Grand Central, Nov 2010, $25.99
It has been nearly a year since Colleton County, North Carolina Judge Deborah Knott married Sheriff’s Deputy Dwight Bryant and both have never been happier. They have full custody of his son Carl since his mother died and Deborah is a like a second mom to the youngster. However, the Christmas season brings sorrow to one family when in-crowd leader Mallory Johnson dies in a car crash.
She neither drank nor took drugs, but after leaving a party, Mallory skidded off the road. Alcohol is found in her bloodstream and a friend confesses that she put booze and vicodin in a coke. She blames herself for the death of Mallory, who was a tease. However, evidence surfaces that imply the Mickey Finn might not have caused the death. Dwight is workingon a case where Deborah two brothers who were shot to death. It comes as a shock that the three deaths are linked, but to understand how will lead to identifying the killer in both cases.
Margaret Maron can always be counted on for writing a strong regional mystery that brings the reader into the story line. Christmas Mourning contains a complex whodunit complemented by a profound realistic family drama, especially the deep look at the two families impacted by the deaths. This Knott-Bryant murder mystery is worthy of an Agatha nomination.