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Blackman's Coffin (Sam Blackman…

Blackman's Coffin (Sam Blackman Mysteries) (edition 2008)

by Mark de Castrique

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713168,809 (3.65)18
Title:Blackman's Coffin (Sam Blackman Mysteries)
Authors:Mark de Castrique
Info:Poisoned Pen Press (2008), Paperback, 255 pages
Collections:Your library, Audio books, To read
Tags:ODMEVAMD, HM12, mystery

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Blackman's Coffin by Mark de Castrique



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This is the first in the series featuring Sam Blackman, a Veteran who served as a Chief Warrant Officer until he lost a limb. He becomes acquainted with Tikima Robertson, another former veteran who visits veterans, while in the VA hospital in Asheville, North Carolina thanks to an error on a government form. When she turns up dead, Sam, along with Tikima's sister, Nakayla, sets out to investigate. The solution appears to lie in the past. There's a handwritten journal penned by Thomas Wolfe and action at the famed Biltmore Estate. There's even an interesting geological slant that shows the author did his homework to come up with such a gripping narrative. This is an outstanding first in series. Having already read a later installment, I can truly say that this mystery series is quickly becoming one of my favorites. ( )
1 vote thornton37814 | Nov 17, 2011 |
Blackman’s Coffin is the first book in a new series from Mark de Castrique, author of the outstanding ‘Buryin’ Barry’ series. Blackman’s Coffin introduces us to Sam Blackman, a former Chief Warrant Officer in the Army’s Criminal Investigation Detachment who, having lost part of his left leg in Iraq, is currently rehabbing at a V.A. hospital in Asheville, N.C.

Shortly before he is set to be discharged, both from the hospital and the Army, he meets fellow vet and amputee Tikima Robertson during one of her visits to the hospital. Knowing of his investigative background, Tikima offers Sam a job with the security company where she works and promises to visit again in a couple of days. After several weeks pass with no word from Tikima, Sam follows up with her company only to learn that Tikima was murdered, her body having been pulled from the French Broad river with a gunshot to the head.

Sam subsequently receives a call from Tikima’s sister informing him that her sister’s apartment has been ransacked, and that she thinks she knows what the intruders were looking for… a journal from 1919 which recounts, among other things, the murder of the Robertsons’ great-great-grandfather, Elijah, who was also found in the French Broad river. Tikima had hidden the journal under the dust jacket of another book and left a note on it indicating that the journal was intended for Sam’s review. Feeling a sense of obligation to the woman who had reached out to him, Sam agrees to help investigate Tikima’s murder.

The plot, which deftly interweaves the modern day murder of Tikima with that of her great-great-grandfather Elijah, manages to include a great deal of history about Asheville, the Biltmore Estate and Thomas Wolfe (an Asheville native, and who does factor into the story), all without ever slowing down the pace of the story. As with his Barry Clayton series, which is also set in North Carolina, the characters in Blackman’s Coffin are so well written the reader immediately feels as though they’ve known them forever, and both the behavior and dialog of even the most bit player rings true. If you’ve never read Mark de Castrique’s work before, Blackman’s Coffin is a great place to start. ( )
  AllPurposeMonkey | May 22, 2010 |
I made an exception to my no mysteries with bodies in them policy for this book because my book club was reading it. And I have suffered from creepy nightmares since reading it. I will have to go back to being a coward and refusing to read anything that even has the faintest whiff of being scary. So keeping in mind that I am far from the ideal reader of this particular book, indeed of any book in the genre, here goes.

Sam Blackman is in Asheville, NC, in the hospital doing rehab after losing his leg in Iraq when a fellow vet brings him a book. Tikima challenges him to stop feeling sorry for himself with a sarcastic and honest wit that intrigues him. But she never returns like she has promised and Sam discovers that she has been murdered. He attends her funeral and decides to speak on behalf of all the vets whom her life touched. It is because of this moving tribute to a woman he met only for 10 minutes that her sister Nakayla searches Sam out, convinced that her sister had chosen Sam to help her uncover the truth of their great-great-grandfather's murder (eerily similar to Tikima's) some 90 years prior.

Nakayla gives Sam a journal she discovered at Tikima's and this account, by a young boy who knew him, of great-great-grandfather Elijah Robertson's desire to bury his great uncle in the family cemetery (not an easy task considering that white undertakers would generally not touch a black person's body and this one needed to be taken from North Carolina to Georgia) will drive the investigation both into Elijah's long ago murder as well as Tikima's more recent murder. And the investigation will take them to the Biltmore Estate and Pisgah National Forest and will be wide reaching enough to touch Asheville's famous son: author Thomas Wolfe.

The historical information included in this mystery is fascinating and I wondered where the lines of reality and fiction intersected. Asheville is a terribly interesting place and DeCastrique has certainly captured that. But, as noted before, I am a huge wimp about bodies and this book not only has the two main murders, but there are some collateral deaths that haunted my dreams as well. I think that mystery lovers will enjoy this greatly as it is well written and the ultimate denouement isn't easily guessed (at least for this mystery novice) until moments before the text confirms the reader's surmise. Not for me because of my life as a scaredy-cat, it is nevertheless a book many will like. ( )
  whitreidtan | Aug 12, 2009 |
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Sam Blackman, a Chief Warrant Officer in the Criminal Investigation Detachment of the U.S. military, and Nakayla Robertson must delve into Asheville's rich history--the legacy of the Vanderbilts at the Biltmore estate and of author Thomas Wolfe--to uncover the truth behind the murder of Nakayla's sister. Their only clue--the journal of a twelve-year-old boy.… (more)

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