Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Wicked Stitch - Amanda Lee

Wicked Stitch
An Embroidery Mystery
Amanda Lee


 It’s Ren Faire time in Tallulah Falls, Oregon.  This is a long-running annual event; something the whole town looks forward to with excitement.  This year, the theme is MacBeth, and will culminate with a performance of the play.  Until then, various characters from the play will be strolling around the faire, giving warnings about the trouble to come, gossiping about Lady MacBeth, and the witches will be reading fortunes.  People come from all over the area to attend.  For merchants with small specialty shops, it’s a great way to get your wares displayed to potential customers.  In the week before the faire starts, Marcy Singer is busy sewing costumes (to be worn by merchants) and embroidering shirts, collars, and cuffs with blackwork to sell in her booth in the merchant’s hall.

 Her excitement about the faire is tempered a bit when she finds that her assigned booth is in between the booths of the Davis sisters, Nellie and Clara.  Nellie has had it in for Marcy since she moved to town, for reasons semi-real and imagined.  Clara, who only arrived in town recently, immediately co-signed her sister’s attitude, leased the shop next door to Marcy, and opened a competing needlework shop that mirrors Marcy’s setup in almost every way.  It may be a chilly two weeks in the merchants’ hall, but Marcy is determined behave civilly and have a good time.

The night before the Faire begins, merchants are setting up their booths.  Marcy and her boyfriend, detective Ted Nash, arrive late in the evening to being their setup.  Glancing into the booth next door, Marcy spots something odd in the back corner.  She’s shocked to discover Clara, on her side on the floor, with a knitted scarf twisted around her neck.  The paramedics say there was nothing Marcy could have done, but Nellie still blames Marcy and, in her grief, begins hurling accusations.  Not long after, Marcy’s booth is vandalized during the night, leaving her shirts, collars, and cuffs cut to shreds.  None of the other booths were touched, so clearly, this is directed at Marcy.  Is it revenge, or just a warning?

The author does a great job of describing the atmosphere of the faire.  It’s obviously a venue with large crowds of people in costume; anyone might be lurking behind a mask.  The faire also allows for a large influx of new characters, potential motives, and possible suspects.  As a result, we spend a lot of time with Marcy at the Faire, shopping, chatting, and meeting new people. Many people are supposed to be acting ‘in character,’ especially those given the foreboding MacBeth lines.  It all makes sorting out who’s acting suspiciously and who’s just acting, that much more difficult.

As the story opens, there is no current open homicide in Tallulah Falls, so Ted is working on a five-year-old cold case.  A detective has to keep an open mind and deal with facts.  Any mystery reader worthy of the name knows that this cold case will somehow figure into current events in town.  It does, of course, but not in quite the way I expected.  Secondary characters never get left out: their lives progress and change and the author is careful to make that clear. This mystery has a great backdrop, good characters, and a few red herrings to keep things moving.  Whether you’re a newcomer to the series (listed below) or have been reading from the start, you’ll enjoy this outing.

Rating: 7
April 2015
ISBN# 978-0-451-46740-9  (paperback)

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