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Southern Discomfort

Southern Discomfort

Author(s): Margaret Maron

Location(s): North Carolina

Genre(s): Crime, Fiction

Era(s): early 21st century

Deborah Knott may have lost the district election, but a bigoted judge’s sudden death–and some old-fashioned political horse trading–have won her a governor’s appointment. True to Southern form, her swearing-in is followed by a raucous reception that brings out every elderly aunt and cousin in the county.

Unfortunately, Lu Bingham, the force behind WomenAid, is at the reception, too. Not only has she come to collect the leftovers for her daycare center, but she’s also there to collect on one of Deborah’s more extravagant campaign promises. Before Deborah can say, “If elected…” she is committed to putting her muscle where her mouth was, spending weekends with an all-woman crew as the group attempts to build its first house for a needy single mom.

Old stereotypes die hard. Herman Knott, one of Deborah’s numerous brothers, has to be hectored and cajoled before he’ll give reluctant permission for his daughter and novice electrician Annie Sue to wire the house. Nor does it help that the county building inspector is a swaggering chauvinist nit-picker who’s more interested in scoring with the young women than scoring their work.

Chaos erupts before the house is even half-finished. On the same rainy summer night that Herman collapses on the side of the road from an apparent heart attack, Annie Sue is found battered and half-naked in the deserted structure. Has she been raped? Who left her in that condition? And whose blood is that on Deborah’s own hammer?

Dwight Bryant, an old childhood friend (and a bit of a good ol’ boy), is a modern and efficient police detective, but it is Deborah who must judge whether dark secrets in her own family have led to murder. And if so, reveal the darker more troubling reasons why.

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Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition!

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

Judges include Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley

First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

Winning entry published on TripFiction site and publicised on Social Media

Entries close 6th November 2021