Margaret Maron / Author Mysterious Press $32 (256p) ISBN 978-0
Maron's series featuring North Carolina Circuit Court Judge Deborah Knott got off to a great start when the launch novel, Bootlegger's Daughter (1992), swept the Edgar, the Macavity and the Anthony awards for best novel. The series is notable for the smooth way Maron blends the distinctively Southern charms of Deborah's vast extended family with engrossing plots and an intelligent--but not heavy-handed--consideration of social issues. In this sixth outing, Maron skillfully incorporates the changes and problems that integration has brought to the New South. Deborah, who narrates, is at the start of a reelection campaign when a nephew is arrested, with two friends, for desecrating a cemetery. When the same spraypainted graffiti appears at an African American church that's been torched, the young men are suspected of arson. Two more black churches are burned and two bodies uncovered before Deborah fingers the culprit. In a separate plotline, the fate of a young civil rights worker, missing for more than 20 years, is brought to light. Both solutions come a bit too easily, although the identity of the arsonist may surprise readers. Maron lays the groundwork with subtlety, however, and she brings much more depth to her portrait of small-town doings than do most mystery writers. Deborah, who dubs her competing inner voices ""the preacher"" and ""the pragmatist,"" is a wholly engaging blend of country comfort and New South sophistication. Major ad/promo; Mystery Guild main selection. (Dec.) FYI: Mysterious will publish a mass market edition of the previous Deborah Knott mystery, Killer Market.
Reviewed on: 11/30/1998