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Up Jumps the Devil

by Margaret Maron

Library Journal Maron returns to fictional Colleton County, North Carolina, the setting of The Bootlegger's Daughter (Mysterious, 1992). After someone murders one of Deborah Knott's childhood friends, and then another, suspicion falls on Deborah's father. A winning tale of closeted skeletons and family feuds.

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Book list As the pecan trees of the beautiful North Carolina countryside give way to tract housing, land values are escalating rapidly, and all over Colleton County, longtime neighbors and family members are engaged in acrimonious disputes over whether to sell their family land. In this fourth entry in the Deborah Knott series, the straight-talking, down-to-earth district court judge is drawn into two murders tied to greed over land-development money. When childhood friend Dallas Stancil is shot in his own backyard, Deborah upholds southern tradition only to find herself bringing casseroles to the family members responsible for Dallas' death. Then feisty old Jap Stancil is also murdered, and Deborah must deal once again with her first husband, Jap's nephew, whom she married for a brief, disastrous period when she was 18. It's not the plot that is the draw here, though; it's Maron's evocative sense of place, her smooth writing, and her flawed, intelligent heroine. Another fine entry in a solid series. --Joanne Wilkinson

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly With vivid detail and engaging, credible characters, Maron's series featuring North Carolina district court judge Deborah Knott (Edgar winner Bootlegger's Daughter, etc.) brings to life fictional Colleton County and chronicles a charming but rapidly changing South. Here, the background is the suburbanization of the rural countryside less than an hour by superhighway from Raleigh. A few days after Dallas Stancil refuses to sell his land to a speculator, his stepson and wife murder him. Then, Dallas's peripatetic cousin Allen, the devil from Deborah's past, comes to town. Several days later, Dallas's father, Jap, is killed just before he can divide the property between Merrilee Grimes, his late wife's niece, and Allen. So who killed Jap, and who gets the Stancil land?Dallas's widow? Allen? Merrilee and her husband, Pete? Billy Wall, Jap's partner in the produce business? Dick Sutterly, a real estate developer who has a signed deed to Jap's property? Suspicions extend to Deborah's own family when one of her 11 brothers, visiting from California, reveals that he's lost his job and plans to sell his acreage, which abuts Jap's. In the end, the answer derives from a combination of greed, fear and ignorance of the intricate laws of inheritance. Maron eloquently describes different behaviors toward the land, from stewardship to despoliation. The old-fashioned warmth of the extended Knott family and Maron's well-constructed plot make this series a standout. Mystery Guild selection. (Sept.)

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