The following review was written for Shelf Awareness for Readers. It was not published in the newsletter but may eventually appear on their website.
Mark de Castrique's third Sam Blackman novel, The Sandburg Connection, starts mid-action as private investigators Blackman and Nakayla Robertson are hot on the trail of Janice Wainwright, who is suing a back surgeon for malpractice. If Wainwright is in so much pain, why is she heading for the Carl Sandburg estate, outside of Ashville, North Carolina, to go hiking? By the time the partners catch up with her at trail's end, they find Wainwright dying and mumbling, "It's the verses. Sandburg's verses." Realizing that the PIs have already collected important data on the victim, law enforcement officials ask for collaboration: Are they looking at murder, malpractice, or an unfortunate accident, and what role does the poet play?
As in the other novels in this series, a complex murder mystery is founded in facts about a famous literary figure (earlier books featured Thomas Wolfe and F. Scott Fitzgerald) and historical information (such as the Civil War). De Castrique draws on his personal links with Ashville and the Sandburg family to create a multidimensional mystery, complete with attention-grabbing red herrings that keep PIs Blackman and Robertson on their toes.
Readers new to the series will have no trouble connecting to the protagonists and the reappearing secondary characters. Avoiding spoilers, de Castrique brings readers up to date on an as-needed basis without resorting to long sections of background narrative. Blackman and Robertson are smart but make mistakes, are compassionate but know when to use their guns, and have a great relationship both on and off the job.
Give it to me quickly: When insurance fraud leads to a possible murder, investigator Sam Blackman must find the links between local lore, the Civil War, and Carl Sandburg's poetry before anyone else gets hurt.
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