Risky Undertaking-A Buryin’ Barry Mystery by Mark de Castrique

Risky Undertaking-A Buryin’ Barry Mystery by Mark de Castrique
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (251 pgs)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

When Cherokee burial remains are unearthed on the site expanding a local cemetery, the dual occupations of Barry Clayton, part-time deputy and fulltime undertaker, collide. Then, during the interment of the wife of one of Gainesboro, North Carolina’s most prominent citizens, Cherokee activist Jimmy Panther leads a protest. Words and fists fly. When Panther turns up executed on the grave of the deceased woman, Barry is forced to confront her family as the chief suspects. But the case lurches in a new direction with the arrival of Sheriff Tommy Lee Wadkin’s army pal, Boston cop Kevin Malone. He’s on the trail of a Boston hit man who arrived at the Cherokee reservation only days before the murder. Malone is convinced his quarry is the triggerman. But who paid him? And why? The accelerating investigation draws Barry onto the reservation where Panther’s efforts to preserve Cherokee traditions threatened the development of a new casino, a casino bringing millions of dollars of construction plus huge yearly payouts to every member of the tribe. Leading an unlikely team –his childhood nemesis Archie Donovan and his elderly fellow undertaker Uncle Wayne –Barry goes undercover. But the stakes are higher than he realized in this risky undertaking. And the life of a Cherokee boy becomes the wager. Barry must play his cards very carefully .

Take a main character with two professions, throw in some quirky secondary characters; add a murder and you have Risky Undertaking. I enjoyed reading the story not only for the mystery part of the plot, but also for the characters that inhabited it.

Lead character, Barry Clayton, is part-time deputy and also a full-time undertaker which makes for some interesting reading. He’s likeable and I enjoyed some of his wit and the way he interacted with other characters who sometimes stole the show from him.

I especially liked the storyline about preserving Cherokee traditions and how the plot involving the building of a casino seemed to tie everything together. The author does a wonderful job giving you a sense of place. Dialogue was sometimes downright funny, and the pacing is fast so you find yourself half way through the book without realizing it.

What I liked best about this book was its originality. I read lots of mysteries and I think Mr. de Castrique put a new spin on what could have turned into an overdone plotline. However, I think of this one as a hybrid of sorts, part cozy, part police procedure and I think the author pulled it off.

If you’re looking for something a little different, like small town settings peppered with a bunch of quirky characters I’d say this one’s for you.

Speak Your Mind