Colleton County district lawyer Deborah Knott (Bootlegger's Daughter, 1992), elevated to district judge when Perry Byrd keels over and dies, returns to the house she's helping the WomenAid project build--and discovers her niece Annie Sue, half-concussed and with her panties pulled down, plus the hammered-to-death body of sexy building-inspector Carver Bannerman. At the same time, Annie Sue's dad Herman is admitted to the hospital--a victim of arsenic poisoning. Carver's body also contains arsenic, and Deborah wonders whether the multi-member Knott clan has been up to bludgeoning (understandable) and relative-poisoning (inexplicable). Annie Sue's best friends--Paige, the late judge's unhappy daughter, and Cindy, a recent conquest of the married Carver--also fall under suspicion, but all becomes clear with a viewing of the family tape made at Deborah's swearing-in festivities. Less edgy than last year's strong debut for Deborah, but, like it, awash with southern kinfolk, pesky neighbors, North Carolina down-home-isms, and a sturdy if slowly paced plot.