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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