Bootlegger’s Daughter by Margaret Maron (1992)

Book One in the Deborah Knott Mystery Series

This book came to me by way of the Book Lover’s Club which I am a member of at my local library branch, a group I have mentioned before on this blog. Although this book is more than twenty years old, it was mentioned as a good one to list as an E-Audio book by two group members. I have to admit that I rarely ever listen to audio books — with the exception being Jim Dale’s magnificent narration of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series — and indeed only very rarely use my IPad to read e-books. Although no Luddite, I am a stalwart fan of the hardback library books, plastic crinkly covers and all.

However, this weekend found me with dozens of pre-holiday household chores to finish and I like to have something to listen to on my smartphone while I get everything done. Bootlegger’s Daughter was available from the library for immediate download as an audio book and so I found myself listening on a rainy Sunday to Maron’s inaugural tale of Deborah Knott. Deborah is a small-town defense attorney in rural North Carolina, running a private legal practice along-side two of her (many, many) relatives. At the beginning of the book we learn that she has recently thrown her hat into the political ring and is running — despite her youth and the incredulity of her traditional “women belong at home” neighbors — for district court judge.

The story is categorized as a murder mystery, but do not look for any wild suspect chases or rapid-fire plot twists here. Rather Maron writes a story that unfolds very, very slowly; one that carefully draws a picture of Deborah, of the rural region where she has lived all her life, and the many colorful characters that inhabit it with her. Indeed more than half of the book unfolds without much action to speak of, a fact that had me considering discarding it altogether.

However, I am a woman married to a man from a rural southern town and I know that some people and some stories simply cannot be rushed. My patience was rewarded. Not only was I introduced to a charming cast of characters, but also a story that grew more intriguing with each chapter. First Deborah is drawn into a dirty political campaign fight, then into an eighteen-year-old unsolved murder mystery, and finally into a current day homicide investigation. Using her wits, her local connections, and succumbing to her unwavering loyalty to friends in need, Deborah beings to find answers to all three problems plaguing her.

In the end, the (at times) plodding, wandering story, comes together nicely and we see Deborah emerge as an “accidental PI”-esque heroine. I am looking forward to seeing where Maron takes her next.

I should add that C.J. Critt does a lovely job of narrating the novel and although I am more likely to read, rather than listen to, the other books in the series, it would be no hardship to her Critt read another book or two in this twenty book series. In fact, in preparation for cleaning out my basement I have already downloaded book two, Southern Discomfort, in case I need a book to keep me company while I organize.

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