Deborah Knott has just assumed the district judgeship that was vacated when Perry Byrd died. We see Deborah from two sides: first as the consummate professional who is politically astute and knows exactly how to play the game to get reelected and secondly as a young woman who does exactly what she wants without worrying about the consequences.
Deborah's brother, Herman, has a daughter, AnnieSue, who is apprenticing as an electrical contractor. Deborah and Annie Sue volunteer to help build a home for a poor family. One evening when Annie Sue is working at the site alone, she is attacked by Carver Bannerman, a local no-good who is running around on his pregnant wife and also recently appeared in Deborah's courtroom. Before Carver can rape Annie Sue, he is murdered. When traces of arsenic are found in his blood and Annie Sue's father almost dies of arsenic poisoning, Annie Sue become a prime suspect.
Maron is an expert at building a plot, planting clues all along the way until you are sure you know who did it and then revealing the killer to be someone else who is absolutely the only person could have done it all along. At the same time, she builds sympathy for the character.
The only thing I did not like was a device that Maron used where Deborah has 2 inner voices that speak to her: a "pragmatist" and a "preacher". These 2 voices comment at various points in the story, and I found the interruption in the narrative flow irritating.
Maron is a very talented writer, and her characters stay with you because they are so real. Although this book was not as good as BOOTLEGGER'S DAUGHTER, Maron paints the North Carolina setting, its flora and fauna, perfectly. She recreates the southern idiom with flair.