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by Mark de Castrique
Poisoned Pen Press, March 2021
257 pages
ISBN: 1464213151

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Opening day of Asheville Tourists baseball season finds Sam Blackman and attorney Hewitt Donaldson settling in their seats when Ted Kirkpatrick, their host in the row behind them, introduces himself to Sam. Before the game begins, Luke and Madison Kirkpatrick, co-chairs for the 2020 Asheville Luminaries Festival welcome the crowd and invite them to attend the concerts, workshops, lectures, and tours that make up the Festival over the next two weeks. The Kirkpatricks represent the Festival's lead sponsor, Kirkpatrick Paper, and offer a bit of history on the three being honored, Babe Ruth, Bela Bartok, and Dr. Robert Moog.

After the game, Ken Stokes, a member of River Watchers, confronts Luke regarding Wilma Dykeman's exclusion, a pioneering conservationist, from the luminaries being honored. Ken accuses Luke of ignoring Wilma due to her fight against the river polluters like Kirkpatrick. Luke shoves Ken; Ken prepares to respond when a friend steps in between the two.

The next day Ken meets Nakayla and Sam at Nakayla's house, where Ken is handling the reconstruction to repair the extensive fire damage from their last case. Later that evening, Ken's wife Lynne calls Sam and Nakayla, asking if they've seen Ken. One thing leads to another, and the two locate Ken, floating dead in the Pigeon River, where he should be pulling samples for toxicity tests.

Lynne and her father-in-law Walt Stokes ask that Sam and Nakayla investigate who killed Ken. And Ted Kirkpatrick and Hewitt also approach Sam and Nakayla to look into Ken's death. Luke becomes a leading suspect until his murder at one of the Festival events eliminates him.

Mark de Castrique deftly weaves the history of the toxic dumping by companies and the struggle to clean up the river as Sam and Nakalya find themselves pondering who gains from these two opponents' deaths. The unique perspective provides a level of complexity to de Castrique's storytelling that nimbly intrigues readers. De Castrique skillfully plots the mystery while creating fascinating characters and relationships. Red herrings and twists are well developed. Fatal Scores comfortably earns five stars.

Reviewed by Ruth Castleberry, March 2021

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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