysteries to feature this character, it is nonetheless a series worth following.
Acknowledgment: Poisoned Pen Press provided an ARC of Fatal Undertaking for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
The Fitzgerald Ruse
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), August 2009
ISBN-13: 9781590586297; ISBN-10: 1590586298
The Sandburg Connection
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), October 2011
ISBN-13: 9781590589410; ISBN-10: 1590589416
Location(s) referenced in Fatal Undertaking: North Carolina
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Fatal Undertaking by Mark de Castrique — A Barry Clayton Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: October 2010
List Price: $24.95