"Fatal Scores" By Mark de Castrique: Review/Giveaway

 Review by Joan Leotta

Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book and links to purchase it. 

Two chapters into this book, I asked myself, “Why was I only now discovering this wonderful author and this terrific series?” Mark De Castrique is a masterful writer. His superb technique includes lean but complete descriptions, crisp natural dialogue, and clever intertwining of Asheville, North Carolina, history with the current plot. One element I especially enjoyed was his use of witty chapter ending lines that both summarize the emotion and, sometimes, the activity of the chapter just finished and also catapult the reader into the next section. An example of this is at the end of Chapter Two: “They’d have a better chance of convincing the devil to air condition Hell.”

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Image Source Poisoned Pen Press
For those of you who, like me, have not read any of this series which features detectives Sam Blackman and his partner and girlfriend Nakayla Robertson, starting in with this volume, number eight, is no barrier to enjoying the novel. With a few deft sentences de Castrique brings us up to speed on the state of the Blackman Detective Agency, the now difficult state of the relationship between Sam and Nakayla while also introducing us to the folks who will populate this novel. Asheville is a very particular place and de Castrique knows it well enough and its history to bring us both under tis spell and provide perspective on its quirks. I admit that this book has made me a fan of the author’s work.

Baseball starts the story and is used to also tip us off to the importance that the fictional Asheville Luminaries Festival in this book. When a leading conservationist, Ken Stoker, is murdered, the festival’s organizers, who are also owners of the town’s leading pollution sources, a paper plant, the interests converge at an explosive level. As happens often in smaller cities, Stoker is both a contractor and a conservation volunteer and was likely collecting samples of the Pigeon River when he was killed. Stoker also wanted another person added to the list of luminaries who would be feted at the Festival and had a very public argument with the Festival bigwigs not long before he died.  In this series the relationship of Sam and Nakayla and their friends is an element which moves the plot along and is of great interest to the readers who have become their fans. In the course of resolving the mystery, their relationship takes a few twists and turns as well.

The author’s pacing takes us through the plot’s shifts with the mastery of a skier on a slalom course. The action peaks and is given time to fall and peak again before the final resolution—a very natural rhythm, not rushed, not drawn out. Like the baby bear’s porridge, pacing, relationship movement, and plot action are “just right.”

The person emitted from the fictional festival is the very real Wilma Dykeman, author of French Broad, a leading piece of literature in the fight for water conservation. Mark de Castrique fills us in on her accomplishments in a very natural way and his end notes which separate real from fiction in how he used Asheville history in the book give us even further information. A satisfying read, indeed. I give it five stars. 

 To enter to win a copy of Fatal Scores, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line "fatal,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 10, 2021. US residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win. BE AWARE THAT DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS THERE MAY BE A DELAY IN SHIPPING THE WINNING BOOK. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section in Kings River Life and in our mystery category here on KRL News & Reviews. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. And check out our new mystery podcast which features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors! A new episode went up this week.

You can use these links to purchase the book. If you have adblocker on you may not be able to see the Amazon link:

Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage. Her poems, short stories, and articles are widely published, including here at KRL. Her work recently appeared or is forthcoming at verse virtual, verse visual, whenwomenwrite.com, moreorless50, and spillwords, among others. When not writing or performing you can find er at te beach collecting shells or at table with family.
Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. Sounds interesting! Count me in!

  2. Thanks for recommending this new series. I'd love to have a copy of Fatal Scores! crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com

  3. I'm always looking for new authors and series to read! tWarner419(at)aol(dot)com

  4. A new author to me. Sounds like a great book.

  5. This is an excellent series - I encourage all of you to start at the beginning. I cannot wait to visit the places he highlights. Love the literary background for the first several too.

    an English major many decades ago
    karen94066 at aol dot com

  6. this would be a new series. Sounds interesting.
    The addition of notes at the end of chapters
    are a novel idea. thanks

  7. This sounds like an interesting and engaging book!

    allibrary (at) aol (dot) com


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