In DESIGNATED DAUGHTERS, practically the whole clan shows up at the hospice where Aunt Rachel has interrupted the process of dying to deliver a rambling account of all the things that have been on her wandering mind. It's quite a lovely deathbed aria, narrated in the honeyed accents of the region. But someone must have feared Aunt Rachel might divulge a buried secret because that someone creeps into her room and smothers her with a pillow.
Maron knows how to adorn a solid murder mystery with plenty of ancillary entertainments. But her broader theme involves the way families flourish when they work together for the common good. While there are charming scenes of group projects like building a pond shed and assembling a bluegrass band, the clan members Maron really cherishes are those who devote themselves to caring for the elders of the family. Living saints they are, every last one of them.—New York Times Book Review
In MWA Grand Master Maron's outstanding 19th mystery featuring judge Deborah Knott of North Carolina's Colleton County (after 2012's The Buzzard Table
), Deborah's elderly aunt, Rachel Morton, lies near death in a hospice. Rachel attracts a crowd of friends and relatives as she talks of "babies, fires, and unpaid debts, of someone who beat his wife and of cowbirds and vegetables and broken jars." A distraction allows a killer enough time to slip into Rachel's room and smother her with a pillow, thus ending her ramblings, which apparently concealed deadly secrets. Unraveling those secrets-some 60 years old-is a slow, difficult process with lots of suspects among friends and family. Maron achieves a delicate balance as she explores differences between mistakes, sins, and crimes, and shows that justice is not always arrived at by conventional means. Humor (e.g., Deborah outfoxes an unscrupulous auctioneer) and social issues (e.g., the difficult role of caregivers to the elderly) add to the warmth of a large family with all its foibles, squabbles, and quirks.—Publishers Weekly
When Judge Deborah Knott gets a call from the convalescent home about her Aunt Rachel, she expects to hear the worst. She arrives to find her aunt awake and telling stories from her past, including some that are new to Deborah. Yet within hours Rachel is dead, and it is obvious that she was murdered. While Deborah and her husband, sheriff's deputy Dwight Bryant, investigate, her family becomes embroiled in a dispute with a dirty antiques dealer. Alternating viewpoints between Deborah and Dwight, Maron weaves family threads together with current events that leave the reader wanting to know more about the Knott family tree. Verdict: The author's 19th series outing (after The Buzzard Table
) offers loyal fans a fresh look at her expansive family and community. Readers will savor the slow-paced Southern culture and layered story. Maron was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 2013.—Library Journal
[four stars] Maron is still going strong with the 19th installment in her Deborah Knott series. DESIGNATED DAUGHTERS is a solid mystery where Southern charm meets murder. Maron delves into some social issues of today, and readers can expect a small-town family atmosphere with a lot of heart.
Judge Deborah Knott's beloved Aunt Rachel is expected to pass away at any moment--but she wakes up surrounded by family and friends and begins to reminisce as if she were a young woman again. The Knott family's happiness at Rachel's great improvement is short lived when she is smothered with a pillow shortly thereafter. As Deborah and her husband, Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Bryant, look into what happened, their path continues to cross with a list of unlikely suspects. The pair soon realizes that the motive for murder was a secret told during Aunt Rachel's mixed-up ramblings before her death--a secret worth killing for.—RT Book Reviews
Margaret Maron grew up on a farm near Raleigh and lived in Brooklyn for many years. Returning to her North Carolina roots prompted Margaret to write a series based on her own background, the first of which, Bootlegger's Daughter
, was a Washington Post bestseller and swept the major mystery awards for 1993. DESIGNATED DAUGHTERS is the nineteenth book in the acclaimed Deborah Knott series. Visit her website at www.margaretmaron.com.