Back for her fourth leisurely outing, North Carolina judge Deborah Knott (Shooting at Loons, 1994, etc.) has personal connections to just about every suspect in the murder of old Jap Stancil--a failed farmer who's been eking out a living working on cars and growing ornamental corn for the Thanksgiving season. Suspect #1 is Jap's roguish, layabout nephew Allen, whom Deborah idiotically eloped with when she was an unstable 18-year-old college freshman (the marriage was almost instantly annulled). Worse yet, Deborah's land-proud father and some of her 11 brothers--all of whom own property adjacent to the Stancil farm--had strong feelings (ranging from outrage to greed) about Jap's plan to sell out to a local developer. And Deborah also has a soft spot for Billy Wall, a hard-working kid with a very pregnant wife, who just might have killed Jap for his corn money. Deborah is more observer than sleuth--which is just fine, since the so-so mystery definitely takes a backseat to the New South social commentary (good), the extended-family interplay (better), and the quirky cases that come and go in Deborah's courtroom (best). Despite a few cutesy lapses in Deborah's wry-and-ginger narration: easy-drawling entertainment, short on wallop but long on edgy charm.