“Buryin’ Barry” unearths a corrupt plot in his sleepy North Carolina town.
Barry Clayton, who runs the only funeral home in Gainesboro, works part-time as a sheriff’s deputy (Risky Undertaking, 2014, etc.). It’s in the latter capacity that his lifelong antagonist, Archie Donovan Jr., approaches him with a dubious charitable scheme: Archie wants to be arrested during the Apple Festival Parade and then he'll raise money to be bailed out, with the proceeds going to the local Boys and Girls Club. The gesture will also, not incidentally, be good for Archie’s insurance business. Then the parade is marred by a shooting—the Commissioner of Agriculture is injured, and Barry’s beloved Uncle Wayne is gravely wounded as he tries to wrestle the gun away from the shooter, poverty-stricken Toby McKay, who's killed when his gun goes off in the struggle. Uncle Wayne, luckier but not much luckier, spends the next several days in the intensive care unit. The case seems straightforward until drunken Sonny McKay arrives at the hospital trying to explain why his father “did what he did.” Once he sobers up, Sonny shuts down, at least about issues surrounding the shooting, and the local cops respond by getting a warrant to search McKay’s house, where they find state police undertaking their own investigation. When Sonny is found dead in his trailer, a clean shot to the head, Barry realizes he’s dealing with something a lot bigger than a spur-of-the-moment killing. Unraveling the complicated case requires him to collaborate with slick Archie and fend off the intrusions of multiple state and federal law enforcement agencies.
The hero’s easy charm in his seventh case makes the reader feel like a longtime Gainesboro resident and a sleuthing sidekick.