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HARD ROW by Margaret Maron


by Margaret Maron

Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-446-58243-8

Are migrants the South’s latest attempt to indenture servants?

Colleton County, N.C., which used to thrive on tobacco, now focuses on trendier salad veggies. Harris Farms’ tomatoes have made multimillionaires out of the divorcing Harrises. When soon-to-be ex-Mrs. Harris appears in Judge Deborah Knott’s court to wrangle out a financial settlement, though, her nemesis Buck fails to appear. Small wonder. His body pops up in several places: Here a right arm, there a leg or two, his head and penis nailed to a farm post. Then another butchered right arm pops up. Are the two deaths related? Deborah’s new husband, Deputy Sheriff Dwight Bryant, makes little headway until he understands the big fight the Harrises had nine months before and sees why the migrants have clammed up about it. Seething beneath the brouhaha is one party’s notion that migrants are not quite human, not to be coddled by safety procedures, not to be treated as equals. The same sort of racial enmity animates Officer Mayleen Richards’ family when she takes up with Miguel Diaz. By reviewing one of her court cases, Deborah is able to help Dwight break open his mystery, though not in time to stop another murder.

Marriage and stepmothering Dwight’s son Cal have made a hockey fan out of Deborah (Winter Child, 2006, etc.). But it’s Maron’s arguments against pesticides and racial exploitation, and old bootlegger Kezzie’s last line, that stick with you longest.