Series: Mainely Needlepoint #1
Published by Kensington on January 6th 2015
Genres: Cozy Mystery
Source: the publisher
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Also in this series: Threads of Evidence, Thread and Gone
Also by this author: Threads of Evidence, Thread and Gone
Returning to the quaint coastal town of Harbor Haven, Maine - a place she once called home - Angie Curtis finds her memories aren't all quite pleasant ones... After leaving a decade ago, Angie has been called back to Harbor Haven by her grandmother, Charlotte, who raised her following her mother's disappearance when she was a child. Her mother has been found, and now the question of her whereabouts has sadly become the mystery of her murder. The bright spot in Angie's homecoming is reuniting with Charlotte, who has started her own needlepointing business with a group called Mainely Needlepointers. But when a shady business associate of the stitchers dies suddenly under suspicious circumstances, Charlotte and Angie become suspects. As Angie starts to weave together clues, she discovers that this new murder may have ties to her own mother's cold case...
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
Have you ever noticed that some cozy mystery series tend to idealize or sugarcoat small-town life a bit? I mean, there are gossipy people and jealousies and people do get themselves murdered, but for the most part, most of the characters are Nice. Or Eccentric-But-Nice. There’s rarely a seedy side of town, and if there is, you don’t spend much time there. And while most characters aren’t rich, they’re middle-class or entrepreneurs, not poor.
Twisted Threads doesn’t fall into that trap. The town feels real: a Maine coastal fishing town that’s struggling economically. The residents work hard to keep it picturesque in summer, because they need the tourist trade. In the winter, almost everyone needs a supplemental income – and thus was born Mainely Needlepoint, a cooperative of needlepointers who supply gift shops and occasionally decorators with high-quality needlework. It’s the brainchild of Angie’s grandmother Charlotte, and it’s in financial trouble.
But that’s not what brings Angie home. Her single mother disappeared when Angie was about 11. Angie left town forever at 19; now, 10 years later and almost two decades after her mother’s death, her mother’s body has been found… murdered. Angie, who has been working as a private investigator’s assistant, comes home to find out who killed her mother and why. Meanwhile, Charlotte wants Angie to help sort out Mainely Needlepoint’s problems and find the agent who owes them money.
Almost none of the characters in the book are angels. They feel more real than characters in some of the other cozy series I’ve read; they have problems, they aren’t perfect, but they aren’t wildly eccentric or caricatured, either. I was pleased that the author managed to keep the town and townspeople real and still maintain the small-town appeal I expect from a cozy series.
Angie herself has more baggage, a few more rough edges, and a more painful background than most cozy heroines. She’s a bit prickly and defensive when she first comes home; there was a lot of gossip about her mother both before and after her death, most of it uncharitable. But Angie is also a really good choice for an amateur detective. She has spent several years as a private investigator’s assistant; she knows how to use a gun and how not to be stupid (hurray for avoiding TSTL syndrome!); and she remembers the community and many of its residents from her childhood, but has something of an outsider’s view because she’s been away for 10 years.
She also deals believably with the police – there are two policemen, one state detective and one local cop. Angie’s relationship with both is neither close nor antagonistic, and the only information she gets from either is reasonable for them to share in the circumstances.
I don’t want to give anything away, but the crimes in the book are similarly realistic, and at least once the author ventures into territory that I’ve seen few cozies attempt – again without losing the overall cozy feel. The author scatters clues effectively and naturally without either hitting you over the head with them or hiding them too obscurely, so you have a fair chance of solving the various mysteries eventually. And there are several suspects, all with motives and opportunity, but none obviously planted as red herrings. I did guess the murderer in one case, but the solution to the other crime came as a surprise.
To put my whole review more succinctly, Lea Wait avoids almost all of the things I find annoying in some cozy mysteries, and supplies most of what I like. The town, the people, most of the relationships, and the crimes all ring true, and the mystery was challenging enough to keep my interest without being unrealistically complex. I’m impressed, and I’m looking forward to the second book, Threads of Evidence, which should come out in late August.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Winter 2014-2015
- Cruisin' Thru the Cozies 2015