Just before Christmas in a small North Carolina town, a popular cheerleader dies from injuries sustained in a single-car accident that had no witnesses. Now the town reels with grief — and in light of recent evidence — buzzes with questions. Did she swerve to avoid a deer, or was something more sinister afoot? District Court Judge Deborah Knott and her sheriff husband, Dwight Bryant, resolve to find out.
Christmas Mourning takes readers into the heart of fictional Colleton County, where Maron sets most of her Deborah Knott novels. Despite the encroachment of urban growth, Colleton remains a predominantly rural community where everyone knows not only each other, but each other’s family backgrounds and histories. As Knott says, “Here in Colleton County, apples still don’t roll very far from the tree.”
Still, there are deep, near-buried secrets, including long-past events that certain people hope will never come to light. Amid a bustling background of homemade fruitcake, fresh mistletoe, and Christmas cheer, Knott and Bryant uncover a few more secrets than they intended.
Christmas Mourning falls squarely into the cozy-mystery genre, of which Maron is a master. Cozies typically center on small towns and smart women who solve crimes in their spare time. With an emphasis on fun and a de-emphasis on blood and gore, these books make you want to curl up with a cup of hot chocolate and let your stress evaporate. In the case of Christmas Mourning, simply replace the hot chocolate with eggnog, grab a chocolate bourbon ball, and enjoy.
Grand Central Publishing. 2010, 304 pages, hardback, $25.99.