A SPECTER OF JUSTICE by Mark de Castrique


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A pair of creepy killings seems right up North Carolina shamus Sam Blackman's alley, especially when it looks as if a good friend is being framed for the crimes.

In his usual arch first-person, Sam recounts how his testimony in a spousal battery case goes haywire when the defendant, Clyde Atwood, manages to get hold of a gun and kills his wife, Heather, before courtroom cops take him down. Their young twins are left orphaned. "Shirley the Strange," office manager for Heather's attorney (and Sam's friend), Hewitt Donaldson, comes up with a loopy idea to provide an educational trust fund for the twins: a benefit tour of haunted local sites. Five colorful volunteers come out of the woodwork to help, assisted by Sam's partner and lover, Nakayla. Librarian Molly Staton portrays Helen, who hanged herself from a bridge. When Molly's found dangling equally dead during the tour, the volunteers become suspects. Sam and Nakayla probe the original story of "Helen's Bridge" as well as irregularities surrounding the current crime and the backgrounds of the suspects. One of them, Lenore Carpenter, goes missing; her body is found in a hotel room wearing the white dress that Molly was supposed to don for the tour. After examining the evidence, Detective Newly Newland of Asheville Homicide decides that Hewitt is the perp. It falls to Sam and Nakayla to find the real killer.

Sam's fifth case (A Murder in Passing, 2013, etc.) is an entertaining whodunit with colorful characters, swift-footed plotting, and a confident narrative voice.

Pub Date: Nov. 3rd, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0472-2
Page count: 252pp
Publisher: Poisoned Pen
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2015


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