About the Author
Read an Excerpt
High Country Fall
By Margaret Maron
Mysterious PressCopyright © 2004 Margaret Maron
All right reserved.
The trouble with making a public announcement is that the public-in this case, my family-feels entitled to respond. Not only to respond, but to exclaim, to criticize, and, above all, to offer comments and advice. The tom-toms, the grapevine, and yes, the Internet, too, were all working overtime.
From my four brothers who live out of state, to the other seven and their spouses still here in eastern North Carolina-not to mention a slew of aunts, uncles, and cousins all up and down the Atlantic seaboard-half the country seemed to be showering advice on my head.
Real showers, as well.
It was early October, three days after I'd begun wearing the ring that once belonged to Dwight Bryant's grandmother; two days after we'd told a couple of friends and both our families that we were planning a Christmas wedding.
I'm a district court judge here in Colleton County. Dwight is Sheriff Bo Poole's right hand and head of Bo's detective division, someone who's known me since the day Daddy piled all the boys who happened to be in the yard at the time into the back of his pickup and hauled them over to the hospital to meet their new sister. Dwight's always thought that gave him the right to act like one of my brothers, too. One of my bossy brothers.
We've both been married and divorced and-
Well, his marriage ended in divorce. Mine was merely annulled. (It was years before I learned that Daddy could have saved on lawyer's fees since I'd inadvertently married a hound dog who was already legally married at the time.) Dwight has a little boy up in Virginia; I sublimate with a bunch of nieces and nephews.
I had sworn off men at the beginning of summer, and after yet another relationship went sour on him, too, Dwight proposed that we quit looking for nonexistent soul mates and turn our solid friendship into marriage. That was less than two weeks ago and it seemed like a good idea at first, especially since it turned out that we were surprisingly solid in bed.
With all the hoopla after we announced it, though, I was starting to have second thoughts.
My family's so crazy about Dwight that you'd have thought someone had handed me a cool ten million and it was their duty to help me invest it before I threw it all on the nearest bonfire.
Take Aunt Sister, who about hugged the breath out of me the first time she saw me after hearing the news. "Thank God in glory! I thought you won't never going to settle down before I died." She looked at me dubiously. "You do aim to settle down, don't you?", which I think is a little sanctimonious for a woman who spends four months a year on the road in a Winnebago now that Uncle Rufus is retired.
Then there's Nadine, my brother Herman's wife, who belongs to a strict fundamentalist church and has never quite approved of me. "Of course, you can't wear white, but there're lots of pretty dresses in off-white."
"Oh, nobody worries about stuff like that anymore," said April, my brother Andrew's third-time-lucky try at marriage.
Aunt Zell, my mother's sister, couldn't stop beaming. "Now I know you have Sue's silver, crystal, and china," she said, "so why don't I give you a linen shower?"
"And I'll do lingerie," said Portland Brewer, my best friend and prospective matron of honor despite her advancing pregnancy. (Some of my brothers were making book on whether or not she'd deliver before the wedding.) "Black satin teddies. Red silk panties!"
"Kitchen goods!" said Mae and Doris.
"Well, what about ol' Dwight?" said their husbands. "Maybe we oughta give him a tool shower."
"So romantic," sighed my nieces. "All these years of catting around with other guys, then bang!" They had taken to singing parodies of "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man" every time they saw me.
Maidie, Daddy's longtime housekeeper, was writing out family recipes for my edification and Dwight's well-being; while John Claude Lee and Reid Stephenson, my cousins and former law partners, were talking about a formal announcement dance at the Colleton County Country Club in Dobbs.
Dwight's mother, his two sisters, and his sister-in-law had already booked a luncheon date at the University Club in Raleigh for all the women in both families.
Even Daddy. He didn't say much, but his blue eyes twinkled whenever someone mentioned the wedding.
Dwight just laughed and took it all in stride.
I was starting to freak.
"They act like this is the love match of the century instead of a sensible arrangement," I told Minnie.
Minnie is married to my brother Seth. She's also my campaign manager. It was Minnie who advised me that it would be politically expedient to quit looking for the moon and settle down with someone respectably earthbound instead. She was surprised as hell that I'd taken her advice and as pleased as the rest that the someone turned out to be Dwight Bryant.
"Won't hurt you at the polls to be married to a well-regarded deputy sheriff like Dwight," she said, but when she started cooing like our nieces, I immediately disillusioned her.
"Romantic love has nothing to do with this," I told her. "It's pure pragmatism. Sure, we're fond of each other, but it's love based on friendship and mutual history, not romance. He's as tired of channel surfing as I am, so it just makes sense."
"Oh, honey," Minnie said, looking bereft. "No real passion?"
"I didn't say there was no passion," I told her, unable to repress a grin.
"Well, thank goodness for that much," she said, smiling back.
"But it's turning into a three-ring circus. Even at the courthouse. Clerks go out of their way to stop me in the halls and tell me how nice Dwight is. Like he's got a halo and they don't think I'm good enough for him. It's bad enough that Aunt Sister and Nadine and Doris think like that, I don't need it at work, too. Paul Archdale even had the nerve to ask me if I was letting personal considerations color my judgment when Dwight testified against his client this afternoon."
"Of course not," I huffed. "Paul knows his client's guilty as sin. He was just trying to get a lighter sentence. I may be thinking about marrying Dwight, but that doesn't mean I've quit thinking."
"Dwight's ring on your finger means you're more than just thinking about it," Minnie said gently.
We both glanced down at the ring, an old-fashioned square-cut diamond flanked by two smaller stones. I pulled it off and balanced it on the palm of my hand, where it gleamed and shot out sparks of color in the sunshine.
"I don't know, Minnie. I'm beginning to think this marriage is going to cause more problems than it'll solve."
"No, it won't," she soothed. "You and Dwight will be good for each other, and it would embarrass him to death if you back out now, so you put that ring right back on your finger where it belongs. A lot of people care about both of you, so the two of y'all getting together's bound to be a nine-days' wonder. They'll settle down once they get used to the idea."
"Another week?" I asked glumly. "I don't know if I can take it."
Happily, I didn't have to.
That very evening, there was a message from Roger Longmire, Chief District Court Judge in our district. When I returned his call, he said, "Got anything sensitive or pressing on your calendar?"
"Not that I know of," I told him.
"Good. I've been asked if I could spare someone to hold court up in Cedar Gap."
"Here am I, Lord, send me," I said prayerfully. Cedar Gap is 'way the other side of the state, a good five- or six-hour drive from Colleton County.
Longmire snorted. He knows the Bible even better than I do. "When did you turn into Isaiah?"
"The minute you offered me a legitimate reason to head for the hills."
"Getting a little hot for you down here in the flatlands?"
Was that a chuckle in his voice? I considered for a moment. "Minnie called you, didn't she?"
"Good woman, your sister-in-law," he said blandly. "I owe her a lot. Did you know she was head of the Colleton County Democratic Women the first year I ran for the bench?"
Excerpted from High Country Fall by Margaret Maron Copyright © 2004 by Margaret Maron . 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.
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book was just great! Once again the author returns to her country roots, a refreshing change from so many big city mysteries out there. Judge Deborah Knott is an intelligent, feisty, sexy heroine. She always asks the right questions and arrives at the right conclusions in the end. The part of the story dealing with the car wreck was exciting and completely unexpected. A real nail biter! I've read three of the Deborah Knott mysteries and look forward to reading the remaining books too.
As usual Margaret Maron does a super job. Great reading, good plot and people who are real and who you can care about from one book to the next. Can't wait till her newest book.
Since Judge Deborah Knott has not found love or lasting passion with anyone, she agrees to marry her childhood friend Deputy Sheriff Dwight Bryant for practical reasons like good sex and companionship. His and her relatives are happy for them; making such a big deal of the upcoming nuptials that Deborah wants to escape from the wedding talk. She gets her chance when she is called in to substitute for the judge in Cedar Gap, which is five hours away from where she lives.---- One of her first cases when she arrives is the arraignment of Daniel Wayne Freeman in the death of Dr. Carlyle Grayson Ledwig. Although Danny passes for white, he is part black and the victim did not want him to marry his daughter. There is enough evidence to bind him over for trial but when Norman Osborne is killed in an identical manner and Danny has an alibi, the authorities believe they were too quick to judge him and set out to find a killer who has struck twice.---- Margaret Maron once again delivers a fascinating crime thriller that grabs and keeps reader interest. The judge does not play an active role in finding the killer but when she is trapped in a car after an accident, the identity of the killer comes to her. Her antics to escape nuptial bliss is amusing and brings to life the closeness of small town living.---- Harriet Klausner
Book 10 in the Judge Deborah Knott series. Deborah is again sent to another NC location. Up in the mountains where they have attracted tourists with clean air, wonderful scenery, changing leaves, and rigid zoning. Filling in for the local judge on vacation she gets involved when a local prominent man is murdered. His death brings to light the seething nastiness underneath the enforced quaintness.Another great book. More info on the packaging and selling of the past and traditions of NC. In particular small family farms and homesteads that families can't afford to keep anymore because the property value and taxes shoot up with the influx of money, outsiders and developments. This book takes particular aim at those places that try to stop time, and zone everything from building color to sign type. When preservation become kitsch. In her personal life, Deborah and her long time pal Deputy Sheriff Dwight (they grew up together) have become engaged. It is a convenience for both of them. Dwight is divorced, and both are lonely and tired of being alone and dealing with bozos trying to find the 'right one'. They decide that since they like each other, and after testing it out, since there is a physical spark, they will marry. The engagement happened at the end of the last book, and there are glimmers that all is not what they expected it would be. Deborah is nervous and worried about having to deal with the reaction of her family. Because it is not a love match, she doesn't want a lot of fuss. Her family of course, not knowing that love is not the reason, and since she is the only girl and they all know and love Dwight, are fussing in a major way. Through much of the book it seems she is developing cold feet.Another great book filled with interesting characters and a great setting. The mystery is minor until the end when it becomes a thriller. Love the Dwight development and was very worried it would lapse.
10th in the Judge Deborah Knott series set in North Carolina.There is simply too much hullabaloo over Deborah¿s upcoming marriage to Dwight, and she gratefully accepts a call to substitute for a judge in the western, piedmont part of the state; escape from all the attention looks real good. She accepts an invitation from one of her many cousins to stay at a condo in Cedar Gap, a consciously cutsey town in the middle of ¿leaf country¿¿high mountain area with spectacular views in the fall of the trees as the leaves change. Cedar Gap caters to day tourists as well as seasonal visitors; the latter buy up expensive pieces of mountain property to put up vacation or second homes; the attraction is the rigidly covenanted town, where high-end boutiques, antique stores and the like catr to the tourists and the wealthy.But Deborah also lands in the middle of a murder investigation. One of the town¿s best-known citizens has been murdered, and as a district judge, she sits in on a probable cause hearing for the most likely suspect. Later, she attends a party where the controversy over development produces a heated discussion. Since she adjudicates other misdemeanors, when she stiffly fines a young college student for drunken behavior, she nearly winds up dead as he tries to force her off a mountain road¿with no guard rails. Given a 2nd murder that may or may not be connected to the first, Deborah certainly has her fill of distractions from her upcoming wedding!This is a good if not spectacular addition to the series. As always, when Maron takes Deborah away from home, she loses the considerable strength and interest that the recurring characters lend to the story. But Maron is still a skillful writer, and has neatly woven controversial issues into her plot¿indeed, making them integral to the story instead of an interesting sidebar.Highly recommended for fans of the series.