Unchecked urbanization has begun to eclipse the North Carolina countryside. As farms give way to shoddy mansions, farmers struggle to slow the rampant growth. In the shadows, corrupt county commissioners use their political leverage to make profitable deals with new developers. A murder will pull Judge Deborah Knott and Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Bryant into the middle of this bitter dispute and force them to confront some dark realities.
Agatha-winner Maron's outstanding 14th novel to feature Judge Deborah Knott (after 2007's Hard Row) charts the social changes in rural Colleton County, N.C., as housing developments and shopping malls squeeze out small farmers. The apparent suicide of a greedy county commissioner sets Knott's husband, sheriff's deputy Dwight Bryant, on a case that uncovers corruption and murder. Though busy settling small-claims disputes and participating in family gatherings, Knott herself gets involved in the case because of implications for her own future in local politics. She's also worried about the activities of her father, who's retired as a bootlegger but is still an unrepentant flim-flam man. Maron observes the levelheaded Knott, her large extended family, neighbors and the whole community with cool but genuine sympathy; even criminals remain believably human. Those looking for a mellow, down-home mystery will be well rewarded.