LJ's Reviews > The Sandburg Connection

The Sandburg Connection by Mark de Castrique
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's review
Nov 04, 2011

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bookshelves: contemporary_post_1945, male_author, mystery, north_carolina, police_procedural
Read in October, 2011

First Sentence: The beep caught me in mid-bite.

Investigators Sam Blackman and Nakayla Robertson are following a history professor. 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 tomahawks.” 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 other works.

“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.

THE SANDBURG CONNECTION (PI-Sam Blackman-North Carolina-Cont) – G+
de Castrique, Mark – 3rd in series
Poisoned Pen Press, 2011, ARC: Hardcover release Oct 2011 – ISBN: 9781590589410
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