Christmas Mourning
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 2, 2010
It has been a year of non-stop change for Judge Deborah Knott and her husband the Colleton County Sherriff's Deputy Dwight Bryant. They are about to celebrate their first anniversary and finally have Dwight's son Cal settled into living with them after the tragedy of losing his mother. But this homey scene is rocked when Mallory, a popular teenager dies in a tragic car accident. Leaving too many questions and no answers in what should be an open and shut case.

Questions start popping up when Mallory's last voice mail to her brother plays out the final moments of her life in too real detail. The suspicion that she might have been drinking escalates into fact which causes escalation that she had been drugged since Mallory may have flirted with the boys she was not a girl known to walk against the grain and never drank alcohol. So Dwight starts digging deeper into the situation and without a day gone by two more bodies turn up and this time their cause of death is obvious - gun shots straight on. These brothers were always on the wrong side of the law but what could have caused them to have been so brutally murdered? Is this case related to the traffic accident? What is it that Mallory's family is not telling him that might be at the core of the problem? Too many questions and no one is saying a word, this definitely is not the way to kick off the holiday season that is for sure.

Dwight is tenacious, Deborah is a snoop and family is determined to find out what happened and hopefully resolving these crimes will not lead to anymore but it is not looking good. But what is going on at the house is another head scratcher? All of Deborah's nieces and nephews keep showing up at odd times, with strange explanations and even wilder more unbelievable tales to explain their presence at the house. Hopefully nothing catches on fire this year!

This series always brings to the reader a mystery, family drama and shenanigans plus some wonderful romance between Dwight and Deborah. Another year has produced another winner in this series and as always with Ms. Maron's work you have to get to the end of the book to know who done it! Margaret Maron leaves lots of clues but always throws in a curve to make sure you are paying attention. Thank you again for writing such a great series that everyone will enjoy.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2010
I read several Margaret Maron books years ago and decided to pick this one up for a Christmas read. I remember liking her books quite well, but this one was only so-so. I quickly became annoyed with the neices and nephews, and, since it had been a while since I had visited the Knott family, I had trouble keeping straight which kid belonged to which brother. Also, the teenagers were just a little too cute and a little too flat for my taste. Maybe if there were fewer of them they could be better developed. With that being said, it was fine for a snowy Sunday afternoon. I
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 13, 2010
Although the cosy is almost my least-favorite form of mystery (just above detective-as-drunk noir and those themed things with pasta or knitting in all the titles), I always buy Margaret Maron's Colleton County books. When Deborah Knott leaves her home turf, I find the tales too thin, but when Maron keeps the judge at home, it's a feast of food, family, music, farm life, and her insights about the shocking changes in the culture and landscape of my native South.

This is a good entry in the series -- or a good entry point if you've read none of them. Deborah's family is tied to the land of eastern NC, literally and emotionally. As traditional farming gets amplified by organic and specialty crops, the latest generation of her family maintains that bond. Deborah Knott's love of the land is presented to us through dozens of casually recounted memories and family stories, as is her romance with her old friend/new husband. No, there's not much action, but Maron's ear is exquisite and the dialogue is a real treat for Southerners in exile.

The plot here touches on the problem of high school kids and their cell phone culture -- texting while driving now seems to be almost as lethal is drinking and driving. As usual, the actions of the characters in the criminal plot are shadowed by members of Deborah's enormous family, and we get a sense of how confused teens are by all the choices they have.

There's no blood, no politics, no attempts To Achieve World Peace, no gimmicks, but in this genre, that's fine. Maron's series still offers that gentle pleasure: a quiet afternoon reading on the porch.

That said, this is the first Maron I've read since discovering Louise Penny. Penny's Three Pines series elevates the cosy to a sublime level, adding both beauty -- the poetry, the perfectly crafted book-length metaphors -- and gravitas. There's an Aristotelian Choice confronting nearly every main character at one point or another. Moral virtue and intellectual virtue work toward an end that includes the reader in a worthy work. Maron's book is delightful, but if you want breath-taking, try Louise Penny.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2010
by a hometown author. I've read just about every word Margaret Maron has had published. I own most, going so far as buying some of the old Sigrid books on Ebay. I've attended two launch parties at Margaret's home book store, Quail Ridge Books here in Raleigh, and even enjoyed a piece of Deborah and Dwight's wedding cake there. I wish Deborah was my best friend. I particularly enjoy Margaret's country dialog which is charming and spot on.

All that being said, you can believe me when I say I can be as stubborn as her greedy publisher about the price point. As of this morning, I can buy a new hardcover here for $11.75, a used hardcover for $10.99, but the Kindle version remains at $12.99. I'm a K1 "early adopter" so I am in the $9.99 for any book crowd. I did NOT purchase CHRISTMAS MOURNING, which I WOULD HAVE if the Kindle price was $9.99. Instead, a coworker let me read her library copy. This coworker also owns a Kindle and would have purchased at $9.99. So, Mr./Ms. Publisher, you lost two sales.

Also, sad to say, the editor was asleep at the wheel----"leafs"! Please!

About the story itself I'll say this was the least "mysterious" of any in the series. Deborah didn't even get herself into a perilous pickle as she has in the past. I felt this break with the recipe was amply compensated by the detail and family warmth. I enjoyed visiting with the Knott/Bryants again and savored every word. I look forward to the next installment. Keep them coming, Margaret.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2012
Margaret Maron reliably delivers yet another Deborah Knott mystery. The tragic death of a young high school classmate of some of Deborah's nieces & nephews in an automobile accident raises questions. As usual, Knott and husband Dwight Bryant work somewhat separately, but by mining her extensive family (and his this time, too) and using her deep connections in the rural Carolina community she was reared in, they eventually arrive at the solution. Nothing terribly new or innovative here, but an intriguing mystery and an enjoyable yarn.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2012
I had never heard of the Deborah Knott series, but when I saw this Christmas-themed book, I loaded it on the Kindle.

It was pleasant. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and they all seem perfectly agreeable.

The mystery, as it was, was not very compelling, but interesting. There were no real "bad guys" in the book, which was nice.

The Southern pace was a bit slow for me.

Deborah's world was a nice place to visit, but I probably won't be going back anytime soon.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2011
I have read several of Margaret Maron's books so I looked forward to reading this one as one of my book club's December selections. I was very disappointed and truly glad I did not purchase this book, but received it on loan from my library.

Anyone familiar with Maron's work knows that there is an endless list of relatives in her stories and she even includes a family tree to keep them straight. I was assailed with endless characters on almost every page. This book seemed more a diary of Deborah Knott's than a mystery (We made Christmas cookies; How I picked my wedding dress, etc.) Somewhere in this endless prattle, there was a mystery to solve.

I quickly realized that I could follow the mystery by skimming the chapters and only reading the last few paragraphs of each chapter for the development of the story.

I found all of this background information about the various branches of her family tree distracting to the focus of the book. The mystery does not really move along until the last few chapters of the book where an old murder and 2 more-recent murders are solved.

This was an unchallenging, boring read.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I hadn't read any of Margaret Maron's books before winning this one on a book review blog. Now I shall be eagerly searching for more, preferably more of the same series, though I'm sure I'd enjoy her other books too. Christmas Mourning is set in rural North Carolina where teenagers text and drive, hunters use illegal lamps to blind deer, and Judge Deborah Knott combines marriage to the local deputy, aunt-hood to a gazillion youngsters, and the baseless accusations of a maddening mother against drunk driving, all while preparing to celebrate her wedding anniversary and Christmas.

The author's ear for teen dialog and eye for teen mannerisms seem absolutely perfect. And the outspoken, generous judge is a wonderful character. I thoroughly enjoyed watching through a morning of quiet cases, while the mourning of a rich family outside for their daughter contrasted sadly with that of a poor mother for her missing sons. Mystery hides in the mist. Real people with real hopes and fears walk the road. Real life intervenes when real love sets its sights on a night out. And the whole is a delightful mix, well-seasoned, old-fashioned and thoroughly up-to-date.

Margaret Maron's writing is a pleasant reminder that there are still mysteries out there where characters have sensible, well-reasoned thoughts, where romance blooms delightfully but bedroom doors stay closed, and where the mistakes of youth are a sign of youth, not a warning that the world's about to end. I really enjoyed reading this book, and thoroughly recommend it.
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VINE VOICEon January 12, 2012
In my first-ever Kindle purchase/read, I chose to download Maron's Christmas Mourning; an entry in her Judge Deborah Knott series, set in Colleton County, North Carolina. I enjoy reading her Christmastime entries during the holiday season!

I'm giving the book 5 stars, but I think that it would rate lower with readers who haven't faithfully followed the series, just because the Judge's widespread clan makes keeping up with the characters very difficult.

Judge Knott and husband, Dwight, team up to help resolve the accident of one Colleton County team in a car crash and the murder of two other young men of the county. Maron does a good job of keeping us guessing on the resolution, and along the way, delights us with the holiday customs of the family. Deborah and Dwight celebrate their first anniversary; the book is a mix of the cozy elements that make this series memorable, plus a decent mystery, and the cultural emphasis that Maron always uses, this time expounding on the tragedies of teen deaths on the road.

One of my favorite elements of the book was the big Maron hint that she would be uniting Knott and her heroine of a previous series, NYC Detective Sigrid Harald, in an upcoming plot. Can't wait!

I'm a big fan of this series and the Sigrid Harald series, but caution readers that both are best enjoyed if you read the books in order.
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This review applies to the audio version.

In this latest Judge Deborah Knott and clan mystery, it's Christmas time once again and Deborah and Dwight are celebrating their first anniversary as well. A series of fatal car crashes involving young folks has set a bit of a pall over Colleton County's festivities, though, especially the most recent involving Mallory Johnson, head cheerleader at West Colleton High. By everyone's account, she's practically perfect, so when a small amount of alcohol is found in her blood, everyone is shocked, and her father insists that someone must have spiked her soda pop. Otherwise why would she have crashed on a straight stretch of road in good driving weather? And who would do such a thing? As the town mourns her loss, deeper investigation of course reveals that Mallory wasn't without her flaws, but it takes two more deaths for Dwight (and Deborah!) to connect the dots.

A very enjoyable visit to Colleton County, laced with big doses of family lore and Christmas tradition and history. Great story, and as always, the author tackles social issues along the way and gives you something to think about, although the mystery wasn't too much of a puzzle to figure out fairly well in advance. Wonderfully read by CJ Critt, as always. A+
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