Series: Knitting Mystery #12
Published by Berkley on 2014-06-03
Genres: Cozy Mystery, Mystery
Source: the library
Also in this series: Cast On, Kill Off, Close Knit Killer, Purl Up and Die, Knit to Be Tied
Also by this author: Cast On, Kill Off, Close Knit Killer, Purl Up and Die, Knit to Be Tied
It’s early summer in Fort Connor, Colorado, and a herd of alpacas requires rescuing from a raging wildfire. Kelly Flynn and the House of Lambspun knitters may be able to save the helpless animals, but not the unexpected victim of a cold-blooded murder... Kelly and her knitting pals were checking out the wares at the annual Wool Market—one of the largest outdoor fiber and animal fairs in Colorado—when news spread about the wildfires raging across the canyon ranches. With temperatures scorching, Kelly receives word that the alpacas of her good friend, Jayleen, are in danger. Working fast, Kelly and her pals hightail the herd to the nearby pasture of one of Jayleen’s friends—rancher Andrea Holt. But their rescue mission is interrupted by a screaming match during which Connie, a longtime employee of House of Lambspun, snaps and accuses Andrea of stealing her husband. Days later, Andrea is found dead at her ranch—and suspicion immediately falls on Connie. Now Kelly and her friends must untangle this yarn before Connie ends up dangling by a thread...
Murder and wildfire share the stage in Maggie Sefton’s latest Knitting Mystery, Yarn Over Murder. The book opens right where Close Knit Killer left off: with Maggie and her friends scrambling to help Jaylene evacuate her alpaca herd from her ranch in a canyon threatened by fire.
Sefton’s depiction of the fire and the tensions felt by the characters and throughout the community feels very real, and no wonder: with the exception of the murder, it’s based on the 2012 High Park fire near Fort Collins, Colorado. Sefton’s “Fort Collins” is a thinly-disguised Fort Collins, right down to the very real Lambspun yarn store. The High Park fire was devastating to the community at large; one woman died, and at least 259 homes were destroyed.
In Sefton’s book, the fire creates much more tension than rancher Andrea’s death does. It also evoked strong memories for me: My parents, sister’s family, and close family friends all live in Los Alamos, which was affected by two wildfires in the last 14 years. The 2000 Cerro Grande fire burned over 400 homes; the entire town was under mandatory evacuation for over a week. I spent that whole week haunting the Internet, reading and watching all the fire reports and praying that the town would survive. Fortunately, my family’s homes survived, but some of their friends weren’t as lucky. Sefton conveys her fictional characters’ tension, fear, fascination, frustration, and worry very well indeed, and perfectly captures what it feels like to live under the threat of wildfire. From the acrid smell of smoke to the nighttime glow on a ridge, the details are perfect.
In contrast to the fictional fire, the death of Jaylene’s acquaintance, who is boarding her alpacas during the evacuation, seems no more than a tragic accident at first. Kelly, with her usual combination of curiosity and compassionate concern for a friend, worries about Connie’s possible involvement, but not one attributes the cause of Andrea’s death to murder until much later, which lessens much of the tension in the mystery side of the plot.
Another thing that keeps the mystery a bit tame is that Kelly’s sleuthing consists entirely of conversations. She talks to people and asks questions, but she doesn’t really do anything. All the action has to do with either the fire, the various characters helping out their affected friends, or going about their daily activities – jobs, softball team, and just hanging out together. On the one hand, this prevents any TSTL moments, which is a blessing. But it also leaves the mystery feeling somewhat flat, especially in contrast to the tension generated by the wildfire.
One thing I do like about this series is that for the most part, the police are treated with respect, both by Kelly and by the author. It’s a refreshing change from all those mysteries where the amateur detective has an adversarial relationship with the cops. Kelly has had a few less-than-sensible moments in past books, but in this one, she never puts herself in danger, and always passes along any information she comes across. In turn, the detective, Dan, has a healthy respect for Kelly’s ability to find out things the police might not be privy to. He’s also a former partner of Kelly’s friend and mentor, Burt, who is now retired and teaches spinning at Lambspun. Burt’s friendship with Dan means that Kelly has access to police information not usually shared with the public at large; it’s a win-win situation for both of them.
Because the mystery really isn’t the primary focus, I wouldn’t recommend Yarn Over Murder as a starting point for new readers, but if you’ve been a fan for a while, you’ll certainly want to read it – especially after the semi-cliffhanger ending of the last book!
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Cruisin' Thru the Cozies 2014