A Carolina private detective investigates a 70-year-old murder.
Asheville shamus Sam Blackman (A Specter of Justice, 2015, etc.), who narrates in a relaxed and amiable first-person, thinks that he’s simply humoring a nice old lady when he visits Violet Baker in her nursing home. But the very alert Violet has a compelling story to tell. Her brother, Paul Weaver, an Army veteran attending Black Mountain College on the GI Bill, died under mysterious circumstances in a hiking accident in 1948. Violet has a vivid childhood memory of two mysterious men visiting her family farm to deliver this news. When Sam’s tart sidekick/lover Nakayla returns from vacation, the duo begins to investigate in earnest, starting with Roland Cassidy, who’s doing research for a film set at the college during the same period. Cassidy pleads ignorance, but, oddly, director Marty Kolsrud requests a meeting with Sam and Nakayla. Marty treats them like VIPs, even taking them on-set to watch filming. But why? Their next stop is elderly mountain man Harlan Beale, who resembles a geriatric member of ZZ Top. His memory is fuzzy, but he does link Paul to the civil rights struggle of the era, during which he defended African-American students. Might there be a police report? The absence of any paperwork relating to a Paul Weaver simply makes Sam and Nakayla more determined to ferret out the truth. With a list of names provided by Beale, they set about digging up the past’s long-buried secrets.
De Castrique’s sixth delivers a vivid gallery of suspects, lively dialogue, and an attractive pair of sleuths.