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Grave Undertaking    by Mark de Castrique order for
Grave Undertaking
by Mark de Castrique
Order:  USA  Can
Poisoned Pen, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Buryin' Barry is conducting his family's funeral home business as usual as usual that is until a skeleton is unearthed when a grave site must be dug up! In this second book, Grave Undertaking, Mark de Castrique gives his readers what they've been waiting for since his debut in Dangerous Undertaking - crime solving undertaker Barry Clayton put to the test once again.

The skeleton had been residing for seven years as an upstairs neighbor to the deceased below. Who killed him? Why? How is the undertaker's physician girl friend involved? Is the one-eyed sheriff's snitch giving him the right info? Why did the girl Gentle have to die? This second of the series is a fast-paced book with enough action to satisfy anyone's appetite. The story rolls to a satisfying conclusion with suspense on every turned page.

I like Barry Clayton. He is an honest man with human frailties. Can he accept the undertaking conglomerate's offer for the family business? He comes to the only possible conclusion by thinking of other people rather than himself. His handling of a double funeral for brothers is heartbreaking, to him and his readers, as is watching his Alzheimer victim father lose more of himself every day.

I have one small problem in that three of the main characters have names beginning with the same initial Clayton, Claiborne and Calhoun. It seems to me picayune to mention it, but I often found myself having to stop for a moment to remember who each 'C' was, thus disrupting the flow of the story. It was frustrating not to be able to instantly recognize who the author intended to be on stage at each moment.

The ending is a real surprise after a fun, exciting and poignant book. I would recommend Mark de Catrique's work to anyone, and hope his readers will be able to follow Barry Clayton - along with his dog Democrat and girlfriend Susan - on more adventures.

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