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Bootlegger's Daughter (Deborah Knott Mysteries, No. 1) Mass Market Paperback – June 1, 1993

124 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

This first novel in Maron's Imperfect series, which won the Edgar Award for best mystery novel in 1993, introduces heroine Deborah Knott, an attorney and the daughter of an infamous North Carolina bootlegger. Known for her knowledge of the region's past and popular with the locals, Deb is asked by 18-year-old Gayle Whitehead to investigate the unsolved murder of her mother Janie, who died when Gayle was an infant. While visiting the owner of the property where Janie's body was found, Deb learns of Janie's more-than-promiscuous past. Piecing together lost clues and buried secrets Deb is introduced to Janie's darker side, but it's not until another murder occurs that she uncovers the truth.

From Publishers Weekly

Maron's ( Past Imperfect ) series launch introduces attorney Deborah Knott, the daughter of an infamous North Carolina bootlegger, in an atmospheric adventure mixing Southern politics and a mysterious killing'unsolved murder' in next sentence . While Deb campaigns for a district court judgeship, 18-year-old Gayle Whitehead asks her to investigate the unsolved murder of her mother, Janie, which took place when Gayle was an infant. The girl wants Deb, who knows the locals of Cotton Grove, to ask around and see if she can find clues the police might have missed. Deb visits Michael Vickery, the gay son of Cotton Grove's retired doctor and owner of the property where Janie's body was found. She discovers long-kept secrets, learning that Janie had a roving eye and that a lesbian friend and her lover had made overtures to Janie a week before the murder.sentence ok?see my revisions yes, fine But not until another death occurs does Deb begin to close in on the truth. Filled with good-ole-boy patter and detailed local color, the story flows smoothly, and if it lacks suspense, Maron's appealing characterizations and her knowing eye for family relationships more than compensate. Mystery Guild alternate; author tour.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 261 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (June 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446403237
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446403238
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

MARGARET MARON is the author of twenty-seven novels and two collections of short stories. Winner of several major American awards for mysteries (Edgar, Agatha, Anthony, Macavity), her works are on the reading lists of various courses in contemporary Southern literature and have been translated into 15 languages. She has served as president of Sisters in Crime, the American Crime Writers League, and Mystery Writers of America. Visit her at

A native Tar Heel, she still lives on her family's century farm a few miles southeast of Raleigh, the setting for Bootlegger's Daughter, which is numbered among the 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century as selected by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association. In 2004, she received the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for best North Carolina novel of the year; and in 2008, the North Carolina Award for Literature, the state's highest civilian honor. Her mystery novels feature District Court Judge Deborah Knott and are the pegs upon which she hangs her love and concern for the state.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By F. J. Harvey on December 18, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Crime novels set in the American South seem in general to have more in common with the traditional English "golden age"novel than with the grittier works of their Yankee counterparts and this is a good illustration
A gentle rather meandering read it is a pleasant rather than engrossing mystery in which Deborah Knott a local Carolina attorney is seeking a judgeship but finds her campaign rather sidelined by the necessity to investigate an ages old mystey,at the request of a young family member.The case uncovers family secrets best kept hidden,in the eyes of many
Deborah is a likeable protagonist and there is a strong sense of the importance and value of close familial ties.The changing face of the South in which attitudes to homosexuality and race are being re-evaluated provide an undercurrent to the development of the plot
I am more in favour of the hardboiled and street wise crime novel but Ms Maron has created an engaging and personable character and a series that is likely to prove to be a quiet pleasure Warmth is not a characteristic one finds regularly in the crime novel but it is present here in abundance,and for that reason alone I will stick with the series and urge lovers of the
"soft boiled"crime novel to give the Deborah Knott a try
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 13, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
First book by Margaret Maron that I have read, and the first book in the Deborah Knott series (not counting the prequel). "Bootlegger's Daughter" is the winner of the Edgar, Anthony, Agatha, & Macavity Awards. There are currently eleven books in the series (including a prequel to "Bootlegger's Daughter" titled "Bloody Kin" and a collection of short stories).

Deborah is a female lawyer in Colleton County, North Carolina who has decided to run in the current judicial election (and is the daughter of a noted ex-bootlegger). While Deborah is running for said election, she has also been asked by a young woman that she used to babysit, Gayle Whitehead, to look into the death of that woman's mother, Jane Whitehead, 18 years ago. Gayle is less concerned with who killed her mother than as to why she was killed (not that she wouldn't like to know the killer).

The book opens with baby Gayle and dead mother Jane being discovered in a old mill (May 1972). Then quickly jumps up to the "present time" of April 1990. At the very beginning of the book, I was concerned that I might not like the main character, and some of the plot points and dialogue that came up. As I read further, though, the book grew on me, and by the end, I rather liked the main character. The main character, and a few others, are fully developed personalities, though the lessor characters can seem a little thin. The plot is solid, the mystery is well-designed and plausible, and the setting is well developed. Overall, I would give the book 4.40 stars.

- Michael S. Briggs -
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 30, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Although the rest of the series is more typically genre fiction, this book reads at least as much as a Southern novel of place and relationship as it is a murder mystery. I enjoyed Maron's skill in developing three-dimensional characters and evoking a setting so real I could smell the dogwood and barbecue sauce. I didn't mind the slow early pace because I enjoyed the likeable, complicated characters, the window into North Carolina culture and politics, and the plot that simmered enticingly until the heat poured on at the end.
I think the Judge Deborah Knott series in general is readable but uneven. And, if you are looking for a fast-paced mystery thriller, this might not be the right choice. However, this book stands well on its own as an excellent novel, engaging, complex, and beautifully written. It's one of the few mystery novels I've read more than once.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Bull on April 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I have said on here and elsewhere that Margaret Maron is a fine enough writer to convey just about whatever mood or ideas or setting she wishes. Despite that skill, her eight Sigrid Harald mysteries are a little dry -- skillful plots and good detective work seem to hold one's attention, but the entertainment factor is a little low. All that goes away with the 1992 debut of rural North Carolina's attorney (and judge wannabe) Deborah Knott. From lengthy settings on the farm, gone fishin', even in court, we get a real flavor of the locale and the people appearing herein. And our new leading lady gives us plenty to like as she not only toils to solve an 18-year old murder (shades of Lee Harris' Christine Bennett), but also rails a bit against the local magistrates and decides to run for district judge herself.
The plot is fairly compelling, with a nice prequel to set the stage, and then the mainline occuring two decades later. Before it's all over, two more murders lead to a fairly surprising ending, and one that not everybody may like real well. Along the way we get brief exposés on blacks in the south and gays in bible belt territory (even Deborah seems to have a pretty good stable of verses memorized which she hauls out from time to time). It's clear from the rest of the series that Knott gets her judgeship, and I for one look forward to see how that transition goes. As for "Judging Deborah", a thumbs up so far!
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