by Bruce TierneyAugust, 2003
Margaret Maron has received huge critical acclaim as well as an Edgar Award (the mystery writer's equivalent of an Oscar) for her popular series featuring Judge Deborah Knott. Her latest, Last Lessons of Summer, is the story of Amy Steadman, a young New York heiress whose grandmother has been brutally murdered in rural North Carolina. The family home was the scene of another tragedy years earlier, the apparent suicide of Amy's mother when Amy was only 3 years old. Journeying south to settle her grandmother's estate, Amy finds herself drawing disturbing parallels between her own life and those of her deceased mother and grandmother. The deeper she digs, the more she suspects that her mother's death may not have been by her own hand, and indeed Amy herself may be in danger. Last Lessons of Summer is not a tale of brilliant sleuthing and superlative problem solving; epiphanies unfold in their own time, with little assistance from the protagonists. That said, it is a suspenseful and atmospheric novel, likely to appeal to longtime fans and new readers alike.