This first novel in Maron's Imperfect series, which won the Edgar Award for best mystery novel in 1993, introduces heroine Deborah Knott, an attorney and the daughter of an infamous North Carolina bootlegger. Known for her knowledge of the region's past and popular with the locals, Deb is asked by 18-year-old Gayle Whitehead to investigate the unsolved murder of her mother Janie, who died when Gayle was an infant. While visiting the owner of the property where Janie's body was found, Deb learns of Janie's more-than-promiscuous past. Piecing together lost clues and buried secrets Deb is introduced to Janie's darker side, but it's not until another murder occurs that she uncovers the truth.
New York City Police Detective Sigrid Harald knew something was amiss when she saw the couple. Was it the girl's bloodless face or the glittering hostility in the young man's glance? As Sigrid reached for her ID, the obscenities that streamed from the youth's mouth startled her almost as much as the flickering switchblade which appeared in his hand.