Who better to investigate a killing in a coffin than Buryin' Barry, deputy-cum-undertaker?
Slick insurance man Archie Donovan wants funeral director Barry Clayton to lend him a coffin for the Jaycees' Halloween haunted house. It helps that Barry's girlfriend Susan came up with the idea and that Barry, as a deputy sheriff, has been assigned to monitor the event. But on Halloween night, Carl Atkinson, hard-drinking and obnoxious president of the Jaycees, fails to pop up from the coffin to scare House visitors because he's been stabbed in the back with a buck knife. Archie sheepishly confesses that his secret affair with Angel Crowder, whose husband Pete is a first-class hothead, may have made him the intended target. This theory gets traction when somebody takes a shot at Archie during Sheriff Tommy Lee's morning press conference. Tommy Lee puts Barry in charge of the case, straining relations with rival Reece Hutchins, and assigns him two dogged deputies. Even more strain comes in the person of Barry's ex-wife Rachel, now a fiercely ambitious TV reporter, who turns up like the proverbial bad penny. The case gets more complicated with the discovery that Carl was in deep to loan sharks and with a shaky confession that ties the murder to the death of a local war hero in a car accident.
Buryin' Barry's fifth (Final Undertaking, 2007, etc.) is busy but a bit aimless. Still, de Castrique's style is clean and direct, ideal for the armchair sleuth.