High Country Fall

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

News of Deborah Knott’s engagement to Deputy Sheriff Dwight Bryant has spread throughout Colleton County, and all the congratulations fuel more anxiety than pleasure. Judge Knott eagerly accepts an offer to substitute for a judge on the other side of the state, in the Smokey Mountain region bordering Tennessee. It will be a week to escape the homefolks and examine her feelings about marrying Dwight. As it turns out, it is certainly not a week to relax.

One of the movers-and-shakers in the upscale tourist town of Cedar Gap has just been murdered, struck on the head and his body tossed off the deck of his exclusive mountainside home. Deborah is immediately involved because her twin nieces are friends with the young man accused of the murder. His girlfriend is pregnant and when he had told her father that he is part African American, the father had threatened to disown his daughter and ruin the young man’s life.

On Deborah’s second evening in the high country, a wealthy realtor disappears from a party Deborah is attending. When his body is eventually found in the woods outside the house, it is clear he was killed and disposed of in a similar fashion. Before long, Deborah herself almost becomes the third victim.

High Country Fall may seem more subtle in its treatment of social issues than some of the other novels in this popular series. As always, however, Margaret Maron beguiles with her storytelling, her sense of place, and her awareness of the multiple layers of the South.