by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
We have another fun group of 3 Penguin mysteries-For Better or Worsted: A Crochet Mystery by Betty Hechtman, A Dog Gone Murder by Elaine Viets, and Suede to Rest by Diane Vallere. Details on how to win a copy of all 3 books at the end of this post, along with a link to purchase them where a portion goes to help support KRL.
For Better or Worsted: A Crochet Mystery By Betty Hechtman
Review by Sandra Murphy
The Tarzana Hookers (that’s a crochet group!) have their work cut out for them this time. Adele, the loud, overbearing, knit-hating nemesis of Molly Pink, is wearing navy blue and khaki and being polite. Something is definitely wrong with that picture. Adele’s boyfriend, Eric, has introduced his visiting mother, Leonora, to Adele. Being Adele, she thinks this is the first step to a proposal. The attitude is fueled by a remark Leonora makes about how she’s always hoped Eric’s bride would wear her wedding gown for the ceremony. It seems to escape Adele’s notice that even if she were down to a bare skeleton, she’d still be too large for the dress.
Between Adele’s quiet demeanor, diet and acceptance that Leonora knits instead of crochets, things are just weird–but it gets worse. Mason, one of Molly’s two suitors, is father of the bride when his daughter Thursday gets married. Mason’s a little worried that she jumped into the wedding on the rebound. Jaimee, mother of the bride and reality show star (think Wives of…) has planned a wedding extravaganza that will not only be the talk of the town but be the backdrop for her own chance at stardom.
Molly’s other suitor, Barry, is a police detective. She’s put him and Mason on “friends only, no benefits” status for the time being. She likes being her own boss, answering to no one and frankly, the competition between the two men was starting to make her feel claustrophobic. As Molly is headed for the huge tent where the reception is held, she and Barry meet just in time to hear screams from inside.
Poor Thursday, she’s a bride and a widow, all within a couple of hours. The groom has been stabbed to death, Thursday’s gown is covered in blood and Jaimee is sitting on what’s left of the wedding cake, clutching a bloody knife. It’s a good thing Mason is an attorney.
As a favor to Mason, Molly takes Thursday in as a house guest. It makes for a bit of a crowd since one of Molly’s sons is staying there too, plus Barry’s dog, Molly’s dog and a couple of cats. Still, it’s nice to have some company and a chance to talk to a suspect without coming up with an excuse.
In addition to the murder, there’s a yarn bomber on the loose. Someone is decorating public areas with colorful and fanciful designs. Most people think it’s whimsical but Eric thinks Adele is behind it. Not only will his mother disapprove of such frivolous activities, but he’s the laughing stock of the police department as they think he can’t control his woman. There’s trouble in paradise for sure.
Molly and Adele have set up a kid’s crochet club which leads to specialized parties. The first will be a birthday party with a crochet project theme. If you’re a reader of the series, you know that there’s always a glitch in any demo or author event Molly plans and this one is no exception. It’s hard to explain how a pig got loose in a book store and ate most of the birthday cupcakes.
The murder is solved but not without some danger, Jaimee adds more drama than you can imagine especially with her “alibi” as to why she couldn’t have possibly been the killer, Mason and Barry are almost friends, Adele, well there’s no explaining her. You just have to be there. Molly weathers it all with better humor than most.
Molly and the Hookers are a great group of women (plus Eduardo, former romance cover model) that you’d love to drop in on and get hints about crochet. Bob the Barista makes yummy desserts for every session. You’ll find a recipe from Bob at the back of the book along with some crochet patterns.
This is the eighth book in the series and Molly just gets better and better each time. You’ll also enjoy the Yarn Retreat Mysteries, two so far.
A Dog Gone Murder By Elaine Viets
Review by Cynthia Chow
St. Louis mystery shopper Josie Marcus’s latest assignment is literally one for the dogs. Her boss, Harry the Horrible, has given Josie the task of evaluating doggy day cares to ensure that the pooches receive first-class treatment and may be worthy of Certified Pet Care Centers. Fortunately, while she did just recently marry Dr. Ted Scottsmeyer the wonderful vet, Josie also is gifted with a circle of canine-loving loved ones, meaning that she has an ample supply of decoy dogs to join her as she works undercover within the ostentatious and indulgent boarding facilities.
It is while she is evaluating Uncle Bob’s Doggy Day Camp that she meets the infamous Uncle Bob himself, a local celebrity notorious for his tasteless commercials featuring Ralph the Tallking Dog. At first, his day care seems perfect, with themed rooms, spas, costumed disco parties, and bark mitzvahs.
The flaws soon emerge though, something confirmed by the new employee Frank Hyzy, who just happens to be the tenant and suitor of Josie’s mother. Not only does Uncle Bob hate dogs, but he recently abused and injured one of elderly canines. Before Josie can continue her report and await the results of an official animal abuse complaint, she finds Uncle Bob dead with Frank’s recent confrontation making him an obvious suspect. What can Josie do but investigate and clear a troubled man who nevertheless has the potential to make Josie’s mother happy?
Even with all of this going on, Josie has the everyday headaches of raising a twelve-year-old daughter who is going through her temperamental “tween” phase, dressing like a “prostitot” and attending an exclusive private school. A scenario that has become all too familiar in today’s society will test both Josie and Amelia and reinforce the always transforming relationship between mothers and daughters.
Elaine Viets delights in satirizing elitists and the absurd extremes the privileged often go to in order to indulge their vanity and whims. In this tenth of the Mystery Shopper series though, as over-the-top many of the doggy indulgences are – massages, pawdicures, blueberry facials, acupuncture, exfoliation – what can’t be denied is the genuine affection most dog owners have for their canine companions. Just as prevalent, though, are those willing to take advantage of that love. Josie proves to be a very capable investigator as she utilizes her mystery shopping skills, her daughter’s talent with the internet, and the ubiquitous nosy old lady neighbors to weed through the many suspects who would have been delighted to eliminate Uncle Bob.
An experienced writer and journalist, Viets gives a wonderful voice to Josie, who sees a nobility to her job in protecting others, especially the overlooked and overworked mothers and homemakers. Her sardonic but never snarky humor shines through in this warm and funny mystery that skewers the pretentious while honoring the charitable animal lovers.
Suede to Rest By Diane Vallere
Review by Cynthia Chow
Having grown up in her great aunt and great uncle’s Land of a Thousand Fabrics store, fashion is in Polyester Monroe’s blood; in fact, she was even born on a pile of the fabric that gave Poly her name. It has been ten years since Poly last returned to San Ladrón though, not since Aunt Millie was murdered in the store during Poly’s high school graduation. Poly soon left to attend the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, and since then she has worked at To the Nines, an LA dress company where she works an uninspiring job as a concept designer toiling away on cheap fabrics and discount garments.
Poly has only now returned in order to determine the fate of the store that is now hers due to her Uncle Marius’s will. She’s not exactly welcomed with open arms, as business magnate Vic McMichael has been attempting to buy Land of a Thousand Fabrics for years, and the town mostly supports his dealings that bring business to San Ladrón.
Poly is reluctant to sell out after her uncle spurned all offers to be bought out, even though he lost his heart for the business after his wife’s death and shuttered the store entirely. Poly’s reservations only increase when she discovers Mr. Pickers, leader of the Senior Patrol geriatric neighborhood watch, dead by the store’s dumpster with his head wrapped in suede. Although vandalism to her car would seem to indicate that someone doesn’t want her to leave town, further attacks herald otherwise.
Poly’s boyfriend Carson swoops into San Ladrón with the intention of negotiating the store’s quick sale, but Poly’s father and “hippyish” mother counter this by being appealingly supportive. Additional bolstering comes from far more surprisingly sources; the first being two abandoned kittens and soon followed by fellow outsiders Genevieve Girard, owner of Tea Totalers, and Charlie, a sharp female mechanic who may have hidden depths along with some family secrets.
Despite the focus on fashion and fabrics, this is far more than a simple, light-hearted and frothy novel. Poly has definite trust issues, not surprising considering the string of attacks against her, rumors and implications published in the newspaper, and a boyfriend who constantly undercuts her wishes and manipulates behind her back. So it’s not surprising that Poly questions the true motivations of Vaughn McMichael, Vic’s son who befriends her despite her resentment and refusal to trust.
Questions about her aunt’s murder increase the tension and sense of jeopardy, but surprisingly the relationship between Poly and Vaughn proves to be the most intriguing and strongly developed aspect of this novel. The author of two other mystery series with fashion themes, Vallere continues to share her thorough knowledge and appreciation of vintage fashion without sacrificing plot, character development, or a vast quantity of witty humor.
To enter to win a copy of all 3 Penguins, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “More November,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 6, 2014. 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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