Maron's latest novel marks a full baker's dozen in her award-winning Deborah Knott series. But while many thematic ingredients remain the same (family, race, class, and traditions confronting social and cultural shifts), the final product emerges as fresh as ever.
In her courtroom, Judge Knott presides wisely over loves gone bad, including a jealous man threatening his ex-wife and everyone near her, and a wealthy farming couple's bitter divorce battle, with the "other woman" watching and waiting. As the new wife of Deputy Dwight Bryant, Knott finds herself connected to more troubling tales: an Alzheimer's patient's sudden disappearance, and the equally sudden appearance of body parts in the fields of Colleton County--beginning with a pair of legs "mangled and splintered as if hacked from the victim's torso." Meanwhile, Knott, her new husband and young stepson are trying to adjust to domestic life together--often an equally perilous mystery.
Navigating storylines, Maron also juggles the usual multitude of characters, sometimes to distraction: law enforcement personnel, prosecutors and defendants, suspects and interviewees, that cornucopia of relatives. Clues easily get lost in the shuffle, but the careful reader will be rewarded as storylines begin to resonate and then intersect in provocative ways. Throughout it all, Maron touches deftly on timely issues--chiefly immigration, exploring the varying attitudes toward migrant workers and charting immigration's inevitable impact on the Southern landscape. Ultimately, Hard Row proves socially aware, psychologically astute, and artistically satisfying. Never let it be said 13 is an unlucky number.