Margaret Maron. Christmas Mourning. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2010.

It’s the week before Christmas and Judge Deborah Knott is in good spirits. Her judicial docket appears to be routine and she is looking forward to participating in the holiday activities of the extended Knott clan.  The first anniversary of Deborah’s marriage to sheriff’s deputy Dwight Bryant is just days away.  They are happier than ever, and Dwight’s son, Cal, has started to warm up to Deborah.  Cal is also becoming friends with some of Deborah’s nieces and nephews.

All the youngsters, and most of community, are thrown for a loss when Mallory Johnson, one of the golden girls at West Colleton High, dies in a single car accident.  Mallory was the homecoming queen, a cheerleader, and a fine student.  She also had a reputation as a good girl—someone who resisted the temptations of drinking, drugs, and casual sex.  Mallory’s parents are shocked when they learn that she had alcohol and a drug in her system when she died.  They press the sheriff’s office to investigate the party that Mallory attended before the crash.

As Dwight investigates Mallory and her circle of friends, he finds that Mallory was not quite the girl her parents thought.  Still, Dwight is ambivalent about continuing the investigation.  The department has been trying to a catch meth cooker in the county, and this seems a bigger issue than what Mallory was doing in the hours before her accident.  Soon even the meth investigation becomes a lesser priority when two young men are gunned down outside a trailer out in the county.  The two brothers were from a very different social sphere than the Johnsons, yet Dwight must look for connections between their deaths and Mallory’s when he learns that the younger brother claimed to be Mallory’s boyfriend.

As in so many of the Judge Deborah Knott novels, the present is strongly connected to the past, and the deaths this sad December lead Dwight to reexamine an accident that occurred almost twenty years ago. While Dwight and Deborah piece the puzzle together, they (and the reader) enjoy some of the holiday get-togethers (and a few surprises) that make up the Christmas season in Colleton County.

This is the sixteenth novel in the Judge Deborah Knott series

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Coastal Plain, Maron, Margaret, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

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