Review: Barry Clayon's poker buddies, who are co-owners of a local cemetery, are planning on expanding and are counting on continued referrals from Barry, Gainesboro's undertaker and funeral director. Barry gives them an ambiguous nod and considers the matter closed. Days later, while escorting a grieving family to that very same cemetery to bury their loved one, they are confronted by a group of Cherokee Indians, led by Jimmy Panther, who are protesting the proposed expansion of the cemetery onto what they claim are historic tribal lands. Barry, who wears another hat in Gainesboro at its part-time deputy, moves them aside so they can proceed with the burial. But later Jimmy Panther is found murdered on the very same plot of the recently deceased, in Risky Undertaking, the sixth mystery in this series by Mark de Castrique.
Panther had been bound before being executed, suggesting he was captured somewhere else and brought specifically to the cemetery to make a point. But by whom? The family of the deceased, who were both embarrassed and angered by the protest during their time of grief? Or maybe a potential investor in a proposed new casino, an operation Panther was vehemently opposed to? Or even a fellow Cherokee, who would benefit financially from the casino? But why place the body on a recently dug grave? To send a message? There are lots of questions for Barry and, unfortunately, no shortage of suspects who Panther had clashed with recently, any one of whom may have found an opportunity to deal with him in a permanent way.
There are many potentially positive elements to Risky Undertaking, yet despite a cast of diverse characters led by the engaging Barry Clayton and the brisk pace of the narrative, it just doesn't click. Maybe it's that the basic storyline centered on the issues surrounding casinos in North Carolina — what should be a terrific source of all sorts of conflicts that would well in a murder mystery — isn't told in a compelling manner. Or maybe it's the non-recurring characters that make up the suspects, victims, and ultimately the killer are somewhat superficially drawn and thus aren't really all that interesting. Or maybe it's that the resolution to the story and the solution to the crimes is less than satisfactory. The series as a whole is a strong one, and definitely worth following, but this latest entry isn't up the standard set by its predecessors.
Acknowledgment: Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity provided a copy of Risky Undertaking for this review.
Review Copyright © 2015 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
A Murder in Passing
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), July 2013
ISBN-13: 9781464201493; ISBN-10: 1464201498
A Specter of Justice
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), November 2015
ISBN-13: 9781464204722; ISBN-10: 1464204721
Location(s) referenced in Risky Undertaking: North Carolina
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Risky Undertaking by Mark de Castrique — A Barry Clayton Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: November 2014
List Price: $24.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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