The Buzzard Table
Review: A mysterious man studying the habits of vultures in North Carolina may be linked to any of several disparate storylines that unfold in The Buzzard Table, the eighteenth mystery in this series by Margaret Maron.
Martin Crawford seems to have shown up out of nowhere, setting up a "buzzard table" in the woods upon which he serves regional vultures freshly killed wildlife to observe their habits. (In one of the factoids that precede every chapter, one is informed that "Vultures prefer to eat fairly fresh meat.") But he has another reason to be there: his aunt, Mrs. Lattimore, a force in Cotton Grove, who used "her money and family connections to get things done the way she wanted them done", is dying and her family is gathering together to pay their respects. Mrs. Lattimore is also a distant cousin to local Judge Deborah Knott as well as the grandmother of NYPD detective Sigrid Harald, who is also visiting. But while the clan is busy catching up on each other's lives, Deborah's husband Dwight Bryant, a Deputy Sheriff, is busy investigating the disappearance of — and later the murder of — a real estate agent. When a photography student is also found murdered, there doesn't seem to be a connection between the cases. But appearances can be deceiving …
It's hard to know what to make of this murder mystery … which, despite everything else, is what The Buzzard Table is at its core. Having said that, there doesn't seem to be much of a primary plot thread here; rather, this is more of a collection of seemingly random subplots that unfold in a sequential manner (from the point of view of a variety of characters), which are then loosely connected by the final page. And even then, some of the connections seem tenuous at best. To its credit, this isn't a poorly written or constructed crime novel but one that puzzles nonetheless. Deborah Knott, the presumed lead of this series, basically sits this story out. That, in and of itself, isn't necessarily a bad thing as it often helps a long-running series by allowing it to take a breather, as it were. But the inclusion of the author's other series character — Sigrid Harald — in her own independent storyline is just plain odd. She does help out with the investigation, but the effort seems forced. Another element that doesn't work is a politically charged — and somewhat gratituous for its inclusion — subplot that could have been handled a bit more deftly than it is. Fans of the series will doubtlessly be entertained by all the goings-on, but new readers are advised to start with one of the earlier books; this one will simply overwhelm.
Acknowledgment: Grand Central provided an eARC of The Buzzard Table for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Grand Central (Hardcover), August 2007
ISBN-13: 9780446582438; ISBN-10: 0446582433
Location(s) referenced in The Buzzard Table: North Carolina
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The Buzzard Table by Margaret Maron — A Deborah Knott Mystery
Publisher: Grand Central
Publication Date: November 2012
List Price: $25.99