Private investigator Sam Blackman and his partner (both
business and personal) Nakayla Robertson were hired to
follow history professor Janice Wainwright to see if her
physical activities would belie her claim against a spinal
surgeon for malpractice. When she makes a physically
challenging climb up Glassy Mountain, the case seems over --
until Sam hears her yell "NO!" and finds her near
unconsciousness and bleeding. Her final words are "It's the
Sandberg verses. The Sandberg verses."
As the first person near the dying woman, Sam becomes the
initial suspect. He must first convince the investigators
that he had nothing to do with the professor's death. But
then he becomes curious after the autopsy reveals
painkillers in her system and proof of malpractice. Why
would someone in obvious pain make that climb? Did she
merely fall? Was she pushed and killed?
While all of this is being sorted out, the Wainwright
farmhouse is broken into and the Sandberg volumes that
Janice was researching are stolen. This convinces Sam and
Nakayla that Janice's death was no accident. They soon meet
Janice's daughter, Wendy, and after a variety of events,
they promise her that they will figure out what happened to
Janice. In order to do this, though, they have to figure
out the connection between the professor and Carl Sandberg.
During their investigation, another murder is committed,
and Sam and Nakayla know that they must connect these dots
quickly before more lives are taken.
This was a fun, well-written mystery. Although I was sure I
knew who was behind the murder, I was never sure of the
motive, and then it turned out that I was wrong about the
culprit, anyway. Sam's character is thought-out and
thorough, with a lot of flavor, from his prosthetic leg and
military background to his interracial relationship with his
business partner. Nakayla was also a great character with a
fun sense of humor and she provides a great balance to Sam.
And the ongoing subplot about Wendy's pregnant goat was
priceless. This was a great book that was well-worth the read.
It was only routine. A simple assignment for private
investigator Sam Blackman and his partner Nakayla Robertson.
Follow a history professor who's suing a spinal surgeon for
malpractice and catch her in physical activities that
undercut her claim.
When the professor, Janice Wainwright, visits Connemara,
Carl Sandburg's home in Flat Rock, N.C., and climbs the
arduous trail to the top of Glassy Mountain, Sam believes he
has the evidence to wrap up the case-until he finds the
woman semi conscious and bleeding on the mountain's granite
outcropping. Her final words: "It's the Sandburg verses. The
As the first person to discover the dying woman, Sam becomes
the first suspect. Now the routine case is personal. An
autopsy reveals painkillers in her blood and solid proof of
the surgeon's errors. Sam is left with the haunting
questions: why did this suffering woman endure the climb to
the mountaintop, and did she stumble and fall or did someone
cause her death?
A break in at the Wainwright farmhouse and the theft of
Sandburg volumes convince Sam someone is seeking information
worth killing for. But what did Pulitzer Prize winner
Sandburg have in his literary collection that leads to
multiple murders? And who will be targeted next?
Sam and Nakayla must navigate a convoluted trail of
historical facts and mountain legends to arrive at the
truth, a truth Carl Sandburg never knew he possessed, and a
treasure to be had for a song.
In less than thirty yards, the trees thinned as bare rock
broke through the soil. A sign reading "Glassy Mountain
Overlook" pointed to a wider patch ahead. The gray granite
began sloping downward and my artificial leg transferred
every jarring step into a painful stab. I paused to switch
on my camera. Janice had to be somewhere right ahead of me.
"No!" A woman's voice shouted. Then the word grew to a
shrill scream. Abruptly the sound ceased, cutoff like a
plug had been pulled on a radio.
"Nakayla, hurry!" I ran as fast as I could over the
rock. It spread more than fifty yards, curving downward to
the trees below and opening a spectacular view of the valley.
Rain and wind had carved ripples into the exposed stone
making the footing uncertain. I turned sideways, putting my
good leg lower so it bore most of my weight. On the
granite, a splotch of smeared blood shone red in the
sunlight. Then my chest tightened as I saw Janice's body
twisted against a tree at the base of the rock. A sudden
movement to my right caught my eye. A brown blur flashed
beyond the rhododendron and disappeared.
"Sam. Be careful!" Nakayla stood above me.
"It's Janice. She fell." I sidestepped, as the descent
Nakayla scrambled past me, more agile on the slope. When
I joined her, she was kneeling beside Janice with her
fingers pressed against the carotid artery in the woman's
neck. Blood flowed from a wound somewhere underneath her hair.
"She's still alive but she's taken a nasty crack to the
head," Nakayla said. "I'm afraid to move her. Call 911."
I gave a brief account to the emergency operator, asked
for an ambulance, and requested the rangers at the Sandburg
home be notified. They might have some all-terrain vehicle
that could come up the wide trail.
A moan slipped from Janice's lips and her eyes fluttered.
She looked at us. Pain and confusion mingled in her gaze.
"We're going to get you out of here," Nakayla whispered.
"Wendy." The word was a wisp of breath.
"Don't talk. Help's on the way."
Janice reached up and brushed Nakayla's cheek with her
fingers. "Wendy. It's the verses. Sandburg's verses."
The "s" sounds hissed faintly and died on a gusty breeze.
The injured woman's eyes closed and she spoke no more.