by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a review of A Fatal Yarn by Peggy Ehrhart, and an interesting interview with Peggy. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of A Fatal Yarn, and links to purchase it.
A Fatal Yarn: A Knit & Nibble Mystery By Peggy Ehrhart
Review by Sandra Murphy
It may be springtime in Arborville, New Jersey, but the trees are wearing sweaters. It’s not the usual yarn bombing but an environmental statement. It seems the sweaters are covering spray painted red Xs on the trees—identifying them as candidates to be cut down for interfering with overhead electrical wires. Blame goes to the new mayor who vowed to make changes.
When the mayor is found dead on his kitchen floor, suspects include the former mayor’s supporters, a girlfriend, the tree huggers (or rather tree dressers?), and Roland, a member of the Knit and Nibble club. Members meet weekly at each other’s homes for a couple of hours of knitting and homemade snacks and coffee or tea. Roland had an argument with the mayor shortly before he died, and Roland’s car was seen near the mayor’s house at the time of the murder. Roland has a good excuse for driving by the house, but the police believe the worst and arrest him. He’s allowed out on bail and fellow knitters Pamela and Bettina are determined to ask questions so the police will see the error they’ve made. The women have been involved with murder cases before.
There’s another death, due to mysterious causes. Cassie, the town historian, ailing for some time, has died. Now, her daughter, with the help of her mother’s friends, is clearing the house of many years worth of items, including a dining room table full of skeins of yarn. Some looks very familiar, as seen in the tree sweaters. Those responsible have sworn to remain anonymous, but it looks like Cassie might have been one of the group.
Besides asking questions, Pamela and Bettina are busy with work and family. Pamela’s daughter Penny is due home for spring break. Pamela works from home as associate editor for Fiber Craft magazine. Bettina is taking care of her grandsons as needed, in addition to her job as a reporter for the local paper. And then there’s Richard Larkin, the newest neighbor. He’s been there two years and is clearly attracted to Pamela. She is interested, too, but…she will not act on it. Frustrating for Richard (and readers).
This is book five in the series. Pamela and BFF Bettina are people you’d like to meet, The Knit and Nibblers would welcome you to learn a new stitch, have a slice of cake, and sit for a bit. Of course, most people would have bought a lot more at Cassie’s estate sale than Pamela did (one bowl). Good characters, cats, knitting, a recipe for lemon-yogurt cake with cream cheese frosting, and a mystery to solve besides. My only complaint is too much description with some of it repetitive which slows the story. There’s also a pattern for a knitted throw pillow cover. Don’t get cake on the yarn!
Interview With Peggy Ehrhart:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Peggy: Since grammar school, really. I was always a reader – to the point that my mother worried about the fact that I read so much. Reading automatically gives you an advantage as a writer, because you develop an ear for graceful expression and also gain a large vocabulary. So very early I was considered a “writer” by my teachers and classmates -though for a young woman to see that as a career goal must have seemed outlandish at the time I was growing up. I was pegged as a future librarian.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
Peggy: My first novel was also my first mystery, Sweet Man Is Gone, published in 2008 by Five Star. It was a traditional mystery featuring a female amateur sleuth, but she was a singer in a blues band and the plot revolved around the murder of her band’s guitar player. It grew out of my guitar-playing hobby.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Peggy: I have a Ph.D. in medieval literature, and I was a college professor before I retired. For much of my writing life I wrote articles – and a book – that grew out of my academic research interests. The book was a fun project that studied the medieval reception of the Judgment of Paris myth. Paris was a Trojan prince who was supposedly asked to judge a beauty contest among goddesses. His choice of Venus as the winner led ultimately to the Trojan War.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Peggy: I was recruited by an agent who sells frequently to Kensington Books. Kensington was looking for an author to launch a series focused on a knitting club. There are many craft cozies out there using knitting as the hook, but apparently, they are so popular that there’s always room for one more. I had already been trying out some ideas that I thought would attract an agent and thus a larger press than Five Star, and I knew cozies with small-town settings were very popular. So, the ideas that turned into the Knit and Nibble club of Arborville, New Jersey, came together very fast.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Peggy: I write to entertain.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Peggy: I’m retired so I have lots of time. I write almost every weekday, and sometimes on weekends, for at least a few hours.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Peggy: I’m a great believer in outlining and have always done it. With a mystery, I think it’s crucial to work out in advance who committed the murder and why. That way clues (and red herrings) can be layered in more skillfully. My editor at Kensington requests a detailed outline before I start each book and when I hear back from him that he likes the outline, I feel more confident as a proceed. On a practical note, Kensington likes to know a lot about a book in advance because then the art department can get busy with the cover design and cover copy. Often my covers are finished when I’m still just partway through writing the book.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Peggy: Afternoon, even as late as four or five p.m., and this is what I’m usually able to do.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Peggy: Yes, very. And with my academic work too.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Peggy: I once had a short story rejected by someone who couldn’t believe a woman would recognize her boyfriend if he was on the sidewalk and she was looking out a fifth-story window. I can’t imagine where this person lived. Somewhere without any tall buildings, I guess.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story, in a bookstore or other venue?
Peggy: I was at a Kensington event, a Cozy Club Mini-Con in San Diego last fall, and a woman approached me and said she came because she saw that I was going to be there and she had read all the Knit & Nibble books and really liked them, and then she basically narrated all my plots to me. It was thrilling!
KRL: Future writing goals?
Peggy: I hope the Knit & Nibble series keeps going for a very long time. I’m writing #7 now and have a contract for #8.
KRL: Wonderful! Writing heroes?
Peggy: Jane Austen.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Peggy: Not historical, because my books are set in the present, and not much about police procedure because my sleuth is an amateur. But the Internet is amazingly convenient for odds and ends – for example, in the book I’m writing now, the details of raising llamas. And I even discovered a llama farm very near me in northern New Jersey and drove there to inspect the layout and the llamas. Also, my books include a lot of food – descriptions of meals, and descriptions of my sleuth and others cooking and baking. It’s handy to look up details of recipes to make sure my characters are doing things right and also to find images of the end result to help me with my descriptions.
KRL: What do you read?
Peggy: Non-fiction, mostly, when I’m actively writing. I like books about history, different cultures, that sort of thing.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Peggy: Anything British, especially mysteries.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Peggy: Never give up, that’s basic, but also, make sure you understand the genre you aspire to write. Readers (and agents and editors) have pretty clear ideas about what they expect to find if they pick up a cozy, a thriller, a romance, etc. You can be a great writer, but if your project isn’t clearly in its genre you will have a hard time finding a publisher.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Peggy: Thank you very much for inviting me to do this interview.
KRL: Thank you for joining us! What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Peggy: I love to shop, but my shopping venues are estate sales, rummage sales, tag sales, and thrift stores. Some of my favorite clothes come from these sources.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
Peggy: My website is www.PeggyEhrhart.com. I update it frequently, including photos of the knitting projects featured in my books and the goodies I include recipes for. The website also includes a blog called “Yarn Mania.” I post photos of interesting yarn projects and yarn-related objects I come across on my second-hand shopping rambles as well as my own creations and those of friends and relatives.
To enter to win a copy of A Fatal Yarn, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “yarn,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 18, 2020. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. BE AWARE THAT IT MAY TAKE LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new episode goes up next week!
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