Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Bootlegger's Daughter

The Bootlegger's Daughter
Author: Margaret Maron
Warner Books/Hatchette Book Group USA, 1992
261 pages

Sometimes you just need something "light" to read. (I may be about to go through a "light reading" phase to balance an otherwise complicated life, so bear with me if you start to see more of these types of books.)

I had been seeking a mystery series set in the South, and came across this one (set in my home state of North Carolina) at my local B&N. According to its cover, The Bootlegger's Daughter won several awards in its day, including the Edgar Award and the Agatha Award (both awards for mysteries). The first few pages are filled with excerpts of praise from critics and other writers - including some well-known authors. So my expectations were pretty high for a $6.99 trade paperback.

The main character, Deborah Knott, is a thirtysomething lawyer who, tired of courtroom b.s., decides to run for a judgeship. Meanwhile, the eighteen year-old daughter of her law firm partner wants her to solve a mystery. When the girl was a baby, she and her mother had disappeared and after three days her mother was found dead, while she was found strapped in a baby seat just feet away, dehydrated and near death. Who killed the girl's mother? The girl, now a young woman, wants to know.

As the mystery unravels, a series of letters to the editor apparently written by Deb appears in local papers. Only she didn't write them. Is someone trying to sabotage her campaign, or keep her from solving the mystery? Suddenly - two other murders. Are they related? What do they have to do with the murder 18 years ago?

The Bootlegger's Daughter is predictable and formulaic, but interesting to me as a native Tar Heel because I recognized the names of some North Carolina politicians: Jim Hunt (former Governor), Harvey Gantt (former mayor of Charlotte), Thad Eure (the late longtime Secretary of State) and Mike Easley (Senator) to name a few.  My favorite character, by far, was Deb's father, Keziah - the one-time bootlegger. In the book-turned-movie in my mind, he was played by Paul Newman. 

Did the book meet my expectations? I'm not sure. I liked it well enough, and it certainly provided me with the light reading I needed. But it wasn't great.

Rating: 2.75 stars