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Rituals of the Season: A Deborah Knott Mystery    by Margaret Maron order for
Rituals of the Season
by Margaret Maron
Order:  USA  Can
Mysterious Press, 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Pat Elliott

Judge Deborah Knott has promised to marry the love her life, Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Bryant. The Christmas wedding is in two weeks. Her house is a mess from remodeling. The couple is moving Dwight into Deborah's farm house in between Christmas activities, wedding showers, congratulatory dinners and other disasters. Deborah's matron of honor is pregnant and due to deliver on Christmas day, and the Country Club has a fire that cancels plans to hold the reception there.

Deborah has plenty of help from her eight brothers, their wives and children, her father, a former bootlegger, various aunts and housekeepers. In fact there are so many family members running around the house and court room, the reader can hardly keep track of who are Knott's and who are not. But wedding dinners, Christmas parties and work take a back seat when ADA Tracy Johnson is shot in the head while driving home, causing her car to smash into an overpass. The impact kills her three-year-old adopted daughter Mei. The murder casts a cloud over the Christmas and wedding festivities.

Though Dwight made Deborah promise to stay out of the inquiry, she cannot ignore the fact that Tracy was investigating the murder of Roy Hurst. Roy's step mother, Martha Hurst, is on death row, sentenced to die within a month. Roy was a loser who probably deserved his fate, but the question now is whether Martha deserves to die. Although the story revolves around whether Martha Hurst is guilty or innocent, the reader is never introduced to this lady and it's difficult to care about a character you haven't met. The story centers around Deborah's dabbling in the case, Dwight and his group of deputies, and their dismay and disappointment when they discover one of their own has feet of clay.

As in all good murder mysteries, the culprit is brought to justice. The wedding is beautiful and Deborah's family saves the reception in a unique way.

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