North Carolina judge Deborah Knott may be all business when it comes to court, but she's usually fun loving when she's around her energetic family and her friend turned fiance Dwight Bryant. The stress of her impending marriage has made her prickly and uneasy, though, so she jumps at the chance to sub for a judge in another part of the state. After all, what better place to do serious thinking about her life than a gorgeous tourist town in the Blue Ridge Mountains? Unfortunately, the town is abuzz with the recent murder of a local doctor, and the accused is a friend of Deborah's college-age twin nieces. The twins are convinced their friend is innocent, and when another man is found dead, it begins to appear they are right. The mountain setting plays a huge role here, and Maron does a beautiful job with it, adding local color, as well as delightful regionalisms, to give her characters plenty of personality. When it comes right down to it, however, it's the comfortable ordinariness of Maron's distinctively unheroic heroine that makes this entry in the long-running series so appealing.
The leaves of autumn are in full splendor, and so is Maron's talent in her 10th Deborah Knott adventure (after 2002's Slow Dollar). Asked to fill in for a vacationing judge up in the Blue Ridge high country, Deborah jumps at the chance to put some space between her and Colleton County detective Dwight Bryant, whose engagement ring has suddenly and almost inexplicably appeared on her finger. But Knott quickly finds that the serene appearance of Cedar Gap belies the troubles brewing beneath its surface. One man is dead before Deborah even arrives, and his accused killer, Daniel Freeman, is a friend of Deborah's nieces, who are sharing their parents' mountainside condo with Her Judgeship. Yet before heads or tails can be made of the current situation, Knott is present when an evening of pickin' and grinnin' ends with the disappearance of one of a newly formed trio of real estate developers. And her ride home with the stunningly handsome "Lucius the Luscious" Burke, the local DA, may just put an end to her quandary about getting hitched to Dwight. Her entire stay in Cedar Gap is fraught with dangers, romantic and otherwise, as Deborah finds herself pursued to the brink of death itself. The roadways aren't the only thing with hairpin turns in this gripping puzzler.
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Grand Central Publishing
August 23, 2004
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