Small North Carolina Town Provides Big-Time Crime in New Mystery Novel

"Secret Undertaking" comes out Tuesday.

As a writer, it’s nice when you actually like the character you’re writing. Take Mark de Castrique talking about his character Barry Clayton, for instance. The writer visited Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s South County Regional branch Aug. 9 for the Library’s mystery book club meeting.  

In addition to his writing, de Castrique lives in Charlotte and works as a television producer and director.  His website notes he enjoys spending time in the North Carolina mountains, where his fictional Gainesboro—home for Barry Clayton--would exist. 

During the book club, de Castrique said he had planned to write four books with Clayton but enjoyed his funeral director mystery series so much that he wanted to continue with the character. And, he said, his book publisher encouraged him to do so too.

Fans of the mystery novels can look forward to the newest release in the “Buryin’ Barry Mystery” series, Secret Undertaking, which comes out Tuesday.  

The seventh in this series, the novel takes Barry into a case exceeding the usual expectations of crime in his small-town home of Gainesboro. Now working with Sheriff Tommy Lee Wadkins as the part-time deputy sheriff, their new assignment leads to a mix of fraud, competing law enforcement agencies demanding control, the Witness Protection Program and, unfortunately, multiple deaths.  

Before those mounting caseloads come to Barry’s attention, though, he takes an unlikely partner in a lifelong rival, insurance agent Archie Donovan, Jr. They agree to create a stunt during the town Apple Festival Parade. It should raise money for the local Boys and Girls Club while financially benefitting Archie’s business. Barry agrees, although Archie’s known for his half-baked ideas. That plot goes by the wayside as things take a dramatic turn and the parade’s fun and games stop when a gunman shoots the parade’s grand marshal, the state’s commissioner of agriculture.

After the chaos, Barry and Sheriff Wadkins have criminal activity growing beyond their usual expertise. Then, they come to consider an unlikely ally—Archie. This time, he may be the right person to help. 

De Castrique said  writing a mystery requires a certain creativity and concentration. 

“You’re doing a jigsaw puzzle without the box,” he said.