I love a good mystery, and I read all types in the genre. Police procedural, suspense and international mysteries are all exciting, but nothing compares to the quirkiness and fun of a cozy mystery. The characters often have odd jobs, friends or both — all while trying to solve a hometown murder.
One of the Champaign Public Library's staff members has broken the field wide open with her second book in the Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery series. Molly MacRae has worked at the library for more than a decade in the children's department, and little did we know that she had some sleuthing stories working themselves out behind that sweet smile.
Her first in this series, "Last Wool and Testament," came out last year and was a great success. This year, we are presented with "Dyeing Wishes," a tightly knitted story featuring many of the same intriguing characters from our favorite yarn shop, The Weaver's Cat.
Small town Blue Plum, Tenn., is the setting for the series, where Kath Rutledge has taken over the ownership of her grandmother's store. Quirky doesn't even begin to describe the clientele, staff and townspeople in the series. If you are a frequent patron to our library, you might even recognize some of the names in the story — a handful of staff members have characters named after them. How many can you identify?
Kath was formerly a fiber-arts specialist and conservationist at a state museum in Illinois until her grandmother passed away and Kath moved to Blue Plum. Once she refamiliarizes herself with the town where she visited as a child, she can't help but stay. And neither could I — through the pages of the story.
In this second installment of the series, Kath is still running things at the shop, including planning special fiber-arts workshops. At one of these sessions, the group travels out to Debbie Keith's farm to visit her new lambs and learn about dyeing wool.
Unfortunately, the lambs and their mamas are making it difficult, because they seem more interested in a tree on the far corner of the pasture than coming over to the fence to say hello to their visitors.
Worried about their strange behavior, Debbie and Kath climb over the fence and trek across the field to check things out. The day's plans change after they find out what has captured the sheep's attention. Two familiar bodies are under the trees in the position of an apparent murder-suicide.
Those of you who read Molly's first book (and I hope it was all of you) know that Kath and her friends gathered as an informal "posse" to sort out and solve a crime last year. So after the bodies are found on Debbie's land, everyone in the group turns to Kath to start up the posse and find out the true story of what is going on.
The incredibly rude Deputy Cole Dunbar is on the case — and none too happy about the posse's involvement.
Add to this mix the deputy's mysterious brother, some nosy journalism students from a nearby college, the completely irritating Spivey twins and a ghost diva named Geneva, and you have a highly entertaining story with a solid mystery.
Our famous author is getting great feedback — from people who don't even know her — so the next one in the series is due out in March. Grab the Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery series while you can.
Kelly Strom is the collection manager at the Champaign Public Library. She orders books, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks and CDs.