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    Review of GRAVE UNDERTAKING by Mark de Castrique (see his website)

    Poisoned Pen Press, May 2004

    It's just an ordinary day for funeral director Barry Clayton--moving a casket from one location to another to meet the needs of the dead man's family. But when he comes across a skeleton that shouldn't be there--a skeleton with a bullet hole in the middle of its forehead, the ordinary becomes extraordinary. No funeral director put that body in the grave--and no suicide could cover himself so well. When Barry's girlfriend's picture is found in the skeleton's wallet, Susan, and even Barry himself, become suspects.

    The sheriff seems willing enough to push forward with the obvious case and Susan's lies and her confrontation with the dead man only days before he vanished, give her motive, opportunity and means. Barry needs to dust off his ex-police skills to get to the bottom of the mystery. It doesn't help, though, that Susan is lying to him as well as to the police. Could it be that she has more to hide than Barry is willing to accept?

    When he starts pulling on the case, Barry finds hints that something is rotten in the criminal justice system--that maybe the Sheriff has a good reason to point fingers anywhere but within his own department. Suspecting is one thing, though. Staying alive long enough to find out the truth becomes a major challenge.

    Author Mark de Castrique creates an engaging story with enough red herrings to fill the Atlantic and a charming romance betwen Barry and Susan. I especially enjoyed the way de Castrique deepened Barry's character through his evolving relationship with his Alzheimer-suffering father and with the community he somewhat reluctantly serves as funeral director. de Castrique's strong writing kept me glued to the pages. Good stuff.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 10/21/04

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