Sam Blackman Series, No 3
Mark de Castrique
Poisoned Pen Press
Oct 2011 – ISBN: 9781590589410
Mystery / PI / North Carolina / Contemporary
by L J Roberts
First Sentence: The beep caught me in mid-bite.
Investigators Sam Blackman and Nakayla Robertson are following a
She is suing a spinal surgeon for malpractice, yet what is she
doing on the climbing trail up to the top of Glassy Mountain in
Flat Rock, N.C. Trying to stay out of sight, Sam hears her cry out
and the situation changes. He finds the woman at the bottom of an
outcropping, severely injured and muttering about “The Sandburg
versus.” When the autopsy shows massive painkillers in her
system and clear evidence of the surgeon’s malpractice, it
is suspected the woman lost her balance and accidently fell. But
Sam isn’t so certain. Why did she make the climb in the first
place and why was her backpack found a distance from her body?
De Castrique’s voice as an author is one I truly enjoy.
The dialogue that flows well and sounds natural is something I particularly
appreciate and the drama is offset but just the right touch of wry
humor and bad puns. He also scores high marks in the creation of
his characters and their relationships. Sam lost his leg in Iraq
but we are told about it in a way that describes some of the issues
with which he must deal without over-dramatizing them. He and Nakayla
are both lovers and business partners but the book isn’t a
romance. Sam and Attorney Hewitt Donaldson acknowledge Nakayla’s
intellect without being patronizing. I also appreciate the positive
relationship between the detectives and the officials on the case.
There is an excellent blending of real people and fictional. The
literary and historical themes of Carl Sandburg and the Confederacy
add a special and fascinating element to the story. There is a wonderful
passage…”A friend…from Jackson, Mississippi argued
that the South had the distinction of being the only region of the
country to have been defeated and occupied. He said when the greatest
growth industry in your state after the war was wooden crutches
and prosthetics for Confederate vets, you aren’t going to
forgive and forget any time soon. …But, ask the Cherokee about
being defeated and occupied. You don’t see them driving around
with bumper stickers saying, “Forget, Hell!” over crossed
It’s writing, such as this, which makes you think but doesn’t
beat you over the head, that brings you back to an author’s
“The Sandburg Connection” is a well written, traditional
mystery solved by investigation and following the clues. It contains
neither sex nor profanity; it is a good, solid literary mystery.
In addition to the Sam Blackman series, I also recommend Mark de
Castrique’s Barry Clayton series.