The Barnes & Noble Review
I've been reading a lot of F. Scott Fitzgerald lately, notably Tender is the Night and a number of the so-called "slick" stories he wrote. The first thing that surprised me was how many of his stories brush up against the crime genre. In his notebooks he talks about how criminals are a part of all society -- Balzac said pretty much the same thing -- and yet people are always surprised when they come up against evidence of crime in their own lives.
Margaret Maron explores this theme in her excellent new novel, Storm Track. Lillian Bullock, a woman most townspeople of Colleton County, North Carolina, thought of as loose, is found dead in a motel. And from that room the ripples and eddies of suspicion spread far and wide. Her death forces an entire town to come up against evidence of crime in their own lives.
Judge Deborah Knott finds herself looking at her town and her friends in a chilling new light. The homicide touches a number of lives close to hers, even including her kin. She has suspicions she doesn't want to have and begins to perceive certain people in ways she fights against. Maron dramatically contrasts the emotional storm with Hurricane Fran, a fury of biblical wrath about to be visited upon Colleton County. Her hurricane details give a reportorial tone that contrasts nicely with the nimble grace of her human portraiture and storytelling. She also has Fitzgerald's (and Chandler's) knack of taking a scene you've read numerous times and doing something new with it -- giving it a new spin or adding a moment of humor or melancholy. For me this is the mark of a first-rate writer: making all the conventions of a genre seem uniquely your own.
Margaret Maron is quietly becoming one of the true masters of contemporary mystery fiction. Her elegantly underplayed Storm Track should win her a whole lot of new fans. (Ed Gorman)