General blather · Knitting books

Knitting Up a Mystery

No, not another one of my ill-fated MKALs.  Today I’m thinking about actual mysteries, of the literary variety.

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Among the other things I like to do (cough <knitting!> cough), I love to read.  I love to read non-fiction mostly these days, but when I do read fiction, its usually a mystery.  In the mystery field, mostly I prefer cozies.  What in the heck is a cozy mystery? To quote Wikipedia:

Cozy mysteries, also referred to simply as “cozies”, are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.

And yes, I’m aware of the hazards of quoting Wikipedia.  But this is pretty accurate, and a tidy way of phrasing it.  Cozy mysteries are a kind of gentle version of mysteries, the kind that Agatha Christie wrote.  One of my grandmothers was addicted to Agatha Christie and her ilk, so I read them whenever I was at her house. Consequently, that is what mystery is to me.

Now, of course, there are so many options for that type of reading material it can make your head spin.  My local B&N, which is not that amazingly well stocked, has several rows of just cozies.  Cozy writers seem to have quickly realized that their plucky lady detectives were going need gimmicks to help readers connect to their series.  So it is that you have bookstore-based cozies (safe bet), stay-at-home Mom cozies, bake shop cozies, fashion cozies, actual professional law-enforcement cozies, farm market cozies, renaissance faire cozies, and so on into infinity. It’s not always a given that you’ll like a series just because it matches your interests.  Sometimes you hate the protagonist.  Sometimes the love interest makes your skin crawl. Sometimes the main character’s best friends are exactly the type of person you read mysteries to escape having to deal with in real life. But usually a cozy series that matches your interests is a safe bet.

As you can imagine, there are definitely knitting cozies.  Knitting cozies as far as the eye can see!  The few example pictured above are from series I actually read with varying degrees of regularity.

The Black Sheep Knitting Mysteries by Anne Canadeo is an established series that is up to 8 books now and looks to be going strong.  It is based in a small-town yarn shop, and though shop owner Maggie Messina is the main character, stories are often also told from the other characters’ point of view, which makes an interesting change.  Another interesting facet of these books is that knitting is usually integral to the mystery, rather than something the characters do while they are talking about other stuff, or doing on their way to investigate.  This is a pretty good series for crafty mystery fans!

The Yarn Retreat Mystery Series  by Betty Hechtman has only a couple of books so far, but is also pretty good.  As the series title implies, the main character runs knitting/crafting retreats, and people often get murdered in adjacent locations. I have only read the first novel of this series so far, but it was pretty good.  The main character is likeable and it was a fun read.

Monica Ferris ( real name Mary Monica Pulver) has been going strong with her Crewel World craft shop series since 1998.  I realize that needlepoint is the basis of this series, but the shop is multi-craftual, and so are the books.  So are many knitters, for that matter. This is also kind of fun if you are a crafting novice, as so is the protagonist.  You can learn along with protagonist Betsy Devonshire while enjoying her crusade to rid Excelsior, Minnesota of murderers.

Finally, Molly MacRae’s Haunted Yarn Shop mysteries are great if you enjoy both the fiber arts and the supernatural.  I was reluctant to get into this series, as it seems like it might be trying to do too much at one time.  However, the author handles the various threads of the series pretty well.

This is by no means all the yarn or knitting related cozy series out there.  3 more new series have probably launched in the time it took me to write this post.  So wade in!  If you enjoy crafting and a little light mayhem, this may be the genre for you.  Have a favorite knitting mystery series?  If so, feel free to comment!

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