Designated Daughters by Margaret Maron is the 19th book in the “Deborah Knott” mystery series. Publisher: Grand Central Publishing, August 2014
When Judge Deborah Knott is summoned to her ailing Aunt Rachel’s bedside, she assumes the worst. Thankfully when she arrives at the hospice center she learns that Rachel hasn’t passed; in fact, the dying woman is awake. Surrounded by her children, her extended family, and what seems like half of Colleton County, a semi-conscious Rachel breaks weeks of pained silence with snippets of stories as randomly pieced together as a well-worn patchwork quilt. But the Knott family’s joy quickly gives way to shock: less than an hour later, Aunt Rachel is found dead in her bed, smothered with a pillow.
Who would kill a woman on her deathbed? Was it an act of mercy, or murder? As Deborah and her husband, Sheriff’s Deputy Dwight Bryant, investigate they cross paths with an unlikely set of suspects: Rachel’s longtime minister; her neighbor, the respected local doctor; the friendly single father who often sought her advice; and perhaps the most puzzling party of all, the Designated Daughters, a support group for caregivers that Rachel’s own daughter belongs to.
Soon Deborah and Dwight realize that the key to solving this case is hidden in Rachel’s mysterious final words. Her mixed-up memories harbored a dark secret-a secret that someone close to them is determined to bury forever.
Who murdered Aunt Rachel? What words did she speak that caused someone to kill her? How did her Uncle die? Is there a connection? That’s what Dwight and Deborah set out to find in this character-driven drama that I could not put down until it was over. I love the comfortable tone and the way the book pulls me into the storyline, as I’m right there with the Knott clan. The mystery was good with plenty of suspects, who could have done the deed, and it was fun watching it all play out with secrets exposed and especially with the revelation of the killer’s identity. Boasting a great cast ensemble with engaging dialogue and the feel of good old-southern hospitality, this well-written drama is one of the best yet in this terrific series and I look forward to spending more time with Deborah Knott and her family and friends in their next adventures.