Wound Up In Murder
A Yarn Retreat Mystery, Book #3
By Betty Hechtman
Author’s website: www.bettyhechtman.com
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Jeanie
With two yarn retreats in the bag, Casey is looking forward to running her third one at Cadbury by the Sea’s Vista Del Mar hotel on the Monterey Peninsula. This time, each knitter will get a Mystery Bag of knitting materials to turn into a personal project.
But Casey gets tangled up in another retreat at the same hotel, when the organizer and his wife have a very public spat. As Casey is delivering her baked goods later that night, she finds the woman dead in the bushes with a magician’s silk scarf nearby—just like the scarf Casey’s ex-boyfriend, Sammy, used during his magic act at the retreat. As Sammy takes center stage as the prime suspect, Casey and her friends will have to stitch together the clues before the real killer pulls a disappearing act…
Casey Feldstein sounds like a wonderful friend and member of her community, Cadbury by the Sea in California. Even though she has not lived there long, Casey had visited there when she was growing up and as adult. In spite of her mother despairing of her ever sticking with any job or situation, Casey is currently preparing to lead her third yarn retreat at the beautiful Vista Del Mar resort – and enjoying it. At least until learning that the entirety of the resort is reserved for the Favorite Year 1963 convention except for the yarn retreat. Casey, a top-notch dessert chef, also baked cupcakes and various pastries for the local restaurants and coffee shops, and continued her aunt’s business, ‘Yarn2Go Retreats’. She also has a sleek black cat, Julius, who she talks to about everything, and many times that it seems her purring confidante not only understands her, but helps her out with his antics.
The third novel in the “A Yarn Retreat Mystery” series, Wound Up In Murder can be read as a stand-alone; the author, Betty Hechtman, who writes cozy mysteries with excellence, has gracefully stitched in any necessary particulars that help us know the history or background of the regular characters and situations. There are two mysteries in this novel, one of which seems to have been introduced in a prior book in the series and continues into the next in series. Casey has a photograph of a tiny infant girl from 1962 and knows the name of the father, Edmund Delacorte, the original owner of the Vista Del Mar, and brother to Madeleine Delacorte, the 70-something lady who sticks to Casey like a teenaged best friend. The birth mother and the location of the now-grown woman are still a mystery. It is critical to find the now-grown woman as there is a quite valuable inheritance awaiting her. It is interesting to see how Casey and her best friend Lucinda Thornkill work and bounce ideas off of each other in an effort to identify the young woman.
The yarn retreat, top priority for Casey and Lucinda, begins when the Favorite Year 1963 people are getting into full swing for their retreat. Thankfully, Vista Del Mar is almost across the street from Casey’s home, inherited from her beloved deceased aunt, so she is able to easily run back and forth as needed. And figure out what to do with the two men in her life – Dane Mangano, a neighbor who is also a police officer and hopeful suitor and Dr. Sammy Glickman, who Casey used to date in Chicago and when she moved to California, he moved his practice there as he needed a change in his life.
The early birds of the retreat arrive the day before it starts and help Casey set up what she can with the other retreat in full swing. The primary craft of the retreat will be found in the contents of a Mystery Bag, a seemingly unrelated assortment of yarn colors and textures with beads and other fancies. Doesn’t that sound like fun – to actively work on a craft project, possibly in a totally foreign craft than usually participated in? It does to me!
In the same room that they will welcome their participants, the 1963 people are receiving their guests, also. Vista Del Mar has agreed to some unique requirements of the other retreat coordinators, however. All of their participants will dress in clothing unique to that year. There will be no technology allowed or available that wasn’t readily available in 1963 – no cell phones, hi-def and/or color televisions, cordless phones, laptops or personal computers of any type. Pay phones were in the primary receiving room, and a bulletin board where messages would be left for others. And the Yarn Retreat folks could join some of the activities, most preferably in 1963 costume. There are a select few things that this reader remembers from 1963, perhaps more if left to ponder. It was fun to be reminded of some of the singers and TV series that showed a more family-oriented time.
The main organizer for the 1963 group was Norman Rathman, a charismatic and well-liked man. His assistant, Sally Winston, was available to meet any of the group’s needs if Norman was unavailable. Kind of like the elephant in the living room, Norman Rathman’s soon-to-be-ex-wife appeared. She was a show-stopper all on her own, with non-1963 attire, a bad attitude and bad manners dumped on anyone around her. Dr. Sammy had been hired to do magic tricks at the retreat – his hobby – and Diana Rathman was horribly rude to him. She yanked the silk scarves, part of his act, out of his sleeve, ruining one of his tricks. And hours later after Casey delivered her baked goods for the next morning, her flashlight picked up something shiny off the path. Unfortunately, she went to see what it was, and found the dead body of Diana Rathman. And with her body is also found the silk scarves that she pulled from Sammy’s sleeve. When Casey returns home, she finds a very drunk and disheveled Sammy on her doorstep who remembers nothing of the evening. She sends him into the guest house to sleep it off. And hide, as he will probably be a prime suspect when the silks are identified. Some of these extra-curricular jobs just seem to cost more than they should….
I truly enjoy and appreciate Casey, from the barbs of her mother to the way she wants to help everyone resolve their challenges and get on with a better life. Her closest friends, including the now happier-go-lucky Madeleine, are also as fun and adventurous. The characters are developed well. Even the eccentric 1963 retreat participants have depth and texture that brings them to life. The author has a talent to step into the shoes of several people at once so that the reader can feel a kinship with most of them.
Betty Hechtman also has a gift for planning and executing a plot that can be involved yet not confusing. As the successful author of the Crochet Mystery series, her knowledge of various types of needlework is impressive. Where, I, to have access to, and sufficient means to attend a yarn retreat, it sounds like the kind of long weekend that would be productive while still being relaxing. This novel shows the retreat, and Casey’s friendships, in a lovely woven tapestry of camaraderie, learning, and the pure joy of handling the yarn. And I love the idea of the mystery bags – how fun would that be? The primary mystery of the murder of Diana Rathman had its ups and downs, especially for Sammy. There were enough suspects to keep even Columbo happy, and the final twist that this reader absolutely did not anticipate. It was fun to follow the riveting investigation and Casey’s search for the murderer while trying to anticipate Edmund Delacorte’s mistress and daughter might be.
Wound Up in Murder is an exciting, fun romp through Cadbury by the Sea that I highly recommend to fans of Betty’s and those who enjoy needlecraft mysteries. The one drawback to this reader is the serial mystery that began in an earlier novel in the series and continues into the one following this. Many readers enjoy this connection between the series books and eagerly anticipate the next novel to continue their ideas for the “who is it”. I find it a little less than positive part of a cozy mystery series. If I am picking up a book in the middle of the series, I would want to know more about the source of the mystery; since it may be several months to a year before the next book in the series is released, I will have forgotten the specifics before it is released. And I am the kind of reader who appreciates all the loose ends to be tied up by the last chapter of the mystery I am reading. All that being said, I still highly recommend Wound Up in Murder as the latest exciting book in the Yarn Retreat mysteries, as overall I really enjoyed Casey and her friends, and the links to the past through the Favorite Year retreat. Betty Hechtman has penned another mystery sure to be a great seller – just ask Julius, the starring feline!