This was originally posted on Dollycas’s Thoughts May 17, 2011.
Sally Goldenbaum has been a good friend since I started this blog and when we realized we share Wisconsin as our home state the friendship has grown. The latest Seaside Knitting Mystery really brought back some fabulous memories of my wedding, which I will share more about following her post. Right now I am just delighted she found time in her busy schedule to spend some time with us!!!
I love visiting Dollycas’s Thoughts. Thank you for having me back, Lori.
And what nice company I’m in—lots of cozy mystery authors are stopping by to say hello. Which got me pondering what many of us write about. Nice people in lovely towns, interesting jobs, great crafts, good food, and….well, yes—murder.
So why do these things seem to go together so well? Why do so many of us write mysteries around a theme, like food or knitting or gardening?
Who needs herbs and bamboo needles or a trowel when you have a dead body? Why isn’t a plain old murder enough?
Although each of us would probably have a different slant on why we’ve chosen to stir all these elements together in our mysteries, we’d probably agree on one thing: adding a craft or particular job or profession can provide a kind of centering to our stories.
In writing a mystery series, we are not only inviting readers back to follow the same characters story after story; we’re also inviting those characters back. The same ones, book after book after book. And having some sort of anchor—a ready-made reason for those characters to get together, to interact, to gossip, to grow together and develop their friendship in new ways—is helpful in structuring a plot.
Nell, Birdie, Izzy, and Cass—the four friends in my Seaside Knitting Mysteries—gather in Izzy’s cozy yarn shop to think through the things going on in Sea Harbor—whether those things are joyful happenings (like the wedding about to happen in THE WEDDING SHAWL), or tragic events, like a sports car that careens off a cliff and into the ocean (in MOON SPINNERS). The knitting isn’t instrumental in solving the crimes, but it provides an ‘excuse’ to be together, to deepen friendship, and to explore a murder.
Another thing that knitting adds to the novels, I think, is a kind of sensuousness. Imagine a basket filled with cashmere yarn. You can hardly keep your fingers out of it. Soft and silky, vibrant colors so luscious you can almost taste them.
Food and drink do the same—a common theme in so many mysteries. Savoring Nell’s garlic grilled shrimp salad with fresh flakes of basil sprinkled on top—and clinking together four glasses of Birdie’s chilled pinot grigio —are certain to stimulate and sharpen the senses and help the Sea Harbor knitters explore the intricacies of a neighbor’s untimely death.
But why did I pick knitting and not some other craft? Lots of people ask me that. And I’m sure those who write about quilting and gardening and cheese shops are asked the same. Again—there are probably lots of different answers, not the least of which might be that the author happens to be an expert quilter or gardener.
Me? Not so much!
When she was eighty years old and I was ten or eleven, my grandmother taught me how to knit. And though she was an amazing, accomplished woman, she failed in that one aspect of her life. Knitting and purling escaped me.
And then I grew up and became a writer.
AND had grandchildren.
And so I picked up the needles, filled a shelf with fine cotton yarn, and tried all over again, this time with a new passion, if not great skill.
And at that same time, I was thinking about a new mystery series. A series about four smart, funny, hopefully wise women who care about each other and the seaside town in which they live and love and work and eat delicious seafood. A former lawyer, a retired nonprofit director, a lobster fisherwoman, and a grand dame with life’s lessons at her fingertips.
But I needed a way for these women to get together frequently. Something that suited their personalities.
And that something became Izzy’s yarn shop, with a room in the back that overlooked the sea—with a fireplace, fine pinot grigio and fantastic seafood pasta on the coffee table, yarn baskets beside each comfy chair.
The Seaside Yarn Shop became the knitters’ safe haven, the place where the women of Sea Harbor settle down with their yarn and their needles. It’s the place where they gently sip their wine or tea and peel away the layers of their friends’ and neighbors’ lives, discovering secrets in order to solve crimes and to bring peace back to the town they love.
Knitting—and the Yarn Studio—is where their friendship is nourished, right along with their sleuthing skills.
A warm, safe, and cozy place.
And as they work on their projects (I say, hopefully) they will teach me something about picking up dropped stitches and weaving in loose ends.
And even some things about life.
Knitting. Mysteries. Friendship
Is she a great lady or what???
Thank you so much Sally!!!
Her latest book is:
by Doug Martin
An Obsidian Mystery
A Division of Penguin Publishing
Was Released May 3, 2011
A Seaside Knitters Mystery
5th in the series
Izzy is getting married and all her friends are getting together to knit her a beautiful wedding shawl. Everyone contributing their knitting talents to one wonderful project. What a treasured gift!!!
Oh yes, there is mystery too, as the hair stylist for the wedding participants disappears and later is found dead. This lands the Seaside Knitters in the middle of another murder investigation. But these ladies can handle it, they will finish the shawl and solve the crime to get the towns focus back on wedding bells instead of jail cells.
You know I loved this book because I truly love this series. The friendship these women have, their personalities, their wisdom, added to the perfect setting, all brilliantly written, makes every trip to Sea Harbor a well deserved vacation with the friends we have come to love. Yes, the sensory factors are amazing, you can almost smell the sea air, feel the yarn fibers and taste the seafood and fine wine.
Sally is right about the connection needed in these wonderful cozy mysteries I have grown to love. I was a very crafty person before my accident, knitting, crocheting, sewing, macramé, quilting, cooking, anything to keep my hands busy. That is what first drew me to these kinds of books. I may not be able to actually do the craft myself anymore but I sure can read about it.
This story brought back a wonderful memory. While not a knitted wedding shawl, I was blessed to have a hand crocheted wedding dress and jacket made just for me. I found the pattern way back when I was in high school and fell in love with it and tucked it away. When my husband and I became engaged I was bound and determined to make this dress, but there were just not enough hours in the day, so a family friend took over and completed a monumental task as you can see from the picture below.
I wish I could find some pictures of the stitching close up. We sure have had fun looking through all the old pictures. The dress underneath is sleeveless and the jacket has like 30 little small pearl buttons to hold it closed. It was dry cleaned, sealed in a special box, tucked away in my cedar chest, and is waiting for a daughter or granddaughter to wear it someday. It is quite the treasured heirloom just like Izzy’s shawl. Thank you Sally for such a wonderful memory. Someday I will share the bridesmaid dresses fiasco 🙂
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from The Obsidian Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”