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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Y'All Come Back Now, Ya Hear?

Deborah Knott is back with more Southern wit and wisdom to dole out to the folks in fictional Colleton County, North Carolina. In Southern Discomfort, the second in
Margaret Maron's series about the 30-something-year-old, we find Deborah accepting a governor-appointed position vacated by the sudden death of Judge Perry Byrd. She is ecstatic about the assignment, even if it means dealing with the same ol' parade of Colleton County's finest delinquents. In fact, Deborah's life is sailing along just fine until she's cornered by Lu Bingham, who demands she pay up on a campaign promise to help WomenAid, a charity that builds homes for indigent women. It's a good cause and all, but it also requires hard, physical labor under the unyielding North Carolina sun. With the help of her handy niece, Annie Sue, it might not be all bad ...

When cocky building inspector Carver Bannerman saunters onto the site with his mirrored glasses and "a salacious leer" (89) uglying up his handsome face, he makes his way straight to Annie Sue and two of her teenaged friends. Although Deborah puts an end to his nonsense, it's not the last she'll hear of him. Not long after meeting Carver, she finds him dead in the WomenAid house. A few feet away lies Annie Sue, beaten, dazed and accusing the building inspector of attempted rape. Unable to contact her niece's parents, Deborah drives Annie Sue to the hospital, where she promptly runs into Nadine, her sister-in-law and Annie Sue's mother. Nadine quickly explains that Deborah's brother, Herman (also Annie Sue's father and Nadine's husband), has had a heart attack. When it is discovered that Herman's condition is a result of arsenic poisoning, it throws a throws a new light on the whole, ugly situation.

Carver's killer is soon found (you won't be surprised by his/her identity), but a bigger mystery is uncovered when it is discovered that the virile young man had arsenic in his system too. Who had reason to poison both Herman and Carver, especially when the two men barely knew each other. Is it the owners of The Coffee Pot, the only establishment at which both men ate? And where is the proprieters' no good son-in-law anyway? Or could it be Kimberly Norris, bitter because someone else got the WomenAid house, even though she was most deserving? As Deborah and her buddy Deputy Dwight Bryant investigate the poisonings, some ugly truths began to emerge, some of which just might concern Deborah's brother, Herman. When it all comes together, you'll be just as surprised as I was. (The revelation of the poisoner startled me, even though I had a pretty good idea who it was. Turns out, I was wrong - close, but wrong. I hate it when I guess the identity of the bad guy in a mystery, because that usually means it isn't very well written, seeing as how I never was a very good Nancy Drew.)

Southern Discomfort is an excellent read; in fact, I liked it better than Bootlegger's Daughter. It has all the enchantment of its predecessor - quaint Southern talk; a noisy, colorful cast; an intriguing mystery - and a much better plot. It's a worthy addition to the Deborah Knott series, and I can't wait to read more. I'll be coming back to this series again and again, y'all can be sure of that! I think my Southern talk may need a little work, though...

Grade: A


  1. You're doing fine with the southern talk (says I, a southerner). Glad you enjoyed this. One of my favorite things about the Judge Knott mysteries is Deborah's family. They are many, many, many and you get to know a lot of them through these books. This series is a must-read for me.

  2. Welcome back from sunny Cali! I hope you had fun. I'm glad to have you review this mystery. It's Mystery Madness in my book group and we all have to choose a mystery of our choice and report on it, sort of a like a book commercial!! This might make a great book! Thanks for the plug!
    Welcome back to laundry and reality!


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