Barry Clayton has a job he doesn't want. When his father is stricken with Alzheimer's, Barry leaves the Charlotte police force for the small mountain community of Gainesboro, North Carolina, where his family runs the local funeral home. "Buryin' Barry" reluctantly assumes the mantle of town undertaker, trying to fit his life into this somber profession.
Almost at once it turns deadly. At the graveside service for an elderly woman, a grieving grandson strides in like Clint Eastwood in a duster, rips out a shotgun, and murders his family. Then the shooter turns the weapon on Barry. "Take a message to my grandmother," Dallas Willard shouts. "Tell her they tried to take the land. Tell her I love her." The blast hits Barry in the shoulder.
Barry is not cut from the same black cloth as his father, and his irreverent wit and independence have already won him the friendship of the county sheriff, Vietnam War hero Tommy Lee Wadkins. Besides, Barry's a police pro. Though his wounds are in the hands of local surgeon Susan Miller, Barry begins search for both the killer and the reason for his crime. It isn't long before a second shooting occurs--but Dallas Willard's body is then discovered at the bottom of a quarry pond, indisputable evidence that someone else committed the second crime, someone who now has his sights set on Barry....
Ably following in the footsteps of Margaret Maron, TV and film producer de Castrique sets his first novel among the folk who populate Gainesboro, N.C., and the surrounding hill country. The book opens with a powerful bang: mentally unbalanced Dallas Willard appears at the burial service for his grandmother, Martha Willard, shoots two relatives to death, then turns his shotgun on undertaker (and former Charlotte policeman) Barry Clayton, whom he wings in the shoulder. Dallas's motive? To preserve land worth $3 million that other members of his family planned to sell right away. Why shoot the undertaker, though? Because Dallas wants Barry to go to heaven and tell Martha nobody is going to take her property! Dallas escapes in his pickup, but when his body turns up at the bottom of a quarry pond after a second shooting incident, Barry realizes he himself could become the unknown killer's next victim. The author sensitively depicts the hill people, including Barry's childish and fearful father, owner of the mortuary, who's losing his battle with Alzheimer's. Fortunately, Barry has gorgeous Dr. Susan Miller to love him and sew him up when he's injured. Adept at both the grizzly and the graceful, de Castrique has produced a marvelous mystery you won't want to put down.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Poisoned Pen Press
January 31, 2006
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