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Death's Half Acre Hardcover – August 20, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition edition (August 20, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 044619610X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446196109
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,678,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Agatha-winner Maron's outstanding 14th novel to feature Judge Deborah Knott (after 2007's Hard Row) charts the social changes in rural Colleton County, N.C., as housing developments and shopping malls squeeze out small farmers. The apparent suicide of a greedy county commissioner sets Knott's husband, sheriff's deputy Dwight Bryant, on a case that uncovers corruption and murder. Though busy settling small-claims disputes and participating in family gatherings, Knott herself gets involved in the case because of implications for her own future in local politics. She's also worried about the activities of her father, who's retired as a bootlegger but is still an unrepentant flim-flam man. Maron observes the levelheaded Knott, her large extended family, neighbors and the whole community with cool but genuine sympathy; even criminals remain believably human. Those looking for a mellow, down-home mystery will be well rewarded. (Aug.) ""
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved."

From Booklist

In the fourteenth installment of her Judge Deborah Knott series, Maron highlights the tensions of new real-estate development as longtime rural residents cope with the changes brought by farms giving way to sprawling houses and big-box chain stores. When county commissioner Candace Bradshaw is murdered, some see it as her comeuppance for brokering under-the-table deals between developers and certain county commissioners. Others, however, such as Candace’s much older ex-husband, know that Candace grew up dirt poor and had an almost physical need for luxurious possessions. Deborah’s new husband, Sheriff Dwight Bryant, investigates the murder, and surprising revelations emerge about just how Deborah was appointed judge. In addition, Maron introduces a satisfying subplot about Deborah’s father, Kezzie, a former major-league bootlegger who has never lost his taste for the big con. All of the machinations are delivered in a chatty style rife with colorful country expressions. As always, the mystery, neatly resolved, intersects with the home- and community-centered concerns of the large Knott family. Satisfying reading for both series fans and those new to the author. --Joanne Wilkinson

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

I look forward to her next book.
Peggy H. Berry
I thought that the mystery was a bit too easy to solve and much of the plot development was too predictable.
Donald Mitchell
Excellent mystery seres that I highly recommend.
Mary Caton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Heidi Anne Heiner VINE VOICE on August 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This isn't Maron's strongest book, but it's a solid entry in the series. The villain was more obvious than usual. It's not telegraphed, but it was my early pick. However, I don't read these books for puzzle solving. I read them for characters and the setting. Still, the procedures, politics and such make the books more about the characters learning who the murderer is than the reader finding it out with plenty of slices of life along the way.

First of all, I like Deborah and Dwight married. Deborah's quit going from man to man, bad choice to bad choice, to a good man. There's chemistry there which I enjoy. I like that they work in conjunction in solving the mystery and that multiple viewpoints are offered, beyond their two, too.

I also appreciate the Southern setting where there's an array of Southern characters, all true and faithful to their setting, but they never become caricatures. So many series, especially cozies, rely on caricature and stereotypes. Sometimes Maron's villains might lean towards that problem, but they still fail to fall into the mark. (I don't consider Maron a cozy writer, either, although she's clean and circumspect enough to fit in that market.)

The plot summary can be read on the cover or Amazon, but Maron always offers up food for thought, too. This time she explores an old-fashioned church congregation where women are subjugated as well as the building and population booms in once rural areas. Even when we don't like characters, we can find some sympathy with them, at least most of them. The possible villains in this one were played a little less sympathetic than usual for Maron. Still, there is respect and understanding of the culture and its occupants. Everyone feels real, many would make wonderful friends. And once a year, when I get to read a new Maron novel, they are. My only disappointment is that the book wasn't longer!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Once again, Margaret Maron writes a compelling mystery with all the right ingredients: a strong believable heroine, a suspenseful plot, a strong sense of place and even a few touches of humor. Luckily I set aside some time on a rainy weekend. It's not a book I can put down easily.

Fans of Deborah Knott will be relieved to find that Deborah's marriage has not weakened the series. We don't get drowned in domestic details but we see glimpses of Deborah enjoying the challenges and rewards of her new roles as wife, stepmother and dog owner. She's caught up in the dynamic economy of North Carolina and the plot details are firmly grounded in 21st century technology and culture.

The plot has been summarized elsewhere. I didn't feel the solution was given away (or else I'm particularly dense) but the ending was consistent, believable and totally satisfying.

As other reviewers noted, Maron has a gift for creating characters who are neither angels nor devils. We might raise an eyebrow at some actions of the "good guys" and it's hard not to be sorry for the villains as they're carted off to jail, served with lawsuits or (in one delightful subplot) simply outwitted by a cunning old-timer.

This series has become one of my favorites. I look forward to each volume and get withdrawal pangs when I finish and realize there's a long wait for the next.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Miz Ellen VINE VOICE on August 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Real estate is at the heart of this novel, the 14th in the Deborah Knott series. Like other places in the South, Margaret Maron's fictional Colleton County has enjoyed/suffered a real estate boom bringing new suburb into direct conflict with the old way of life in the rural South. Judge Deborah Knott sees these conflicts play out in her courtroom every working day.

Candace Bradshaw was trailer park trash but she married old money and has parlayed a cleaning service into wealth. Separated from her much older husband and former boss, she's been sleeping her way into political influence and a seat on the planning commission. No one quite believes it when she's found dead, an apparent suicide, but the note in her handwriting implies that she's been taking kickbacks from developers and everyone can believe that!

Deborah is also bothered over the death of the editor to the local paper. He was a victim of a hit-and-run accident months ago, and the police were unable to trace the car. Since then, the local paper has lost its investigative and muckraking edge. Deborah's also worried by her father's strange behavior. Where did he get the jewelry he was showing in the pawn shop?

The one weakness in this book is that we get less of Deborah's first-person narrative. This is because Maron is being fair to the reader, and telling us what Deborah doesn't know. Now what Deborah doesn't find out won't hurt her, but it makes the reader laugh out loud.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By egreetham on December 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A likable, if not stellar, entry in Margaret Maron's Deborah Knott series. Definitely worth reading more for the atmosphere than for the predictable plot--the conflict between Colleton county natives and the ever-multiplying newcomers is intersting and colorful. But the poetic epigrams at the chapter heads were of irritatingly poor quality, Deborah's eternal imprudence at the climax of these stories continues to strain the reader's belief, and the tales of corruption just plod along. I hope the next Deborah Knott novel is back on track. If you haven't ready any as yet, consider the wonderful first of the series: "Bootlegger's Daughter."

Kindle readers: note that Kindle skips a short introductory portion, and goes directly to Chapter 1. The skipped part is important, so it's worth going back.
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