"The dark humor, a small community in a regional mystery, and a strong supporting cast of believable characters will appeal to Margaret Maron's readers." —Library Journal STARRED review
Towns like Gainesboro, North Carolina, may be small but go big on local traditions. When funeral director and part-time deputy sheriff Barry Clayton and his childhood nemesis, Archie Donovan, Jr., unite to create a fundraising float in Gainesboro's annual Apple Festival Parade, what could go wrong? With Archie involved—anything!
First, the Grand Marshal, NC Secretary of Agriculture Graham James, is attacked by a gunman and Barry's Uncle Wayne is critically wounded in the melee. The assailant is killed. Then, when the body of a convenience store owner is discovered less than an hour later with the gunman's food stamp card in his wallet, the case escalates. Two men dead. What is the connection?
Barry and Sheriff Tommy Lee Wadkins swiftly learn their small town offers no protection against big-time crime. The body count rises as the scope of their homicide investigation crosses into the realm of the U.S. Marshals and their secretive Witness Protection Program. To penetrate its walls, Barry and Tommy Lee resort to a most unlikely ally: Archie. Is the insurance agent, generally a victim of his own hare-brained schemes, capable of breaking the case, or will Archie find a way to become another of its casualties?
The trio's secret undertaking into a convoluted conspiracy becomes a fight for survival in a world filled with betrayals where it's impossible to know which people to trust.
Early in de Castrique's fine seventh Buryin' Barry mystery (after 2014's Risky Undertaking), Barry Clayton, the director of the Clayton Funeral Home and part-time deputy sheriff in Gainesboro, N.C., meets with Janet Sinclair, who wants his help securing the future burial of herself and her husband, Robert, in the same plot as Robert's parents in a New Jersey cemetery. Janet doesn't make it clear why she wants to avoid dealing with a local funeral home. In looking into the Sinclairs' unusual situation, Barry gets on a trail that leads to suspicious deaths, a scheme to defraud the U.S. government, and an attempt on the life of North Carolina's commissioner of agriculture. The book is peopled with believable villains, in particular the fraudsters and liars, but it also features folks who show kindness, consideration, and a true respect for friendship. The story's resolution is satisfying on many levels. De Castrique draws the reader into his protagonist's world with consummate grace.