From Publishers Weekly
The death of Mallory Johnson, a popular high school cheerleader, in a suspicious car crash propels Edgar-winner Maron's satisfying 16th Deborah Knott mystery (after 2009's Sand Sharks). While Deborah, a Colleton County, N.C., judge, and her huge clan are preparing for a big North Carolina Christmas, her husband, chief deputy Dwight Bryant, looks into the shooting of two trailer-park brothers. Deborah's countless nieces and nephews pop up frequently, and Deborah, with her realistic and appealing combination of common sense and a sharp ear, pulls clues from the kids' random comments. Mallory's less popular half-brother, her slighted best friend, and all the boys she toyed with are all possible bad guys, though how the one-car accident was orchestrated is a mystery in itself. As usual, interludes with relatives overshadow the investigating, but of course the warm and authentic family relationships are the heart of this evergreen series. (Nov.) (c)
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As Christmas and their first anniversary approach, District Judge Deborah Knott and chief sheriff’s deputy Major Dwight Bryant deal with three deaths in their Colleton County, North Carolina, community. First Mallory Johnson, the golden girl of her senior high-school class, dies after crashing her car on the way home from a party, just two months after two students died and another was crippled, also in a car crash. Days later, the two teenage, ne’er-do-well Wentworth brothers are found shot to death. The community is especially shaken by Mallory’s death, since the homecoming queen and cheerleader was known not to drink or do drugs (although neither was she Little Miss Perfect), but Dwight is diverted from that investigation by the murders. As Deborah and Dwight gather and share information from family and friends about both cases, they find connections to a decades-old death. Yet Deborah carries on her holiday routines, even having a breakthrough with a previously chilly sister-in-law. Maron’s trademark warm humor and Deborah’s and Dwight’s loving kinfolk leaven the tragedy to make this sixteenth in the series another winning entry and a fine holiday mystery. --Michele Leber