Bootlegger’s Daughter, by Margaret Maron

Book 69  

The original crime took place in 1972 – young mother and infant daughter disappear.  They are found four days later – mother with a bullet in her head and baby just barely hanging in there.

The action of the story is in 1990.  Deborah Knott is the daughter of a Carolina tobacco farmer (and notorious bootlegger) and an attorney running the office of county judge.  One day the baby – now 18 years old, asks her to investigate the murder again.  Of course, part of the premise is that it is a small town and the murderer is, likely as not, someone they know.

There is a cool scene early on when Deborah goes to visit some people she knows at the State Bureau of Investigation and gets them to tell her the story of the investigation.  Deborah was 16  (and the family babysitter) at the time of the crime.  So the agents talk about all of the suspects – including her – and how they were eliminated as possibilities.  She picks up a couple of clues that she hasn’t heard before, and Maron establishes some friendly professional relationships for her heroine.

Now that I am thinking about it, Maron does a very good job of setting the groundwork for a series (I believe the comic book people call it an “origin” piece) without sacrificing the narrative of the mystery.

The solve is not obvious, but not so terribly convoluted that it made me mad.   The Knott family is so big that I expect funny supporting characters to be coming and going all the time.  And it doesn’t appear (yet) like the inevitable romance is going to be too painful.  So it seems I have a new mystery series to read.

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