Murder in Palmetto, Florida, 1952--a dank, sleepy spot on the Gulf of Mexico that's memorably evoked in this wry, lean, downbeat mystery debut. The first sign of trouble: somebody burns down the moonshine still belonging to the Calhoun clan. (The fire alarm comes in the midst of a ""Womanless Wedding,"" a transvestite charity-show put on by the Palmetto Men's Lodge.) Then, soon after, Diana Landis--promiscuous daughter of the local Congressman--is found murdered. And though young religious fanatic Wesley is arrested for the crime (Diana did, after all, tempt him to the point of despair), general-store-owner Lily Trulock doesn't believe he's guilty. Lily, a quiet but tough matron who dislikes her daughter and doesn't think much of her sheriff son-in-law, sleuths a bit, learning that Diana had recently become attached to one particular lover. (The reader knows it was married moonshiner Bo Calhoun.) She trails a suspicious young man working with a rival moonshine gang--but he turns out to be an incognito revenue agent, Josh Burns, who'll become Lily's ally. And, as the moonshine-war escalates, there'll be a couple of gunpoint confrontations before Josh and Lily Unmask the (not-too-surprising) murderer. Sterling dialogue, drily comic atmosphere, but a pulse of grim reality too: Miss Marple meets Eudora Welty (with a trace of Erskine Caldwell), and the results are darkly, crisply disarming.