It Came Upon a Midnight Shear
A Riverbank Knitting Mystery #3
By Allie Pleiter
Author Website: alliepleiter(.)com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
A murder in her yarn shop’s backyard puts Libby Beckett’s holiday plans on thin ice….
The holiday season looks merry and bright for Libby and her friends at Y.A.R.N. The store is expanding for a holiday boom, and she’s gathered Collinstown’s businesses to decorate a community Christmas tree. Dashing “Gallant Herdsman” Vincenzo Marani arrives to showcase the rare vicuña, whose coat produces the world’s most luxurious yarn. It’s a perfect yuletide–until Libby’s ex-husband, Sterling, turns up in town…and then turns up dead.
The murder unravels Libby’s life faster than a hand-knit Christmas stocking. The luxe yarn goes missing, Sterling’s domineering family comes to town, and the vicuña attempt an escape. If Libby can’t stitch up a solution to the case, she may be trading in her knitting needles for a set of handcuffs.
If you only have time to read one Christmas cozy mystery this year, consider this one! I so enjoyed being back at Y.A.R.N. (You’re Absolutely Ready Now) in Collinstown, MD. It was described so well, I could almost smell the pine and feel the crisp, December air in this picturesque town. Libby, her mom, and their friends are defined well, quirks and all, as was her cringeworthy ex-husband and his family. I quickly appreciated being invited into this novel and its challenging mystery.
Libby made plans for the best Christmas ever, both for Y.A.R.N., a paradise for those who love to knit or crochet, and for Collinstown, of which she is the Chamber of Commerce president. Best of all, her application to be a supplier for the ultra-luxurious yarn made from coats of the rare vicuña had been approved. Vincenzo Marani has arrived with four vicuña, borrowed from the only zoo in the US with the delicate, gorgeous creatures. Vincenzo works with them extensively in Peru and will demonstrate shearing their elegant coats, which can only be done every three years. The resulting yarn is beyond soft, and extremely expensive. Eleven shops had applied to host his presentation, and only Libby’s was approved. Vicuña are related to camels and alpacas, and the adorable animals have a common quirk – they spit, even at people.
Sterling, Libby’s ex-husband and head of the family-owned pharmaceutical house Sonesty, has been after Libby for weeks to renegotiate their divorce settlement. Libby had helped Sterling with the company, including being one of the top salespeople there. Because of that and his vast worth, she wasn’t going to budge.
Sterling and Vincenzo were old college buddies, so when Sterling came to the shop for the first time, he acted as if he were there to see her esteemed Italian guest. He did, of course, bring up the settlement renegotiation, to a resounding no. That evening, she took Vincenzo out to dinner at the best local Italian restaurant and learned how he got involved with vicuña and his role in the village in Peru that cared for them. Despite knowing that she is dating Gavin, the mayor, Vincenzo shamelessly flirted with her throughout dinner.
The day that the first vicuña was to be sheared arrived and the event was a great success. Those who knit and do other yarn crafts are tactile people, so much so that all were thrilled to touch the coat of the elegant creature. Sterling arrived again; after she and Sterling had words, he tried to pick a fight with Vincenzo. Among those present was the police chief, Frank, her friend of more than twenty years. Frank had to separate the men. Her temper tipped over the edge in front of the remaining attendees. It seemed like the whole town witnessed her coming unraveled in front of her shop so soon after the incredible success of the presentation.
The next morning, Frank and her mother arrived at her home early. Someone killed Sterling the night before, in the backyard of her shop, where Vincenzo’s motorhome was parked and the vicuña were penned. It looked as if the weapon was a pair of clipping shears. Between the shears and the threat Libby had shouted at him the prior day, they were both high on the suspect list. A very short suspect list. Libby didn’t like her ex, but she didn’t want him dead!
The author presents characters who somewhat fit their traditional roles, yet each had quirks that magnified how loveable or unlovable they were. Most are three dimensional, and each is demonstrated through their actions and conversations.
In the days following the murder, Libby dealt with the theft of some of the valuable yarn, the escape of the vicuña, the townspeople’s suspicion, and the accidental snapping of the elegant twelve-foot Christmas tree ordered for the town. Libby had helped Frank solve murders in the past and was devastated to be a suspect and barred from helping find the killer.
Libby proceeded to talk to people anyway, including her former mother-in-law and sister-in-law, and learned interesting news about the company Sterling ran. She learned about drugs that were being tested at the company and heard of potential new suspects. I had no idea who could have done it, as nobody felt right. The identity of the killer was quite a surprise, someone I had not even considered! All loose ends were tied up and the ending was satisfactory in every way. I highly recommend this Christmas-themed cozy mystery!