Who is Sigrid Harald?

She is Margaret Maron’s lead character in a popular series of mystery novels.

“Wait a minute!” you are shouting. “I know Margaret Maron, and the lead character in her novels is Judge Deborah Knott, a good old North Carolina country girl from a rural county east of Raleigh, the daughter of a bootlegger and who grew up to be a lawyer and later a judge. And for almost every year in the past 20, she has solved a difficult murder mystery in popular stories written by Maron.”

Well, you are correct. But there is more to the Sigrid Harald story as we learned from Maron when she was the guest on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch this past weekend (if you missed the show, you can watch it here).

Here is a little background. Before Maron began the Judge Knott series with “The Bootlegger’s Daughter” in 1992, she wrote a series of eight books about a New York police detective named Sigrid Harald. The switch from Harald to Knott came about when Maron and her husband Joe moved from New York City (Brooklyn) to Maron’s family’s farm near Benson.

Maron missed Harald. So she brought her back in “Three-Day Town,” the most recent novel in the Judge Knott series and the book featured on Bookwatch today. How does she bring back Sigrid?

In an earlier book Judge Knott finally married Sheriff’s Deputy Dwight Bryant, her long time boyfriend and sometimes partner in solving Knott’s murder mysteries. But they have not had time for a honeymoon trip.

Finally, they leave a set of family and professional problems behind and travel to New York City for their deferred holiday, a cold winter one, where a friend has made an apartment available to them. Before they unpack, there is trouble. The building superintendent is murdered and there are a host of suspects including elevator operators, maintenance men, spouses, disgruntled tenants, and other visitors from North Carolina.

Here is where Sigrid Harald comes back into Maron’s life and into Knott’s story. She is still a New York City police detective and, of course, she gets called to work on the case.

The question becomes not so much who the murderer is, but which of Maron’s heroines gets to solve the case.

Now that Maron has brought Harald back to literary life, how is she going to keep her in the mix? Surely she cannot send Knott back to New York City every year to solve a mystery. But maybe she could bring Harald down to North Carolina to help solve one of our crimes.

Bring Harald to North Carolina is just what Maron plans to do in her next book, “The Buzzard Table,” expected to be released in November.

Here is an excerpt from the publisher’s promotion for the new book:

“Judge Deborah Knott and Sheriff’s Deputy Dwight Bryant are back home in Colleton County with all their family and courthouse regulars. But there are a few new faces as well. Lt. Sigrid Harald and her mother, Anne, a well-known photographer, are down from New York to visit Anne’s ailing mother, Mrs. Lattimore. When the group gathers for dinner at Mrs. Lattimore’s Victorian home, they meet the enigmatic Martin Crawford, an ornithologist who claims to be researching a new book on Southern vultures. More importantly, he’s Mrs. Lattimore’s long-lost nephew, and Sigrid and Anne’s English cousin. With her health in decline, Mrs. Lattimore wants to make amends with her family–something Deborah can understand as she too is working to strengthen her relationship with her stepson, Cal. But for all his mysterious charm, Anne can’t shake the feeling that there is something familiar about Martin…something he doesn’t want Anne or anyone else to discover. When a murderer strikes, Deborah, Dwight, and Sigrid will once again work together to solve the crime and uncover long-buried Lattimore family secrets.”

We will just have to wait to find how this mystery turns out.