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Winter's Child    by Margaret Maron order for
Winter's Child
by Margaret Maron
Order:  USA  Can
Mysterious Press, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I always enjoy reading about Judge Deborah Knott, who's just married (one month before this episode opens) her longtime admirer, Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Bryant. In Winter's Child, we follow two parallel cases, one local and the other in Virginia.

The first involves a vehicular accident, in which hot tempered, abusive J. D. Rouse is discovered to have been killed by a bullet before he crashed. The only witness is gray-haired Mrs. Harper. She was out with her dog, picking up trash on that section of road, which she adopted (part of an anti-littering campaign) in memory of her father. She heard a bang, like a loud backfire. Deputy Mayleen Richards takes the lead on this case interviewing Rouse's Mexican wife Nita and her protective brother, and following leads to Rouse's lover and that woman's trigger-happy soldier husband. After violence erupts, this case has an unexpected and unusual resolution.

Dwight is unexpectedly called by his eight-year-old son Cal, who wants him to be his show-and-tell at school. Of course, Dwight gets in his car and drives to Shaysville, Virginia, where he finds much that is disquieting. His ex-wife Jonna has disappeared and Cal has been on his own for over twenty-four hours. As Dwight is packing up Cal's things to take his son back with him, Cal disappears too, and a neighbor claims that Jonna took him. What is going on? Then Jonna's abandoned car is found. Dwight is frantic with concern for his son, the state police get involved, and Deborah drives down to join her husband, help him find out what is going on, and locate his small son.

Jonna worked at the Morrow House, a home maintained by the Shaysville Historical and Genealogical Society, and one that is supposedly haunted. Various valuable items are discovered to be missing, and someone who wears gardenia scent, keeps retrieving items from Jonna's home. Deborah is endangered, but of course Cal is eventually found, his dog Bandit playing a key role in getting him back. As Deborah muses when it's all over, it all came down to pride in lineage, something that makes little sense to her. As always, Margaret Maron delivers a cozy Southern mystery, set in the warm and caring community of Deborah's large extended family and friends. This is an engaging series.

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