A gifted and expert storyteller (Reed's Beach, 1993, etc.) takes a slightly different--and not altogether successful--turn in his first thriller, set in the lowlands of South Carolina. Fifteen-year-old Huger Dillard narrates, with colloquial southern charm, the deadly adventure he and blind Uncle Leland stumble across at the opening of deer season. Leland, referred to as ""Unc,"" owns the Hungry Neck Hunt Club, several thousand undesirable acres catering to city slickers eager to play weekend frontiersmen. The mystery begins when Huger and Unc stumble on the body of Dr. Charles Simons, head blown off, hands skinned, and a cardboard placard propped on his body--signed by his disgruntled wife. The story then, which takes place in three rapid days after the body's discovery, becomes a chase for the troth. Uric falls under suspicion, Huger is nearly killed by a couple of crazed rednecks, Mrs. Simons ""commits suicide,"" and Huger's mother is kidnapped. Ultimately, the motivation is revealed as simply greed (what else?), with the goal either an ancient buried treasure or the Hunt Club's land, which Unc has always refused to sell and which apparently is earmarked for a resort. Brought into the intrigue is Miss Dinah, who cooks Saturday meals for the Club members while unnerving Huger with ancient tales of African kings haunting the marshes, and her teenage daughter Dorcas, deaf, dumb, and brilliant. The story stumbles just at the traditional payoff: the revelation of the conspiracy. As a group of shackled innocents, including Uric and Huger, wait for execution, the villain diligently explains all, detail by detail. A series of reversals follow before the killer is brought to justice. Ironically, Lott's characters seem too interesting for their conventional plot; the bits of family secrets, history, and lore scattered throughout here are far more compelling than the adventure these sympathetic folk are thrown into.