Margaret Maron's popular Deborah Knott mystery series is a mix of "homespun sweetness" and "edginess," a combination that works so well that Whodunit columnist Bruce Tierney compares her work to that of Alexander McCall Smith and Peter Mayle.

We chatted with Maron about her 18th Deborah Knott installment, The Buzzard Table, and holiday traditions.

Describe your book in one sentence.
NYPD homicide detective Sigrid Harald learns more than she wanted to know about turkey buzzards when she comes down to the home turf of NC District Court Judge Deborah Knott.

What do you most admire about Deborah Knott?
Her curiosity, her humor and her sense of fair play.

Would you make a good judge?
I actually think I would. I can usually tell when I'm being gamed and I have enough common sense that I wouldn't overthink a situation.

What are you reading now?
Paging the Dead by Brynn Bonner and A History of Private Life: From Pagan Rome to Byzantium, ed. by Paul Veyne.

What's one bad habit you have no intention of breaking?
Me? Bad habits? Don't be silly.

What is your favorite thing about the holidays?
Our "Christmas Sing," which is when close family and friends come out to the farm for an evening of good food, off-key singing, skits and much laughter—a 40-year-old tradition. The preteen children of those early years are grandparents now, and the in-laws and babies come, too.

What's next?
My 19th Deborah Knott novel, Designated Daughter.

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