Temporarily benching Judge Deborah Knott, the southland’s premier mystery writer (Slow Dollar, 2002, etc.) introduces an appealing new heroine who won’t cost her a single reader.
When Frances Barbour, the family matriarch, dies suddenly on her North Carolina farm, sweet-natured, soft-spoken, confrontation-hating Amy Stedman inherits a flourishing publishing/merchandising business—a big deal, though she feels cheated of answers to questions she’d always hoped her grandmother might provide about her mother. To help put her grandmother’s estate in order, Amy leaves New York for North Carolina and the house in which she spent so many summers, the place where her mother was born and died 27 years ago, a suicide who left Amy only three. Once installed in the house, Amy finds almost nothing is as it was reported to be. Her grandmother’s sudden death, for instance, was not the accidental aftermath of a random breaking and entering, but was planned and executed by someone who knew her. Her mother was not the self-loathing neurotic of family legend, but a victim not of her own making. To break down the wall of secrets and lies, Amy, finding an unexpected taste for battle, will have to confront an erring father, a condescending husband, and a vicious murderer.
Well-plotted and suspenseful, with Maron’s usual bonus: the ease with which she makes you love her scrappy heroines.