Last Lessons of Summer Hardcover – Aug 26 2003
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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.
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
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Although the comparison remains open to argument, Maron's LAST LESSONS OF SUMMER does strike a familiar chord with Mitchell's literary masterpiece by providing memorable characters and the many nuances of living below the Mason-Dixon Line. Like Mitchell, Maron has deep southern roots and is a highly acclaimed mystery writer. She has won numerous awards for her Deborah Knott and Sigrid Harald serial novels.
But LAST LESSONS OF SUMMER isn't a serial novel. Rather it is a compelling murder mystery featuring Amy Steadman, a recent newlywed from New York City who returns to North Carolina in an attempt to investigate the grizzly murder of her grandmother, Frances, patriarch of the Barbour publishing empire. Along the way, she also looks at her beloved mother's apparent suicide and experiences swirling family angst over inheritance issues.
Before the novel begins, Maron masterfully introduces to her readers a simple family tree that aids in following the story. Without a doubt, you will find it pressing not to flip back to the family tree as you read.
Maron is extremely gifted in providing tension, intrigue and drama in this 295-page whodunit. There is also a measure of romantic overtones, as Amy fights the notion of a cheating husband and a sudden attraction to the local detective investigating her grandmother's murder.
While LAST LESSONS OF SUMMER is well worth reading, Maron could have delved more deeply into the psyche of her characters, especially her main protagonist Amy.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
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... Read morePublished on April 29 2004 by Beth Dusin
Enjoyed this even more than her Knotts books. Very smooth, with lots of "He/she could have done it". Read morePublished on Nov. 17 2003 by MysteryLover
Enjoyed this more than I thought I would with it not being a Deborah Knott. So many relatives was a bit much to get a feel for all at once, but maybe that was the point. Read morePublished on Nov. 3 2003 by L. Schofield
Manhattan based Pink and Blue and Max Enterprises executive Amy Steadman returns to her North Carolina home following the murder of her grandmother, Frances Barbour. Read morePublished on Sept. 2 2003 by Harriet Klausner
I am a huge fan of Margaret Maron's Deborah Knott series, and I totally enjoyed this book. Some of the Knott series characters make appearances in this book as well, but the main... Read morePublished on Aug. 30 2003