Friday, July 24, 2009

Review: Blackman's Coffin by Mark DeCastrique

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.

And as an ironic aside, I actually went to the library and applied for a library card so I didn't have to buy this book, knowing it would be unlikely to be my sort of read. It was on the boat I sank. So despite doing a decent job drying it out, it now looks like a rolodex instead of a book. And I own it. Because the library is strangely sniffy about books after complete immersion. Library copies are far more expensive than bookstore copies. So much for being smart!

A North Carolina author for the Literary Road Trip hosted by Galleysmith.


  1. you I don't do too well with really scary books, but I have survived several this year (even a Stephen King!) so this one sounds like one I'd really enjoy.

    Hope your summer is going better now.

  2. Like you, I'm not a fan of books with horror or high body counts (at least books that go into detail or show it anyway) so I applaud you for stepping outside the box and reading this novel.

    I'm glad you got so much history out of it for the Road Trip. That is one of the best parts!

  3. I'm sorry you had to buy the library a new copy. My dog ate a library book when she was a pups and I was not amused.

    I usually like scary books, I might give this one a try, thanks for reviewing it for us.

  4. Ooh, this sounds good! I just love Asheville.

  5. I didn't know you lived in NC! Me too! I look forward to your reviews by local authors!


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