Cover Image: Murder in Rat Alley

Murder in Rat Alley

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Member Reviews

I have not read other books in this series, but found this one enjoyable. The local color is used effectively, and the detectives are sturdily adequate to their roles, if not very interesting in their own rights. The plot is clever and the resolution satisfying--it proceeds naturally from the story and the clues, but is enough of a twist to make it worth figuring out if you can. The minor characters are amusing if disposable.

On the downside, there is no suspense, nor any interest other than curiosity in solving the crime. We don't care much about the characters, and the solution doesn't seem to matter much to anyone. This makes the book easy to put down, but if you resist the urge, it's worth sticking with it to the end.
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I really enjoyed MURDER IN RAT ALLEY by Mark de Castrique.  It is the Sam Blackman Mystery #7 and I have already commented on several others in this series. Once again, Sam and his partner, Nakayla Robertson, find themselves investigating a murder in the Asheville, North Carolina area.  This one occurred about seventy years ago and was successfully hidden for most of that time. Once the skeleton is discovered, though, danger increases, including for Sam and Nakayla. The story centers on government actions at Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI), a former NASA installation. Sam speaks to former employees and pursues some erroneous theories, finally reflecting that "My grandmother always told me I had two ears and one mouth for a reason. I should listen twice as much as I speak." I love the many twists and local flavor (numerous charming details like an Irish pub with Harp, Guinness, and Smithwick's on tap) in this mystery series and look forward to more.  

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This is a new series for me and I really like it.  I plan to go back and start at the beginning.  I love the characters of Sam and Nakayla and want to read more about them and their investigations.  The story was well written and left me wanting more.  
Many thanks to Poisoned Pen Press and to NetGalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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My first read of this author - this book is fine as a stand alone as well

We have a pair of private investigators ex Veterans who somehow find themselves surrounded by the mystery of dead bodies and in this case the body is decades old. Missing from his work station, Frank was a quiet, hard working man a computer geek at the time of the computers infancy, he had no enemies and was an unassuming man. When body parts were discovered in the grounds of a space station the odds of a murder being committed there were very high what with security being tight but slowly unraveling the mystery we find it connected to a murder in Vietnam of another veteran and the involvement of a family and current criminal activities, the pace hots up.

Very good characterization, a fast pace and well thought out plot and story this held my interest throughout. I will be looking out for this author in the future as well.
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I never would have known how interesting a spot Asheville, North Carolina is if not for Mark de Castrique's Sam Blackman mysteries. de Castrique is a master at blending past and present into engrossing tales, and Murder in Rat Alley is certainly no exception.  

Much of the action revolves around the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, a real place that monitored space programs during the Cold War and now plays a vital role in gathering weather and climate data. The dead man was a computer genius who worked there, and the dead woman was his fiancée. Everyone assumed that the dead man just got cold feet and disappeared one night, but the discovery of his body close to the Institute buildings tells Sam and Nakayla that something more sinister is afoot. The two begin teasing out clues to what happened with some hair-raising results. When the killer was revealed, I told myself that I should have known-- much, much earlier the character had said something that should have made my clue detector go TILT.

I really enjoy this series for what I learn about Asheville's history and for the mysteries that are always fun to solve, but the glue that holds everything together is the team of Sam and Nakayla, an interracial couple who are first-rate investigators. They also have a great sense of humor and a fantastic support group that includes an eccentric lawyer and a veteran cop-- and a coonhound named Blue who likes to sleep a lot. 

Whenever I know there's a new Sam Blackman mystery, I start packing my bags for Asheville. If you like the perfect blend of mystery, history, humor, and characterization, you should join me.
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Mark de Castrique continues to fabricate complex mysteries that make for compelling reads. Please see my detailed review on
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3.75 stars

Sam Blackman and Nakayla Robertson are back in another entertaining adventure. Sam was wounded and lost a leg in Iraq but now he and Nakayla are private investigators in Asheville, NC. The earlier series books would provide background on the characters but this would work as a standalone.

Much of the action centers around PARI, Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, an actual place. Sam and Nakayla's friend finds out her uncle, who disappeared from there while at work years ago, was apparently murdered and his body has just been uncovered. 

The unravelling of the mystery is fairly complex, involving espionage, the Cold War, Vietnam and a lot of different threads. The original murder case soon expands when several obviously related killings occur. What secrets is someone worried about keeping hidden? 

Sam and Nakayla's relationship is solid and equal and their humor and easiness with each other is appealing. This is a great series, and this entry was nicely paced and interesting, if somewhat complex in the plotting.

Thanks to the publisher and to Net Galley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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A forest fire near PARI (the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute) reveals the body of a computer scientist who went missing years earlier. He is the uncle of a young woman working in the same office as Sam and Nakayla and they promise to investigate his death. The links lead them to a murder in Vietnam, the former girlfriend and her backwoods family, former colleagues, computer data storage, and spies, linking the past to the present. Jurisdiction becomes a nightmare...two separate police departments, the Army, and the FBI all become involved, but Sam and Nakayla operate on their own. I feel like I can see the area from the descriptions, and I enjoy the relationships between the friends and colleagues. The mystery was complicated and fascinating, keeping me reading all day to reach the conclusion.
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Murder in the Carolinas

This is the seventh in the Sam Blackman series but each is a stand-alone murder/mystery so each can be read out of sequence.

Sam Blackman is an ex-military guy who lost a leg serving his country. He is a private detective and works with his very close friend Nakayla Robertson and coonhound, Blue. The plot is based in and around the Carolinas although the story encompasses events much further afield.

A skeleton has been discovered on the grounds of Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) and it’s clearly murder. Once its identity (Frank DeMille) has been determined the investigation into the perpetrator draws both Sam and Nakayla into a convoluted plot where more murders abound. There are many leads but which are red herrings, and which will lead to the truth as to why Frank died?

It’s clear that there is a backstory to Sam and Nakayla’s relationship but not knowing it does not detract from the enjoyment of this particular narrative. The characters are well-drawn and it’s easy to identify with the main protagonists. The dialogue is also believable and clearly shows the author’s experience and talent.

On the downside, as a reader from the UK, I found reference to all the different agencies and their jurisdictions difficult to comprehend and it made me thankful I live in a country where far fewer have any involvement. Additionally, I felt that some of the descriptive passages not only patronised the reader but there was far too much of it which was unnecessary and not used for scene-setting or to establish atmosphere but just to fill the pages.

Overall though, the story has merit and despite being flat and lifeless at times it culminates in a predictable yet exciting finale.

mr zorg

Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of the book for review
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Who knew that so much goes on in North Carolina.  Espionage? In North Carolina.?  I really enjoyed this novel.  No surprise, really, as this series is excellent.
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Sam Blackman and his partner Nakayla Robertson investigate a death linked to the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute near Asheville. The man's remains were found when equipment was brought in to help with current operations. He had been missing for decades. His former fiancee does not trust federal officials to get to the bottom of things because she thinks PAGI and other agencies covered up his disappearance. In the meantime someone burns Nakayla's home. Sam and Nakayla must work with several jurisdictional law enforcement agencies to get to the bottom of the case. I enjoy the series, but this installment did not hold my attention as much as some, likely because of some espionage elements. I learn odd bits of Western North Carolina history because of this series. The setting always delivers!  This review is based on an advance review copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Another great addition to the Sam Blackman & Nakayla Robinson P.I. series. Sam is a former Chief Warrant Officer in the Army who lost the lower part of his left leg while on active duty. He and his partner (in work and life) Nakayla take on cases that seem unsolvable. Their current case involves the remains of a man who went missing fifty years ago. When they speak to the sister of the missing man, they learn that her husband was killed about the same time…could this be more than a coincidence? The author is so skilled at weaving the story and characters that even though the story is complex, you never feel lost. As more deaths occur, is someone removing witnesses before they can talk? The story takes the reader through events from 1971 to the present. I have read and enjoyed this author’s books and I recommend his “Burryin' Barry” series as well. I received an advance review copy at no cost and without obligation for an honest review. (by paytonpuppy)
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MURDER IN RAT ALLEY by Mark de Castrique is a well-written mystery set in and around Asheville, North Carolina. This novel is the seventh book in the Sam Blackman series and can be read as a standalone. The author is a native of western North Carolina and this showed up in how well he depicted the area. The story was well researched and the Author’s Note at the end of the book sheds light on the factual elements included in the story.

 Sam Blackman, an Iraq War veteran with a prosthetic leg and his business and romantic partner Nakayla Robertson are private investigators. They often work with the individuals in a nearby law office. When a body is found at the nearby Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, they are enlisted to help find out what happened. When the death from the past is linked to current criminal activities, a tangled web of possibilities and culprits come to light.

The plot was intriguing and paced well. I felt that Sam’s character was well-developed but wished for more insight into Nakayla. Perhaps this occurred in earlier books in the series. Overall, the story was enjoyable and twisty.

This is a new author for me and I can’t wait to read other books in this series as well as try his political thrillers and young adult mysteries. 

Many thanks to Poisoned Pen Press, Mark de Castrique and Net Galley for a digital ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way.
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This is a strong addition to an entertaining series of regional crime novels set in and around beautiful Asheville, North Carolina. PI and romantic partners Sam Blackman and Nakayla Robertson are ready to assist when a friend's long-missing uncle is identified as the remains found near the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute. As usual in a Blackman-Robertson case, things become complicated quickly. It becomes clear that the decades-old homicide has ties to Cold War intrigues, secret operations during the Vietnam conflict, and a clannish family of local musicians, and someone is willing to use lethal force in order to prevent revelations about the nature of those relationships. This is fast-paced light reading featuring appealing characters and a strong sense of place. Note: The publisher supplied an advance reading copy in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
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Rat Alley is another great installment in the Sam Blackman and Nakayla Robertson mystery series.  I have read all of them and each one is having a murder from the past that blends with a current mystery. Mark De Castrique writes a good series. 

Sam is a former chief warrant officer and Nakayla is a former insurance investigator. They are an interracial couple who have their own private PI business in the wonderful town of Ashville.  

This one is close to home.  One of their friends who works for the lawyer they have offices next to finds out that her uncle’ body who went missing years ago is discovered.  The book is fresh and very well written.   I was very excited to be chosen to voluntary read and review this book.  Thank you, Net Galley.
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I loved this book. It was a good fast paced mystery. I loved the setting and the characters. 
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for letting me review this book
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An interesting mystery that starts with a body being unearthed at  Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute that reveals some very old secrets.  How the Cold War past relates to current murders is what PI Sam and his partner Nakayla must figure out with the help of the local police and the not so helpful FBI.  
The locale and history is well researched and you really get a feel for Asheville,  NC.  I look forward to reading more of this series and would recommend it to anyone that enjoys a good mystery.
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This is a solid mystery/thriller about two PIs, the local police department, the FBI, and very old secrets. While at first I though the author was pushing the Asheville names and places a little hard (in full disclosure, I grew up there), this eased off a bit as the action got underway. The characters aren't terribly well developed, and the banter between Nakayla and romantic and PI partner Sam is often of the put-down kind, which I loathe, but most of the book is well-written and very cleverly conceived. I'll be recommending the series to Asheville friends and family, as well as others who know the area well.
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Asheville,NC is a fascinating place.  Mark de Castrique always brings it to live with his meticulous research and brings us stories that has me begging for more.  His latest story features Pisgah Astronomical Research Institut e and how it bridges time from the Cold War right up through today.
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