Christmas Mourning (Deborah Knott Series #16)

Christmas Mourning (Deborah Knott Series #16)

by Margaret Maron

NOOK Book(eBook)

$7.99 View All Available Formats & Editions

Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now


A Knott-family holiday season mystery, as District Judge Deborah Knott and chief sheriff's deputy Major Dwight Bryant investigate three deaths in their Colleton County, North Carolina community.

Judge Deborah Knott is looking forward to a family celebration when a tragedy clouds the holiday season. A beautiful young cheerleader dies in a car crash and the community is devastated by her death. Sheriff's deputy Dwight Bryant soon learns that her death was not a simple accident, and more lives may be lost unless he and Deborah can discover why she died.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446574044
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 11/05/2010
Series: Deborah Knott Series , #16
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 165,582
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

MARGARET MARON grew up in the country near Raleigh, North Carolina, but for many years lived in Brooklyn, New York. When she and her artist husband returned to the farm that had been in her family for a hundred years, she began a series based on her own background. The first book, Bootlegger's Daughter, became a Washington Post bestseller that swept the major mystery awards for its year-winning the Edgar, Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Awards for Best Novel-and is among the 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century as selected by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association. Later Deborah Knott novels Up Jumps the Devil, Storm Track, and Three-Day Town each also won the Agatha Award for Best Novel. Margaret is also the author of the Sigrid Harald series of detective novels. In 2008, Maron received the North Carolina Award for Literature, the highest civilian honor the state bestows on its authors. And in 2013, the Mystery Writers of America celebrated Maron's contributions to the mystery genre by naming her a Grand Master-an honor first bestowed on Agatha Christie. To find out more about her, you can visit

Read an Excerpt

Christmas Mourning

By Maron, Margaret

Grand Central Publishing

Copyright © 2010 Maron, Margaret
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780446555807


Marley was dead to begin with.

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

“—which means I can usually adjourn around five o’clock. After that, I may have to sign some judgments or search warrants or other documents, but most days I’m done by five or five-thirty.” I made a show of looking at my watch. Although I had ninety seconds left of the five minutes I’d been allotted, it was chilly here in the gym and my toes felt frozen. I smiled at the high school freshmen, who sat on tiered benches beneath secular swags of fake evergreens tied with red plastic ribbons, and gestured to the tables over by the far wall. “So I’ll adjourn for now and be back there if you have any questions.”

There was polite applause as I yielded the microphone to a nurse-practitioner from the new walk-in clinic that had recently opened up in a shopping center that sprawled around one of I-40’s exits here in the county.

It was Thursday afternoon, the day before the beginning of their Christmas—oops! Winter—break.

(Political correctness has finally, begrudgingly, arrived in Colleton County. Forty percent of our population call themselves Christian, and at least sixty percent of those write alarmist letters to the editor every year claiming that Christ is being dissed by the ten percent who check off “other” when polled about religious beliefs.)

Today was Career Day at West Colleton High, and I was the sixth of seven speakers that the principal, who’s also my mother-in-law, hoped would inspire these way-too-cool-to-look-interested students. My name card—District Court Judge Deborah Knott—was on one of the long tables that lined the end wall, and I sat down beside my husband, whose own name card read Major Dwight Bryant, Chief Deputy, Colleton County Sheriff’s Department.

He can’t say no to his mother either.

My only props were a brass-bound wooden gavel, a thick law book, some gavel-headed personalized pencils left over from my last campaign, a summary of the education needed to become an attorney before running for the bench, and a list of the more common infractions of the law that a district court judge might rule on.

Dwight’s array was much more impressive: a pair of handcuffs, a nightstick, a gold badge, a Kevlar vest, and an empty pistol with a locked trigger guard just to be on the safe side. He also had a stack of flyers that outlined requirements for joining the sheriff’s department.

“The way the county’s growing, we keep needing new recruits,” he said when Miss Emily asked us to do this shortly after Thanksgiving.

That sneaky lady had invited us over for Sunday dinner and then softened us up with fried chicken, tender flaky biscuits, and a melt-in-your-mouth coconut cream pie. I don’t know what she had to do to get the chief of the West Colleton Volunteer Fire Department to come, but it’s a good thing that my handouts take up a minimal amount of space. Between his hazmat suit and fire axe and Dwight’s show-and-tell, there was no room for anything else.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and looked up to see one of my eleven older brothers. Zach is next to me in age, the second-born of the “little twins” and five down from the “big twins” produced in Daddy’s first marriage. Zach is also an assistant principal here at West Colleton.

“Good job,” he said, handing me a welcome cup of steaming hot coffee. “Thanks for coming.”

“No problem,” I said.

Dwight had already emptied his own coffee cup, but he took a swallow of mine when offered. Sometimes I think he should just open a vein and mainline his caffeine. “I sure hope some of these kids will fill out an application form for us in three or four years,” he told Zach.

“I got dibs on the Turner boy,” said the fire chief. His big hand almost hid a clear plastic bottle of water and he drained it in two gulps. “His brother Donny’s unit left for Iraq last week, but little Jeb there’s already turning out with us on weekends.”

I remembered Donny Turner from the church burnings summer before last and said a silent prayer for all the kids who have gone to the Middle East these past few years. One glance at Dwight’s face and I knew he was thinking of the young deputy who’d signed on for a tour with one of the private security companies there. To lighten the moment, I said, “I guess I’ll get nothing but bad jokes if I say that some of them could wind up going to law school.”

Zach grinned. “Adam e’d me a good one this morning.”

Adam’s his twin out in California and I was sure he’d emailed me the same joke. I sighed and rolled my eyes, but there was no stopping Zach.

“A lawyer telephones the governor’s mansion just after midnight and says he’s got to talk to the governor right away. So the aide wakes up the governor, who says, ‘What’s so damn urgent it can’t wait till morning?’

“ ‘Judge Smith just died,’ says the attorney, ‘and I’d like to take his place.’

“The governor yawns and says—”

“Yeah, yeah,” I said, stomping on his punch line. “ ‘If it’s okay with the undertaker, it’s okay with me.’ ”

Zach’s grin widened; Dwight and the chief tried to keep their laughs down in deference to the last speaker at the front of the gym, but it was a struggle for both of them.

Rednecks, lawyers, and blondes. The only safe butts left. My hair is more light brown than dandelion gold (thank you, Jesus!), so I don’t have to wince at all the dumb-blonde lawyer jokes. You’d be surprised how many there are.

“Did I tell you, Dwight?” said the fire chief. “That warm spell last week? We got a call from one of them new houses out your way about hazardous fumes.”

Hazardous fumes in our neighborhood? My head came up on that one.

“Yeah,” said the chief. “We suited up and went rolling out. Thing is, that’s the first time the wind had blown from that particular direction since them new folks moved in.”

“Jeeter Langdon’s hog farm?” Dwight asked.

The chief chuckled. “You got it.”

Back at the podium, the nurse-practitioner finished her spiel and headed for her spot at the next table. The school’s guidance counselor took the mike and instructed the students to use the rest of the period to learn more about our varied professions.

The kids streamed off the bleachers. All were on the right side of the dress code, but just barely. The boys’ jeans were loose and baggy; the girls’ had not an extra millimeter of denim, although today’s icy December chill had put them all in hoodies and fleecy sweatshirts or sweaters.

My brother Andrew’s daughter Ruth and her cousin Richard, Seth and Minnie’s youngest child, were both in the stands and both had given me a thumbs-up when our eyes met earlier in the period, but neither of them would be over to our tables for career suggestions. Last year when the family met to discuss the future of the land we owned, Richard had announced that he for one was going to stay right there and farm, while Ruth planned to open a stable with Richard’s sister Jessica. Both girls have been crazy about horses since they were lifted into a saddle as toddlers.

The first to reach us was a white boy with spiked hair and clear plastic retainers where his forbidden eyebrow and nose rings would normally ride. “Were you ever on Court TV?”

I shook my head and started to explain the difference between reality shows and reality, but he had already moved on to Dwight.

Picking up the handgun and hefting it with more familiarity than you like to see in a boy that age, he said, “So like how many guys have you shot?”

A tattooed green viper circled his wrist and stretched its triangular head across the back of his hand. Judging by his stubbly chin, he was probably closer to sixteen than the average freshman and had probably been left back a time or two. With a better haircut and no facial piercings, he would have been a good-looking kid—clear green eyes and smooth, acne-free skin most teenage girls would kill for.

“What’s your name, son?” Dwight asked mildly as he reached out to reclaim the weapon.

The boy clearly wanted to wise off, but with Zach looking on, he released his hold on the gun and muttered, “Matt Wentworth.”

Dwight lifted an eyebrow at that name. “Any kin to Tig Wentworth?”

“My uncle,” he admitted, realizing that we must know Tig Wentworth was currently over in Central Prison, serving a life sentence for the first-degree murder of his stepfather-in-law.

By their fruits ye shall know them.

Here in Colleton County, apples still don’t roll very far from the tree, and among Cotton Grove natives the Wentworths were well known as a violent family, root and stock, for several generations back. Hux Wentworth, this boy’s oldest brother, had been killed in a home invasion, and now that I was reminded, I was pretty sure that another brother—Jack? Jay? No, Jason. That was his name.

Our little weekly, the Cotton Grove Clarion, had used his arrest and conviction as a lead-in to an article on violations of hunting regulations. Jason Wentworth had been brought up before me back around Halloween for jacklighting deer, i.e., illegally hunting them at night with a powerful spotlight that would temporarily blind them and keep them immobile long enough to get off a shot. I had fined him and, as the law requires, made him forfeit both his rifle and his hunting license. The odds were three to one that I’d be seeing this kid in court before he graduated.

If he graduated.

Just before the bell rang to end the period, Miss Emily came bustling through the gym doors and paused to answer her pager. I’m always amazed that this small wiry woman who barely tops five feet is the mother of Dwight and his sister Nancy Faye, who are both built like their tall, big-boned daddy, a farmer who was killed in a tractor accident when they were children. Dwight’s brother Rob and their other sister Beth got Miss Emily’s slender build along with her red hair and green eyes. Normally, Miss Emily’s a force of nature, and there was no hesitation on the part of the school board to make her principal of West Colleton and its two thousand-plus students when this shiny new complex replaced rickety old Zachary Taylor High, where Dwight and I had gone to school.

But as she clipped the pager back in its case, she looked suddenly tired and drained and, for the first time, almost old. Her eyes were bright with unshed tears by the time she reached our table and looked at Dwight with anguish.

“They just called,” she told him. “The Johnson girl died.”


Excerpted from Christmas Mourning by Maron, Margaret Copyright © 2010 by Maron, Margaret. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Christmas Mourning 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 48 reviews.
The_Reading_Reviewer More than 1 year ago
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.
Heart2Heart More than 1 year ago
Mallory Johnson had everything a high school senior could possibly want. She's beautiful, popular, and captain of the cheer leading squad to name just a few. Yet she refuses to commit to just one guy and instead has fun flirting with anyone who is interested. One dark day in the life of the Johnson family finds life for them has completely changed when Mallory is involved in a car crash that takes her life just days before Christmas. Suddenly the wealthy family has nothing left but each other to hold on to. All they want is answers to how she died. They are willing to stop at nothing no matter what the cost to learn just what happened to their daughter. Dwight Bryant works for the Sheriff's department and in the process of investigating Mallory's death he too has some unanswered questions. How does a girl lose her life after rolling her vehicle over on a straight stretch of road with only a single set of skid marks? What happened that night to Mallory Johnson? In the latest mystery novel by Margaret Maron, Christmas Mourning, takes the reader on a criminal investigation into the death of Mallory Johnson in a small town that wants answers before another teen loses their lives on the same stretch of road. I received this novel compliments of Hachette Book Groups for my honest review. I can honestly say at first the book was difficult to understand the many characters you encounter within the first couple of chapters however Margaret Maron does offer a family tree to help the reader understand the close ties of the families involved. Yet by the middle of the book, you are on the ride of your life as your take unexpected twists and turns in trying to solve the case. I would easily rate this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars.
harstan More than 1 year ago
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. Harriet Klausner
Joycepa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Number 16 in the Judge Deborah Knott of North Carolina series.I¿m a big fan of this series, because I think that in Deborah Knott, Maron has created a different female police procedural protagonist--sharp, independent, witty, feminist, steel magnolia who subscribes to many of the traditional values such as marriage and strong family ties. She¿s also a ¿yellow dog¿ Democrat (meaning rather than vote Republican, she¿ll vote for a yellow dog if it¿s on the Democratic ticket) in a Democratic district in a state that has gone Republican since the Dixiecrats walked out (think Strom Thurmond). I thought of Maron on Election Night in 2008 when North Carolina barely, just barely went Democratic for the first time in nearly 50 years.She also has a huge family--11 brothers with wives children and grandchildren, the offspring of a notorious bootlegger, her father Kezzie Knott. The very presence of that massive family provides enough spare characters and situations to keep the books lively and full of interest. Character development is one of her best points.Maron is superb with local color, which is another attraction of the series. Colleton County is fictional, but she has final more or less admitted that it¿s copied from Johnston County, where she lives. Her writing is very good to excellent and she has a fine ear for dialogue. Her plots are pretty standard, but they hold up and furnish plenty of tension to keep the books interesting and the series one I want to continue to read.Usually although not in every book, Maron comments on some social or even environmental issue connected with the plot. But the issues, while developed for the setting and situation, are never resolved in a standard way. In this book, which takes place just before Christmas, the issue is teen use of cell phones and text messaging while driving, and the story opens with separate accidents and four teen deaths in which the use of cell phones is implicated.Maron does a good job with teens, and the story is believable. But as usual, it doesn¿t resolve in an expected way. It¿s not the best in the series, but it¿s still a very fine read from a very fine author who has wisely matured and developed her protagonist and other characters as the years have rolled on, giving the reader the satisfying feeling of growing up with all of tthem. Highly recommended.
readinggeek451 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The death of yet another teenager in a car accident casts a pall over Colleton County shortly before Christmas. The sheriff's department is also busy investigating the shooting deaths of two young layabouts. And the Knott family are preparing for the holidays. All of this keeps Deborah and company busy.Not the best in the series, but certainly not bad. An enjoyable visit with old friends, with the hint of more coming in the next book.
khiemstra631 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Judge Deborah Knott has returned for another installment in her long-running mystery series by author Margaret Maron. I always enjoy reading what Deborah, Dwight, and their families are up to, and the series moves along at a fairly sedate pace making it possibly to know these folks more intimately. I was a little disappointed in this book because I figured out "who done it" about two-thirds of the way through the book and was a little disgusted that it took Dwight and his colleagues at the sheriff's department so long to come to the same conclusions. Nonetheless, it's a fun read set at Christmas time and sure to put the reader in the right frame of mind, even if several murders do pop up along the way!
tututhefirst on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Like the previous ones in the series, the reader is immediately returned to a family of  epic proportions and Maron's inclusion of a family tree in the beginning of the volume is an enormous help in getting each character in place quickly.This one involves a popular cheerleader who is killed while driving home one evening.  Controversy swirls when her father refuses to believe the coroner's report showing alcohol in her system.  Shortly after this accident, two young men who had frequent flyer status with the local law enforcement establishment are found murdered.  Is there a connection between these two happenings?  Deborah and her husband Dwight (the local sheriff) sacrifice a planned for romantic evening celebrating their first wedding anniversary to investigate leads about what really happened.  A well written, well plotted, enjoyable read.  While it is set during the Christmas time period, it is not necessarily a holiday story and can be enjoyed at any time of  the year.  I'm looking forward to reading the others of the series I haven't yet gotten to.  Stay tuned in 2011.
NewsieQ on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Judge Deborah Knott has a busy December. She's got a full docket as judge in Colleton County, North Carolina. It's Christmas and she has presents to buy for her 11 brothers and their families; plus it's her first wedding anniversary. Her husband Dwight Bryant is busy, too, as Chief Deputy. Both must take time for murder.But before the murders of the ne'er-do-well Wentworth brothers, Deborah and her neighbors puzzle over and mourn the death of Mallory Johnson, the golden girl at the West Colleton High School, who was killed in a single-car accident that no one who knew her can quite figure out. Everyone in Colleton County knows everyone's history -- and everyone's history is entwined with everyone else's. While Dwight works on the official investigations of the Wentworth murders and Mallory Johnson's accident, Deborah keeps her eyes and ears open, asks a few questions and whispers the answers into Dwight's ear. Christmas mysteries are among my favorites -- although reading them in February isn't my usual choice. But Margaret Maron's mysteries are also among my favorites, so I'll read her any time her books become available. Christmas Mourning doesn't' disappoint. Margaret Maron does everything right -- plot, characters, dialog -- you name it. Christmas Mourning is a fast read even though it has a complicated plot with many characters (including all Deborah's nieces and nephews) and multiple viewpoints. The author captures the essence of small-town life, where everything and everybody are interconnected generations back. Christmas is not just a backdrop to the story, but is an integral part of it. Highly recommended.
delphimo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a mystery series set in North Carolina about a female judge, Deborah Knotts, and her huge family of relatives. I like this series, for it emphasis on family and simple living. This story centers on the death of teenagers due to drinking and texting while driving. Also presented are the plight of repeat criminals and the sense of evil that continues in a family. Maron presents a picture of the wealthy and the down trodden, and a view of all the blended families.
phyllis2779 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very well written as usual. I love the picture of Carolina family life and the cast of characters thought large are all very unique. The mystery was good but not all that mysterious. Once you apply the no extraneous characters rule, it becomes pretty clear as to what the connections are. But still, it was done in an interesting and honest way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just did not like this book. Too much description of scenery.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First book read by this author. Will definitely read more!
MaryG2 More than 1 year ago
I am a big fan of the Debra Knott series. One problem with a long series is that the stories can get predictable or stale. Not so here. The beginning is sad, but a common happening in our culture, the death of a young girl while driving and using her cell. The ending comes as a surprise, although it was hinted at cleverly. You have to be careful though with Margaret Maron, she throws things out that keep you thinking and guessing. I love the characters and the family. It is like coming back to a favorite town to visit and catch up with interesting and smart people. Keep it up Margaret!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have been a fan of the series a long time, and this was another great addition. I love that Dwight and Deborah are now married, and I love when Margaret breaks with the first person sometimes to get a view of Dwight.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another outstanding example of Margaret Maron's wonderful characters. Judge Deborah Knott deals with problems in the courtroom and tragedies within the community that cast a shadow over the Knott family's preparations for the Christmas holidays. Her nieces and nephews turn to Deborah for answers to unanswerable questions after the death of a popular high school student is quickly followed by the murder of social outcast who had a crush on her. Despite the intense investigation into these deaths, Deborah and Dwight find time to celebrate the first anniversary in delightful style.
SophieCA More than 1 year ago
Excellent read. Maron never fails to keep one interested, and here she has combined here two best characters, Judge Knott and Sigred Harald in a lovely little puzzle. What fun.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dollycas More than 1 year ago
This has been one of my favorite series and I enjoy every trip into the world of Deborah Knott. The closeness and trials and tribulations of the whole family dynamic never disappoint. The mystery that tags along is an added bonus. The author is a wonderful storyteller and her characters continue to grown and develop. In this edition it was about the teenagers. I have to say I was very impressed in the way she took on a very relevant teen issue, cell phones and texting. She also makes us aware of dangerous things that can happen at teen parties, stupid pranks can have deadly consequences. She handled them without being preachy, she just put it out there and reminded us all about the dangers. This week the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that all cell phone use be banned all non-emergency use of cell phones and other portable devices for drivers. This makes this story quite timely. I realize it was published last year but I didn¿t get to it for last year¿s holiday season and saved it for this year and I am glad I did. It helped me to remind my own kids of these dangers. Teenagers always think it can¿t happen to them. In this story it happened to kids that probably felt exactly that way. The mystery was great but the message was gripped me and held me in this story. This is not your typical Christmas story but you knew that from the title. It is an excellent addition to this series.
ShorethingCS More than 1 year ago
I am a Patricia Cornwell fan but was looking for something new along those lines when I decided to try this book.It is great I am now excited about reading the series."Im Hooked"