Y’all southern? Then your deadliest sin is pride.
Little Cal lives with his momma Jonna in Shaysville, Va., while his daddy, Deputy Sheriff Dwight Bryant, lives with his bride, Judge Deborah Knott, in Colleton County, NC. When Cal asks Dwight to come see him, with just enough begging in his voice that Dwight can practically see the tears in his eyes, Dwight heads north, leaving the murder of J.D. Rouse, local bully, drunk and adulterer, to his assistant Mayleen Richards to solve. Dwight quickly steps into every parent’s nightmare: His son’s been left alone for two days. Where’s Jonna? Her momma doesn’t know. Her crazy sister Pam is unavailable to ask. And the folks at the Historical and Genealogical Society, where she was inventorying Civil War artifacts, have seen neither her nor some of the society’s treasures, including an antique Colt gun and a valuable set of mourning jewelry. Then Cal disappears. Did Jonna return for him? Not likely; she’s lying dead in her car. Yet a neighbor saw a woman run off with Cal. Deborah drives up to help in the search, which is impeded by southern pride—northerners would call it lying—before the family dog bounds in to save the day.
Readers who’ve long yearned to be part of Deborah’s sprawling, lusty, eccentric family (Rituals of the Season, 2005, etc.) will have to settle for Jonna’s—and Maron’s trademark expertise in explaining peculiarly southern subterfuges.