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Last Lessons of Summer [Hardcover]

Margaret Maron
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug. 26 2003 Maron, Margaret
Heir to her family's successful children's book and merchandising business, Amy Stedman arrives in NorthCarolina with the task of clearing out the house of her deceased grandmother-whose murder remains unsolved. While sorting through her grandmother's things, Amy begins to reflect on her own marriage to a man who seems more in love with her legacy than with her. Similarly, Amy's mother's mar-riage to her father-brash young businessman and opportunist Jeff Voygt-was filled with doubt and deceit. Furthermore, soon after Amy was born, her mother, Maxine, killed herself. Or did she? Now, in her grandmother's house, the memories of the deaths of these two women play menacingly with Amy's mind. Was her mother's death really a suicide? And if not, can Amy escape her family's killer?

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From Publishers Weekly

Known best for her Deborah Knott novels (Slow Dollar, etc.) and her Sigrid Harald series (Fugitive Colors, etc.), Edgar-winner Maron has produced a standalone gem, set in North Carolina's Piedmont country, that focuses on a large matriarchal family. Amy Steadman, a toy company executive in New York City, returns to her Southern roots one steamy August after inheriting a fortune from her murdered maternal grandmother, Frances Barbour. Aided by Beth, her pouty younger half-sister, Amy sorts through furniture, books and other personal items in Grandma Frances's summer house, where Amy's mother, Maxie, committed suicide when Amy was three. Amy is determined to find out what was really behind her mother's death-and her grandmother's, too. Amy's many kinfolk, who pass in and out of the house, seem as kind and gentle as can be, but one of them is decidedly dangerous. Cousin Curt is poisoned with jimson weed seeds cooked into a jar of preserves, and another tainted jar turns up in Amy's refrigerator. Maron has a faultless ear for Southern speech, dotting her dialogue with regionalisms like "I might could have." A feast of clues and red herrings, the book builds to a climax that hits like a hot bullet blast. With oodles of characters to keep straight, readers will find the family tree at the start an essential guide.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

This is a stand-alone mystery from the author of the popular Judge Deborah Knott series. Fans of the Knott series will want to read Maron's latest, but this desultory sleuthing excursion might leave them disappointed. A New York City heiress to a toy company returns to North Carolina after her grandmother's death and, in the course of clearing the house, finds herself investigating her grandmother's murder and the suspicious death, years before, of her own mother. The writing, unfortunately, suggests an insipid teen romance. The heroine, in crisis, urges herself on with sayings from a beloved book about two stuffed animals: "What do you think, Pink? What'll we do, Blue?" Plot twists are delivered awkwardly, sometimes in artificial dialogue, as in, "Yet, three years later, she shot herself. Why, Dad?" The heroine doesn't so much solve the mystery as stand around while people decide to divulge secrets. Maron is a popular mystery author, and most library collections will need her complete works, but this one is sadly deficient. Connie Fletcher
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Southern Melodrama May 9 2004
Format:Hardcover
As a big fan of Margaret Maron's Deborah Knott series, I was really looking forward to reading this stand-alone book. Unfortunately I was disappointed by what I found. The book has the obligatory complex family tree at the beginning and a beleagured heroine in Amy Steadman, the main heiress of her grandmother's fortune. After her grandmother's untimely death, supposedly at the hands of a mysterious intruder, Amy goes to her North Carolina home to clean up her things and sign the papers to sell the house. She becomes reacquainted with family members whom she hasn't seen in years, and discovers that all of them stand to benefit financially from her grandmother's death. She also looks into her mother's suicide which occurred when she was a small child. On top of this, Amy suspects that her husband Eric is having an affair, but actually has nothing to prove it. She flirts with a law officer in North Carolina and keeps putting off her husband's calls, a jarring note to her supposedly decent character. Her half-sister Beth appears on the scene and her character zigs and zags its way thorugh the book in a way that lacks credence. After reading this book, I look forward to the next Deborah Knott story with great anticipation.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Missing Deb'rah April 29 2004
Format:Hardcover
I enjoyed this book, but I missed Deborah Knott and Mr. Kezzie and the others. I was glad to see Dwight and the FBI man show up but wished they had been more instrumental in the plot. Certainly worth your time, but not as funny as the other books by Ms. Maron.
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By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I was sorry that the talented Ms. Margaret Maron decided to make this book a mystery rather than a multigenerational family saga. The family part of the story is rich in many dimensions, including intrigue, emotion, improper behavior and a struggle for power. Perhaps the richest and most intriguing dimension is that a major family fortune rests on the slight imagination of one young child.
We enter into the story as a member of the third generation, Ms. Amy Steadman, decides to flee to North Carolina to clean out the home in which her grandmother was recently murdered before agreeing to sell the property. It turns out that not all is smooth in Amy's life, despite her wealth. Amy is suspicious of her husband's lack of interest in her, dislikes her father's philandering, finds her siblings to be awkward to deal with, misses her Mom who committed suicide when Amy was small, and finds her myriad relatives to be confusing in their behavior.
All of this takes a more sinister turn when Amy begins receiving threatening telephone calls . . . and finds herself in danger. What will this sheltered woman do to protect herself and her family? What dark secrets are being hidden?
I found the mystery to have two serious drawbacks. First, this book is way overpopulated with characters who are in Amy's family. Thankfully, Ms. Maron provides a family tree in the beginning. But I couldn't seem to remember who was who because there are so many of them. Do you really want to keep track of 30 plus people in one family? I found most of them to be hard to distinguish in any way that added to the story.
Second, the mystery itself is only marginally mysterious enough to require any thought. I found that the ending was telegraphed in way too many ways . . . and too much too long to develop.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Stand Alone by Margaret Maron Dec 21 2003
Format:Hardcover
Margaret Maron has created another great mystery that is NOT based on her wonderful Deborah Knott series.
Amy Steadman is the heir to a toy/childrens book empire left to her by her Grandmother(Francis Barbour.) Amy is an artist and wants nothing to do with the business side of the company. However, since Amy's mother Maxi committed suicide when Amy was only 3 Francis was determined that Amy's father could run the company but the ownership would remain Amy's.
The company business has been run for over 30 years by Amy's father. Now, he is talking of retirement and the step-brothers and half-sister that she's grown up with are showing some resentment for the years of knowing that she was the Heir to the vast empire they all had grown up with.
Amy's recent marriage is having problems and it's only adding to the pressure she's under. Amy doesn't like confrontation so after her Grandmother's murder she's offered a large sum of money to sell the southern home her Grandmother inhabited in the later years of her life with her Grandfather in North Carolina.
Amy decides that she wants some answers not only to the death of Francis but of the secrets behind the suicide of her mother years before. It's the perfect excuse for her to escape her problems and hopefully get some of the answers that everyone has made a point of making her forget over these years. Afraid of sending movers to go through boxes of personal items she heads off to clear the house out herself.
She arrives to a family full of secrets and a murderer still out there and now threatening Amy.
Her half-sister Beth runs away from her own problems with the family and shows up on her doorstep with tales of woe of her own.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely a Good Read Nov. 17 2003
Format:Hardcover
Enjoyed this even more than her Knotts books. Very smooth, with lots of "He/she could have done it". Well, worth giving a try if you've read the author before and certainly a good starter book for future Maron followers.
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