It’s open season on the North Carolina judiciary.
While her new husband, sheriff’s deputy Dwight Bryant, and his son Cal clear out belongings from his first marriage, Judge Deborah Knott (Death’s Half Acre, 2008, etc.) heads to Wrightsville Beach for the annual conference of North Carolina district court judges. It has attracted former lovers, would-be lovers, philandering husbands and, once again, a body or two. Slightly bent Judge Jeffreys—who accepted bribes in custody suits, dismissed a case that left a carjacker free to commit rape and murder and ran a dirty campaign that scuttled another man’s election—winds up strangled and tossed in the bushes. Deborah, relieving herself of too many margaritas, finds the body and, bad luck for her, is in the parking lot when Judge Fitzhume is smacked into a coma by a marauding driver who’s later found dead in the red Geo that sped from the scene. Could one of the conference attendees be a killer? As a reward for trying to piece together motive and opportunity with the help of local law enforcement, Deborah finds herself locked in the trunk of her own car, escaping thanks to a trick she learned at Dwight’s insistence.
Deborah’s mojo is having an off day, and the tale sorely lacks the gumption of old-timer Kezzie. Midlevel Maron, with slightly repugnant homophobia as a subplot.