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on December 18, 2001
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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on June 13, 2005
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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on April 30, 2004
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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on April 4, 2002
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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on May 26, 2000
This is a great book. The author won numerous prizes for this book and I can see why. For Deborah Knott there is a decades old mystery to solve, an election campaign to fight, and a huge family of brothers to love and support. Read this one - the plot and "whodunnit" is not as important as the characters you will read about on the way.
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on November 25, 2000
Maron transports you to small-town North Carolina and introduces you around to some of the best developed characters in mystery fiction. Deborah Knott is definitely a good one to know, and it is interesting to watch her as she handles her personal and internal conflicts with style and wit.
In this beginning of the Deborah Knott series, a local teen seeks answers about her mother's death years ago, and Deborah has to delve into history that some locals would much prefer remain buried. It makes for an intriguing puzzle, and Maron places the clues fairly. Maron also treats the reader to an examination of small-town dynamics that affect not only Knott's political race to become a judge, but could put a new face on her personal and family relationships as well.
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on April 6, 2003
This is a Deborah Knott mystery, set in the Raleigh-Durham area of NOrth Carolina. Deborah Knott is running for judgeship in Colleton County. She is also solving the mystery of a 20 year old murder of a family member at the same time. During the course of the story she must cope with the usual dirty tricks of a political campaign as well as the uncooperativeness and danger of finding the murderer.
Bootlegger's Daughter will appeal to those readers that like real life locales with a cozy Southern setting. This is despite dealing with issues such as homosexuality, race and politics. There is little gratuitous violence or sex.
The issue that I took with this novel is that it took to the middle of the book to get to the mystery proper. The plot seemed to noodle along. There was not so much as a hint dropped or earnest sleuthing until the middle. It seemed too caught up in local color.
In the novel's favor once the plot started to move it was interesting and finally the hints were dropped. The myriad suspects were not let off the hook until the last chapter or until they were eliminated(i.e. killed off). This kept me up reading the book to the finish.
The book has 3 and 1/2 stars.
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on November 1, 1998
Margaret Maron's 1992 mystery Bootlegger's Daughter introduces an intelligent and clever sleuth: country lawyer Debrorah Knott. This novel, while starting slowly, becomes a fine "who-done-it" involving the investigation of an eighteen-year-old murder, which someone apparently will go to any lengths (even more murder) to keep secret. Maron does what a writer of her genre should do -- keeps the plot moving, both surprising and satisfying the reader at the end with the inexorability of her final solution. Maron's prose is not great, but it is not awful and cliche-ridden either. The phrase from the Uniform Commercial Code -- "of fair average quality that would pass without exception in the trade" -- comes to mind. Fortunately, her plot and characters are well above average, making this an enjoyable read
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VINE VOICEon March 31, 2001
The character introduced here, Judge Deborah Knott, has been justifiably lauded for being one of the best-developed characters in this kind of mystery fiction. She has a real career, a complicated relationship with the notion of ethics, and a background that makes her both flawed and interesting. I will certainly be interested to read further in this series on the basis of her character alone.
This said, I was a little surprised that given how many awards this book won (the Edgar, Agatha, Anthony and Macavity awards) how slight the plot itself seemed. Perhaps my taste just runs more to the complicated and noir, but I would have been interested to see the same character in a situation a tiny bit more complex-- or perhaps with the complexities a bit better developed.
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on June 28, 2012
Margaret Maron is a favorite author of mine and Bootlegger's Daughter is one of my all-time favorite books. I'm very pleased to see this in ebook and I pounced on it. I've been waiting for this to come out in ebook for a loooong time.

This is the first book in the Deborah Knott series. It's strongly character driven, with a gorgeously realized setting, an atmospheric sense of time and place, and interesting relationships between Deborah Knott and her family. The Mystery Writers of America gave Margaret Maron the 1992 Edgar for Best Novel for this and it really earned it.

I've found no typos or botched formating so this looks like a nice clean conversion to ebook. The book does open defaulted to small print but that's very easy to fix on the font menu.
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