Three-Day Town is a reference to New York City: James Cameron once referred to it as “the finest three-day town on earth”. In Margaret Maron’s very fine new entry into her Judge Deborah Knott series, Deborah and her husband travel to New York for a belated honeymoon. Their stay is longer than three days, because they become involved, as usual, in both family business and murder.
In 1942, a naive college freshman pilfers a risque and disgusting piece of object d’art from a college professor that she is certain is a complete poseur. In her 18-year-old certainty, she is absolutely sure she knows everything. She’s right about one thing, the piece is so vulgar, there are so many possible suspects, and the college is still so mired in puritanical values, that the theft will not be reported. It takes her almost 60 years to try to give it back, and when she does, it becomes evidence in a murder. But it’s still vulgar.
Judge Deborah Knott and her husband, Major Dwight Bryant, escape Colleton County North Carolina for week’s vacation in New York City. They’ve been married for a year, but this is the first chance they’ve had to take a honeymoon, between her sitting on the bench as a county judge and his duties with the sheriff’s department. It’s certainly a long-awaited vacation.
They’re borrowing Dwight’s sister-in-law’s apartment for a week. It’s a co-op in a secure building close enough to the Theater District to see the lights. And they have a family errand to run–Deborah has a package to deliver from a distant cousin to that cousin’s daughter. It should be simple, and they should have a relaxing and enjoyable trip.
But things start going wrong the first evening.
The superintendant of the building is murdered in their apartment. And that package? It turns out to be the original disgusting sculpture from 1942-but no one knows the history yet, just that it’s vulgar and artistic. And then there’s the cousin. Cousin Anne is in New Zealand, but her daughter is the one who comes to pick up the package, and ends up investigating the murder. Anne’s daughter is Lt. Sigrid Harald of the NYPD Homicide Division, and she is on the scene visiting with Deborah and Dwight when the body is discovered.
Deborah and Dwight become involved in the investigation in New York, as well as familial crime-solving long distance–there’s a problem back in North Carolina that requires Deborah’s skills. This vacation turns out to be more of a Busman’s Honeymoon, but this couple is always happiest when they are crime-solving, until Deborah’s nosiness puts her in the killer’s sights.
Escape Rating A+: Three-Day Town was a treat! The story takes Deborah and Dwight away from their home ground but still shows them doing what they do best, solving a murder by poking their very intelligent noses into everyone else’s business. At the same time, the strong family ties that make me follow this series are very much in evidence. Deborah solves a problem for her cousins back home, and, best of all, Sigrid Harald is back!
Sigrid Harald is a police lieutenant in the NYPD, a tall, slim, angular woman who solves homicides and doesn’t have much of a personal life. Except that one very interesting man saw something beautiful in her that no one else saw, and because of him, her life and world opened up. If that description sounds familiar, it’s intended to. I think Sigrid Harald may be one of Eve Dallas’ literary fore-mothers. Except that Sigrid had a better childhood and a less happy ending than Eve, at least so far. It was good to see Sigrid again. I’ve missed her.
If you enjoy police procedural-type mysteries with strong female detectives, I highly recommend both the Judge Deborah Knott series and the Sigrid Harald series. Three-Day Town was a fantastic visit with both of these fine investigators, but if you have never met these women before, I would start with the first book in each series, Bootlegger’s Daughter for Deborah and One Coffee With for Sigrid.
The next Deborah Knott book will be The Buzzard Table, sometime next year. Another year, another dead body. Or two. With buzzards in the title, it sounds like she’ll be back in North Carolina. I can hardly wait.