by Sandra Murphy
This week we have 4 mysteries from Penguin full of sewing, fashion, embroidery, and knitting-Seven Threadly Sins by Janet Bolin, A Finely Knit Murder by Sally Goldenbaum, Murder in Merino by Sally Goldenbaum, and A Wicked Stitch by Amanda Lee. Details at the end of this post on how to win a copy of all 4, and a link to purchase them.
Seven Threadly Sins by Janet Bolin
Review by Sandra Murphy
Welcome to Threadville. That’s what the town is called because most of the shops have something to do with needlework. There’s a fabric store, a machine embroidery place, a notions store with laces, buttons and trim, a yarn store, and more. Busloads of shoppers come every week. What could be better?
Well, it would help if the new school of design let the shop owners design their own outfits for a fundraising fashion show, instead of giving them designs to follow exactly. Some of the outfits are ridiculous, like Willow’s cocktail dress. It’s suitable only for a masquerade party as Bo Peep. Thank goodness she made the bloomers—the fashion runway is high and the dress is short!
The business attire designs aren’t any better—unsuitable and dowdy would best describe them. Colors clash, shoes don’t fit, there’s no one to help with hair and makeup, although the school instructs models as well as designers. But it’s the first fashion show, the tickets are cheap, and people want to be entertained so it’ll get better, right?
Antonio is not nearly as entertaining as he thinks. When he announces that the seven stitchers have been given additional titles, it’s in the form of seven “threadly” sins. One is accused of copying other designers, another of being tacky. Willow, in her poofy dress, is accused of gluttony.
His lack of humor is not Antonio’s only fault. He’s handsy with the models. Most everything he says could be taken two ways—or only one when he’s sure his wife is out of hearing.
To make matters worse, he seems to have no knowledge of fashion. To him, every outfit is “beautiful,” every model “lovely.” At rehearsal he crunches mint candies right at the microphone. And he has no class. Paula, his wife of six months, has to forcibly take the mints away from him on the night of the show.
At the reception, just as he pinches one of the models on the behind (she’s seventeen), he begins to choke. Bystanders first thought it was an act, and then thought it was a heart attack. Paula has no idea if he has heart problems or if he’s on any medication. She immediately accuses Willow and Edna of beating Antonio and causing his death—except no one hit him and he’s not dead. Yet.
Paula is determined to ride in the ambulance—alone—with Antonio, but Police Chief Vickie prevails. At the hospital, it’s determined that Antonio had an allergic reaction to almonds, but it’s too late. He dies and is mourned by just about…no one.
Paula, as the spouse, is of course a suspect. Loretta, assistant and designer, Kent, reluctant camera man and designer, Edna and Willow, the often-pinched students—all are suspects. Antonio’s medicine and the almonds that caused his reaction are found in Willow’s cubicle. It’s almost too easy.
On a personal level, Ben and Haylee are making some progress. He’s still trying to move forward after his wife’s death. Clay and Willow seem to be making their way from friends to friends and lovers if only they could get past the one-kiss stage. Thanks to interruptions, they’re stuck at that point. At least they were until Loretta showed up. During the fashion show, Clay disappeared for about forty-five minutes. When he came back, it was with Loretta hanging on his arm and her lipstick on his shirt. She says he was her first love, since fourth grade. He isn’t saying much.
Sally Forth and Tally Ho, Willow’s two dogs are in the midst of things too, although they did manage to miss the skunk spray episode—not many people did. Edna has turned into a nicer person now that she has friends and a home of her own. She does need to learn more about personal space if she wants Clay and Willow together.
The stores in Threadville are welcoming and fun with workshops for customers. It’s enough to make you want to hop a bus and go there too. Willow and Haylee are BFFs, both with complicated but hopeful love lives. Haylee’s three mothers (one biological, two adopted themselves to her), always entertain. Now that Gord, the doctor, is part of the family, he fits right in. It would be wrong not to mention the two cats too. Another great story with a satisfying ending, this is the fifth book in the series. Threaded for Trouble, Thread and Buried, and Night of the Living Thread were all reviewed for KRL. Look for sewing tips at the back of the book.
A Finely Knit Murder by Sally Goldenbaum
Review by Sandra Murphy
Nell, Birdie and Cass were thrilled when Izzy had her baby. Now their lives are getting another dose of youth when Birdie’s granddaughter, Gabby, comes for a long visit. She’s going to Sea Harbor Community Day School and throws herself right into the action.
The school isn’t what it used to be and most people think that’s a good thing. It had once been for rich white girls, brought to school daily by small run-about yachts. La-de-dah. Now, scholarships allow a more diverse group of girls, including Anna, who has a social anxiety disorder. Gabby and her BFF, Daisy, befriend her.
Blythe Westerland is a descendant of The Westerlands. Of course, they had no use for a girl child but really, one cannot just give a child away because she’s unsuitable for business (a girl!), so they kept her. The school is now located in the old family home. Because she’s a Westerland, and therefore entitled by money, good looks, and heritage—not to mention she lived in that house—Blythe feels she can override most decisions by the school board to suit her needs, like firing the art teacher.
Blythe is always surrounded by good-looking and/or rich men. She uses and discards them at will. With a home in Boston and one in Sea Harbor, she has a lot to rearrange to her liking.
Cass, who runs a lobstering business with her brother, Pete, broke up with Danny. He was an investigative reporter but now writes books. Nell, Izzy, and Birdie aren’t sure just what’s going on with them now, although they’re all rooting for the pair to get back together. When Cass brings a new guy, Harry, for them to meet, they’re not sure how to react. He’s from the island but hasn’t been there in many years, so they don’t know him. Birdie remembers his parents though. He plans on being around for only a short time, so what’s up with Cass spending so much time with him? He is handsome and maybe has money. It’s best not to ask Cass too many questions.
Blythe doesn’t bother to hide her displeasure with the school’s principal, Elizabeth Hartley. It could be Elizabeth’s stance on scholarships (give more), inclusion (more diversity), or just the fact that Blythe wanted another candidate hired and didn’t get her way. Now she’s mounted an active campaign to get Elizabeth fired. She also wants to have Anna removed as a student since she’s not the “right kind” for “her” school.
During the school’s celebration, Blythe is relaxed from a lot of champagne and the idea that she’ll get her way in everything soon. She meets and greets everyone there, but when her name is called to come forward at the presentation, she’s nowhere to be found.
Searchers discover her body on the rocks by the old boathouse. Did she fall or was she pushed? Maybe she didn’t hit a rock, maybe a rock hit her, with a little help from a human hand. When you’ve offended as many people as Blythe has, it’s hard to choose just which hand would take that risk.
Elizabeth is a suspect of course, but it’s complicated by the fact that she’s dating the police chief, as if that hasn’t caused enough comments already. She’s in her thirties and he’s much older. Although every single age-appropriate woman in town has made a try for the chief, this is the first time he’s reciprocated.
Nell and the others are not the kind to put themselves in danger, but to listen and collate facts. Ben, Nell’s lawyer husband, hears news on a different level, so their information is well-rounded. It’s a matter of deciding—was it personal or was it school-related?
On Thursdays, the women meet to knit, drink wine, talk, and eat. On Fridays, Ben mans the grill for the catch of the day and it’s open house for anyone to drop in. The friendship they have makes you want to join them and never leave.
This is the ninth book in the series. The mystery is good but the setting and characters are what will draw you back again and again. These are people you want to catch up with after time apart. Plus, they’ll share a pattern for fingerless gloves and a recipe for grilled shrimp salad at the back of the book.
Murder in Merino by Sally Goldenbaum
Review by Sandra Murphy
It’s often said a mystery starts when somebody leaves town or somebody comes to town. In this case, Julia Ainsley came to town and that started all the trouble. Everybody sees her jogging each day. She stops and talks to anyone she meets. That’s really nice but she seems too interested in the area for someone on a two week vacation. They like her…but…
When Julia meets the bartender, Jeffrey, he’s sure they’ve met. She says no. That makes it all the more suspicious when he calls and insists on seeing her, any time, any place.
You’d think Julia would be the victim and Jeffery the main suspect, but not in this case. Julia finds Jeffrey, stabbed, and in the back yard of the house she wants to buy. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding her. She decided to buy the house without ever having been inside. She is willing to pay more than asking price to get it even though it needs work. The real estate agent found her with Jeffery, trying to stop the bleeding. Julia’s been very friendly with Danny, a former investigative reporter turned fiction writer. All in all, people would rather think she killed Jeffery than believe a friend or neighbor did it.
Besides all that, Julia’s friendship with Danny is messing with his relationship with Cass, a likable woman with iffy social skills. She’s part of the foursome with Nell, Izzy and Birdie. Every Thursday night, the four meet at Izzy’s knit shop to eat, drink wine, knit and talk. Every Friday night, it’s open house at Nell’s, come one, come all. Ben grills the catch of the day, everybody brings something and Nell makes a side dish or two, salad and dessert always shows up. Izzy’s baby Abby is there with her elderly Golden Retriever, Red, and her protector. That baby gets passed around more than a collection plate on Sunday!
As bartender and part owner of a popular restaurant, Jeffery knows everyone and a lot of their secrets. He’s been odd lately, missing a meeting, spending time in the garage, thinking about the old days. He was seen in deep conversation with Stan, the mayor. He left the restaurant on a busy day–all things he never did before.
Nell and the others get caught up in trying to figure out who killed Jeffery. They don’t go snooping, there’s no breaking and entering, no putting themselves in danger. It’s more a matter of listening and then pooling information.
Of course, they all have personal lives as well. Ben and Nell are coming up on their fortieth anniversary and Mary is planning the party. Nell wanted a quiet evening but fears quiet is not in Mary’s vocabulary. Izzy and Sam are selling her old cottage but that’s been complicated by Jeffery’s death in the back yard. Julia is the determined buyer and they’re puzzled as to why. It’s a nice house but…Cass splits with Danny much to the dismay of the others.
They are a perfect match, not getting in each other’s way but complimenting quirks and oddities. Still, you can’t say too much to Cass or she shuts down. It’s best to stand back and let her figure things out but be ready if needed. Birdie is much older but there are benefits to age. She’s outlived three husbands and doesn’t want for money. She’s got a housekeeper who’s a great cook as well and now a driver since there were a few incidents. She’s good at remembering the old days.
The women have a great friendship, one to envy. They love to knit, eat, cook and welcome everyone to share in their happiness. Izzy’s shop is a place you’d want to go and never leave, unless it was to go to Nell’s on Friday night, or to one of the restaurants, or maybe the bookstore Danny’s folks own. The mystery is a good one and although I had suspects, I switched several times before being right, about half a page before the big reveal.
Since the women spend so much time eating and knitting, it’s only fair they share a pattern for an afghan and recipes for seafood salad that has arugula and/or spinach, cherry tomatoes, shrimp and sea scallops and the dressing to drizzle over the top.
No matter where you live, going to Sea Harbor, Massachusetts, via the pages of this book, is a homecoming. There are eight books in the series which can be read out of order but since you won’t want to miss a thing, I say get them all. This is the paperback of last year’s hard cover version. Look for A Finely Knit Murder in hardcover, out now (see review above).
A Wicked Stitch by Amanda Lee
Review by Sandra Murphy
A Renaissance Faire–a great promotional idea and a lot of fun too. Well, until a murder occurs. It seems Faire planners think the best way to arrange vendor booths is to put like items together. Marcy’s booth is right between Nellie’s and Clara’s. Oh boy, she can’t get away from them.
In town, Nellie Davis has a gift shop two doors down from Seven Year Stitch, Marcy’s embroidery shop. Nellie had her eye on the vacant space for her sister Clara’s shop, but Marcy got there first. Now Nellie and Clara have declared war. When the space between Nellie and Marcy becomes available, Clara opens an embroidery shop too, a near duplicate of Marcy’s. Clara snags potential customers off the street before they reach Marcy’s place. She grabs them as they exit the Stitch and offers to sell them the same items they just bought, but at a lower cost.
Now, what looked like a few enjoyable days at the Faire, look to be a challenge to Marcy’s patience. Clara’s only redeeming quality is her love for her pet rabbit who makes friends with Marcy’s huge dog, much to Clara’s dismay.
When Marcy arrives at the fairgrounds, accompanied by her Irish Wolfhound, Angus, he’s the one to notice something’s up at Clara’s booth. Marcy’s the one to notice Clara’s dead, coincidently during the few minutes it took for Nellie to go fetch food.
Of course, Marcy is a suspect since she found the body and resented Clara’s copycat store and underhanded methods of attracting customers. On the other hand, Marcy is good friends with the police chief and his wife. Her boyfriend, Ted, is a police detective. If anyone knows she wouldn’t/couldn’t kill, it’s them.
The window of opportunity was small though. Clara argued with the falconer and pretty much everyone she ever met. It’s a matter of finding out who was where and when–after that, comes the why of it all.
Marcy has more patience than ten people. Her dog is a delight, especially in scenes with Clara’s bunny. Ted is the ideal boyfriend. If only murders didn’t happen around her, life would be perfect. This is the eighth book in a truly enjoyable series. Look for The Stitching Hour in November.
To enter to win a copy of all 4 threadly Penguins, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Threadly,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 9, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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