Grave Undertaking Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Grave Undertaking

Protagonist Barry Clayton has returned home from several years of police work to help with the family funeral business. His father has Alzheimer's and decisions have to be made. While attending business at the graveyard with a local minister, grave diggers unearth a murdered corpse on top of the burial vault they had come to move. The corpse is at least eight years old, but a wallet in the murdered man's pocket reveals a photo that shocks Barry--it is of his girlfriend, Susan.
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Susan immediately becomes a suspect in the murder, and Barry is drawn into an "unofficial" investigation to protect her and her family from scandal. As he develops clues from Susan's father (a retired accountant) and her aunt (a news executive at a nearby city TV station), Barry suspects a political sex scandal in his home town. This makes him wary of several members of the local police force. Throughout this, Barry gets shot at and beat up, and must continue his mortician work. He also must decide if selling the business to a national funeral home chain is in the best interest of his family.

The review of this Book prepared by K Cheatham

Poisoned Pen, June 2004, 24.95, 276 pp.
ISBN: 1590581164

When his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, Charlotte police officer Barry Clayton leaves the force and returns to Gainesboro, a North Carolina mountain town. He helps his parents and his uncle run the family business, the Clayton and Clayton Funeral Home. He is there when Pearly Johnson's coffin is exhumed so it could be moved to the family plot. State Senator Richards paid a lot of money to be buried in Pearly's plot, which is next to Caleb Turner, a Union sympathizer.

Before they reach Pearly's coffin, they discover the skeleton of another man on top of the coffin, a bullet in his head. A wallet is found with four hundred dollars and a picture of Barry's girlfriend Susan Miller. They identify the body of Samuel Calhoun, a private detective who was buried with the gun of Susan's father. Both Susan and her father become suspects in the death of this sleazy blackmailer. When Barry makes inquiries, he is shot. Still he thinks the killer is someone in the justice department and Barry and his friends better find out who it is before someone else dies.

Mark de Castrique has written an exciting regional mystery that gives readers feeling of what it is like living in a small southern mountain town. The protagonist is a hero in the truest sense of the word as he gives up his job to take over the family business that means everything to his mother and uncle. He's patient with his father, tries to protect his girlfriend, and find a murderer. GRAVE UNDERTAKING shows the importance of the funeral home in the community as neighbor helps neighbor in time of need.

Harriet Klausner

The review of this Book prepared by Harriet Klausner

Chapter Analysis of Grave Undertaking

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book descript. of violence and chases 15%Planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 40%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 35%How society works & physical descript. (people, objects, places) 10% Tone of story    -   suspenseful (sophisticated fear) How difficult to spot villain?    -   Very difficult--no foreshadowing/clues    -   Difficult, but some clues given Time/era of story:    -   2000+ (Present) What % of story relates directly to the mystery, not the subplot?    -   70% Kind of investigator    -   police procedural, American    -   skilled citizen investigator Kid or adult book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Any non-mystery subplot?    -   feelings towards family/friends    -   life in small town Crime Thriller    -   Yes Murder Mystery (killer unknown)    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   small businessman Age:    -   20's-30's Ethnicity/Race    -   White/American


United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Southeast Small town?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   generic/vague references to death/punishment    -   moderately detailed references to deaths Amount of dialog    -   significantly more dialog than descript

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