Fatal Scores: A Blackman Agency Investigation

Mark de Castrique. Poisoned Pen, $15.99 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-4642-1315-1

Decades-old environmental sins and their modern legacy drive de Castrique’s solid eighth mystery set in Asheville, N.C. (after 2019’s Murder in Rat Alley). During opening day at the local baseball stadium, PI Sam Blackman and Nakayla Robertson, his no-nonsense partner in love and detective work, hear an argument between Ken Stokes, a volunteer environmental activist, and Luke Kirkgate, son of the CEO of a paper mill, whose toxic runoff in the 1950s fouled a nearby river and caused cancer deaths. Stokes calls for public recognition of real-life environmentalist Wilma Dykeman in the 2020 Asheville Luminaries Festival, a move Kirkgate opposes. When Stokes is found dead near a water-sample collection site, it’s unclear whether it’s an accident or a murder. The subsequent killing of prime suspect Kirkgate leads Sam and Nakayla into investigating infidelity, embezzlement, fraudulent sports memorabilia, and even musical rivalries. The frequent, consumer-oriented regional references can make the narrative sound like a tourist brochure at times, but the complex plot builds to a satisfying conclusion. Series fans will be pleased. [em](Mar.) [/em]