A suspicious death on top of Glassy Mountain turns two laid-back private sleuths into prime suspects.
Asheville, N.C., detectives Nakayla Robertson and Sam Blackman, whose first-person narration is relaxed and direct, are hired by an insurance company to follow history professor Janice Wainwright, who's suing a local surgeon and his hospital for botching surgery on her herniated disk. Although Janice claims to be further debilitated, Nakayla follows her to Connemara, the childhood home of poet Carl Sandburg, and is only steps behind as Janice improbably climbs Glassy Mountain. Hearing a scream, Nakayla rushes to Janice, followed quickly by Sam. They find the claimant prone on an outcropping where she's apparently fallen. After speaking the words, "It's the Sandburg verses," Janice lapses into unconsciousness and never recovers. All the questions surrounding her medical claim now take a back seat to a new one: Did she fall or was she pushed? Nakayla was the last known person to see her alive, making her a suspect—and an enemy to Janice's daughter Wendy, who visits Sam and Nakayla's office and threatens them with a gun, screaming bloody murder. Fortunately, she's a bad shot, and the duo is able to subdue her with the help of a lawyer from a neighboring office. The incident must be reported to police, but Sam, hoping to gain Wendy's trust and if necessary her assistance, decides to say that he discharged his own weapon. Can the theft of books from the Connemara really be a coincidence?
Sam's third case (The Fitzgerald Ruse, 2009, etc.) benefits greatly from the chemistry of its two sleuths and the author's—make that the narrator's—clean, accessible style.