Thursday, October 6, 2011

"The Sandburg Connection"

A native of North Carolina, Mark de Castrique writes mysteries primarily set in the Appalachian mountains. He is an award-winning film and video producer whose work has been broadcast on PBS, HBO, and network-affiliate stations as well as the author of the Sam Blackman mystery series, the Buryin’ Barry series, and two mysteries for young adults. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Sandburg Connection, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Sandburg Connection provides the first clear evidence that poet Carl Sandburg possessed something worth committing murder. My detective duo, Sam Blackman and Nakayla Robertson, suspect the fall of history professor Janice Wainwright might not have been an accident. When they escort Wainwright’s daughter Wendy back to her mother’s farmhouse where a U.S. Park Ranger has been severely beaten, the scene they witness tells them their case is only beginning.

Page 69 –
The county deputies migrated to their patrol cars and Corn asked his rangers to wait outside and give us room to move around. Wendy grabbed Nakayla’s hand and pulled her through the door.

Less than two yards inside, she froze. “Oh, my God.”

I stepped behind her. Over her shoulder, I saw a room filled with contrasts. Pine paneling ran in horizontal boards along the walls. Oval braided rugs dotted the wide plank floor. The construction mirrored the style of the better built farmhouses and cabins across the valley. But other than the handmade rugs, the furnishings could have been in a beach house. An assortment of wicker chairs with aqua-pastel cushions, a bamboo-framed futon, chrome and glass bookshelves, and a coffee table with its glass top on a driftwood base looked more appropriate to southern Florida than southern Appalachia. I thought of Wendy’s aunt and father being in Florida and realized her mother hadn’t purchased new furniture since she moved.

That wasn’t the contrast that caused Wendy’s gasp. Books were strewn across the floor. At first I thought the attack on the ranger caused the disarray, but knickknacks and curios were neatly in place on the shelves. A television and an iPod hadn’t been touched, the items most burglars would grab first. Someone had either been looking for a book or for something hidden within its pages.

Ranger Corn edged around us and walked closer to the mess. “After Ranger Compton was knocked unconscious, her attacker pressed on with his search.”

“How do you know?” Nakayla asked.

“A few of the books were on top of her. She fell through the doorway from the dining room and landed in front of the hearth.” He eyed Wendy. “There were books on the mantel, right?”


I noticed a bare spot amid the scattered volumes where the ranger must have lain.
Although Janice Wainwright owned several books of Sandburg’s prose and poetry, none of them can be found. The disappearance of the Sandburg volumes coupled with Janice Wainwright’s dying words, “It’s the Sandburg verses,” set Sam and Nakayla on the trail of a killer and the search for the elusive Sandburg connection.
Learn more about the book and author at Mark de Castrique's website.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue