BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Review: A Stitch Before Dying by Anne Canadeo
Guests and staff at the Crystal Lake Inn are as varied as a mixed bag of yarn, but most colorful is certainly the owner, charismatic self-help guru and former psychiatrist Dr. Max Flemming. The doctor may have told all in a revealing autobiography, but from his ex-wife to the widow of his former business partner—both employees at the inn—Max seems mired in shadows from his past. And when a killer strikes during a mountaintop retreat, the Black Sheep wonder what the good doctor might be hiding.
The police seem to be following the wrong thread. But while Maggie’s workshops have given the knitters a unique view of the tensions at the little inn, can they make sense of a crime that is as complexly stranded as a Fair Isle sweater? When the killer murders a second time, the Black Sheep wonder if they’ve dropped a stitch and put themselves in mortal danger. . . .
My Thoughts: Despite the cover copy, which makes it sound as if the story is told from Maggie Messina's perspective, the book is told mostly from that of one of the other Black Sheep Knitters, Lucy Binger, with Maggie's thoughts interspersed occasionally. This appears to be a feature in the series, with each book featuring both Maggie and one other in her knitting circle.
The book starts with Lucy arriving late to the Black Sheep's weekly knitting session and potluck dinner. She is worried about her boyfriend, who has been acting distant. She manages to put that worry away when she arrives at the gathering, where Maggie announces a surprise: she's been asked to teach some knitting workshops at a New Age spa and hotel in the Berkshires (located in Massachsuetts, in the US) and has arranged for all five of them to stay there, for free, as part of her compensation package. After some dithering over their ability to get away for the weekend and whether or not they agree with the New Age approach, the group agrees and plans are made.
The Black Sheep knitters are not fans of the New Age approach to living and Canadeo has a sharp yet not harsh way of poking fun at some of the beliefs and behaviors. We gradually meet some of the guests and staff at the hotel and the connections between them are unraveled in time. Dr Max has gathered a faithful flock around him but they are not all lovey dovey and singing in harmony. The cracks are slowly revealed and little nuggets of info dropped here and there along with larger, more obvious gifts of useful information. I'm happy to say that I was actually right about who the murderer was as usually I am way off base. :P The clues are there, but you have to look for them amidst the red herrings cleverly worked into the story.
Since this is a cozy mystery, as much time is spent on the leads, the Black Sheep knitters, as the actual mystery. I rather liked Lucy, I empathised with her boyfriend troubles, and her need for some alone time in the midst of the girl's getaway. The other knitters, Suzanne, Dana, and Phoebe, are all given time and attention but the main focus in on Lucy and Maggie. In a nicely circular bit of storytelling, the book ends after Lucy and her boyfriend have their much delayed talk and Lucy is sharing that conversation with her Black Sheep friends.
My main quibble with the story was the alleged friendship between Maggie and Nadine, the hotel manager who asks Maggie to fill in when the scheduled teacher drops out. They were supposedly longtime friends but it never felt that way to me and it seemed unlikely that Maggie would have been as ignorant as she was of some of the key players in the mystery if in fact she and Nadine were as close as Canadeo wants us to believe.
I did like that Canadeo, who is herself a knitter according to her biography, doesn't bash us over the head with knitting information or the rapturous joy (insert sarcasm here) that is knitting. Knitting certainly plays a part in the story, we meet the suspects and the killer in Maggie's knitting sessions and those sessions play a part in solving the murders, but Canadeo doesn't bash us over the head with it. Some cozy mysteries set around a hobby or occupation go overboard and you learn much more than you could ever want to know on the subject. Tidbits of knitting information are worked into the story but don't detract from it.
Overall, it was a good story, entertaining, engaging, and enjoyable.
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: December 28, 2010
More Info: goodreads
This paperback was provided by the publisher for review.