Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Murder on a honeymoon

Three-Day Town, Margaret Maron

This is the 17th book in Margaret Maron's series of mysteries featuring North Carolina judge Deborah Knott.  I was introduced to the books by my friend Margaret (not the author) while we were browsing in my beloved Murder by the Book one day.  She handed me the first, Bootlegger's Daughter, with those magical words: "You have to read this."  And she was right.  I wasn't even half-way through it before I was off looking for the rest of the series.

Most of it is set in North Carolina, in the fictional Colleton County where Deborah lives with her husband Dwight Bryant (a deputy sheriff) and his son, as well as their extended families.  Deborah has eleven brothers, who with their wives, ex-wives, and children play a large part in most of the books, as does her father Kezzie, who may or may have retired as a bootlegger (Dwight sure hopes he has, so he doesn't have to arrest his father-in-law one day).  Over the course of the series we've come to know them as well as other relations, colleagues and friends, in the complex and detailed world that Margaret Maron has created.  I wouldn't be surprised if literary tourists show up in North Carolina looking for Colleton the way they do in Louise Penny's Quebec.  I know I'd love to visit.

This book takes Deborah and Dwight out of that familiar setting, to New York City, for a belated honeymoon stay in an apartment owned by Dwight's sister-in-law Kate.  One of Kate's relations, the elderly Mrs. Lattimore, has asked them to deliver a small package to her daughter Anne Harald in New York.  When they arrive in New York, they discover that Anne is out of the country, but they make contact in turn with her daughter Sigrid, a lieutenant with the New York police.  Deborah arranges a meeting with Sigrid to deliver the package, which turns out to be a bronze art object.  She and Dwight are at a neighbor's party when Sigrid arrives, and when Deborah takes her back to their apartment to collect the item, they find the building's super dead in the living room and the bronze object missing.  At that point, Sigrid calls in her team and takes over the case.

The first few books in the series are all told in first-person narration, in Deborah's voice.  Ir's an appealing voice, frank and funny and honest, which draws you right into the story.  As Laurie R. King and Elizabeth Peters did with their first-person characters, though, Margaret Maron began alternating Deborah's chapters with third-person narration, often following Dwight and his team through their part of the mystery.  In this book, the alternate chapters follow Sigrid and her team.  She is the central character in a separate series of eight mysteries, none of which I have read.  There is clearly a lot of history between these characters, and I found it a challenge to keep them all straight.  I also missed Deborah and Dwight who, naturally sidelined from much of the investigation, spend their time playing tourists and honeymooners, though by the end of the case they play a big part in its resolution.  Up to that point, much of the investigation focuses on the residents and employees of the apartment building, and I found it a little difficult to keep track of all of them as well.

As usual, I had no idea who-done-it, but I enjoyed the story and the New York setting, which made me want to play tourist myself.  In the end, Dwight and Deborah cut short their honeymoon to return to Colleton County, and I'm looking forward to returning there again myself.

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Thank you for taking the time to read, and to comment. I always enjoy hearing different points of view about the books I am reading, even if we disagree!