SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT is another mystery set in the present-day New South, where feminists like Margaret Maron’s newly appointed judge, Deborah Knott, stay busy keeping male chauvinists off balance. In this often hilarious story, the battle of the sexes is further complicated by the strength of family ties and the persistent peculiarities of human nature.
After surviving her first week on the bench, the last thing Knott wants to do is to spend Saturday helping an all-woman crew build a house for a single mother. Nevertheless, a campaign promise is a campaign promise. At the site, Knott finds she is taking almost as much pleasure in the company of three teenage girls, one of them her own niece, Annie Sue Knott, as she does in deflating Carver Bannerman, the building inspector who swaggers in to look over the work and the women. However, Deborah Knott soon has more than two-by-fours to worry about. First she finds Annie Sue bruised and unconscious at the building site, then discovers Carver Bannerman with his head smashed in, evidently by the hammer the judge had been using. Nearby, Annie Sue’s father, Herman Knott, has collapsed in his truck, the victim, it turns out, of arsenic poisoning. Meanwhile, local pet-owners, including the judge’s aunt, are worrying about the disappearance of their cats and dogs.
With hew own family so deeply involved, Deborah Knott has no choice but to look for some answers. What she discovers shocks the community but brings her own family closer together. SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT is more than a satisfying, suspenseful mystery; it is also a perceptive, gently satirical look at human behavior during a period of social change.