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Not Hooked On This Crochet Mystery

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was stuck on a book. Despite all the reasons I thought I would like that mystery set in Georgian England, it just wasn’t grabbing me and it seemed like the best way to restart my reading was to switch books. Normally, to get on-track with my reading again, I like turn to a book by a favorite author, a known quantity. But, much to my folly, I went with an author I hadn’t read before.

The premise of Hooked on Murder by Betty Hechtman appealed to me for a couple reasons. It was set in a bookstore and it involved a crochet group–two things I love. Not only that, but because this author was published by Berkley Prime Crime, I had a feeling I knew what to expect from the book in terms style and the quality of writing.

Berkley Prime Crime tends to specialize in “cozies”, mysteries in the tradition of Agatha Christie where things happen in a set location with an established cast of characters. These books focus more on the mystery of figuring out “who-done-it” than on vividly gruesome crime description, overt violence, or action. And the Prime Crime books seem to be aimed at women because so many of the authors and protagonists are female.  But while Hooked on Murder was generally true to what I have come to expect from Berkley Prime Crime, it just didn’t do it for me.

The story. Molly Pink, a recent widow in her late 40s, has fought to get her life back to a new normal after the early death of her husband Charlie, a partner in a small public relations firm. But Molly’s plans for her new normal are thrown when she discovers the dead body of Ellen, her husband’s business partner. Now Molly is scrambling to figure out who would kill Ellen because a jealous female police detective seems convinced Molly is guilty, a development that would free up Molly’s boyfriend for this detective. In her efforts to learn more about the deceased and find an outlet for the nervous energy being the prime suspect of a murder investigation can cause, Molly joins the crochet group that Ellen ran and learns that there were a variety of people who benefited from Ellen’s death far more than Molly did. In order to prove her innocence, Molly is going to have to find out who really killed Ellen–all while learning to crochet the perfect granny square.

What I liked. As a protagonist, Molly is likeable. She’s been through tough times with the early death of her husband, but she’s rebuilding her life on her own and struggles to maintain the independence she’s discovered in the wake of tragedy. Not only is Molly herself likeable, but so is her best friend Dinah, a community college English teacher who refuses to disclose her age. I enjoyed this story the most when it stayed with Molly and Dinah.

The other characters. Other than Molly and Dinah, almost none of the characters were likeable. Molly had two grown sons, Peter and Samuel, and neither of them seemed worthy of her. Peter came across as coldly self-centered that even as his mother worried about being arrested. Samuel fares no better, coming across as a complete wuss. Molly’s boyfriend Barry was remarkably obtuse for a police detective, never realizing that “Detective Heather” was crushing on him and trying to get Molly out of the way, even if that meant charging Molly with a murder she didn’t commit. Adele, a fellow bookstore employee, is so over-the-top rude to Molly that I cringed each time she appeared in the story. An aging star, CeeCee, attempting to become the crochet group’s new leader is entertaining in her vain way, but the other group members are kind of flat. The owners of the bookstore where Molly works are only present to heap pressure on Molly for things she can’t control, and it felt odd that small business owners would be in their shop so seldom. Perhaps the only other likeable character was Jeffrey, Barry’s son. Thirteen-year-old Jeffrey, despite his father’s consternation, wants to be an actor and wants to know all about Molly’s experience finding a dead body. I can go along with a lot in a story so long as I like the characters in it, but with Hooked on Murder I mostly felt sorry for Molly, Dinah, and Jeffrey that they were surrounded by so many jerks.

The writing. Despite the drought of likeable characters, Betty Hechtman writes a clear, understandable story. Through the action and the revelation of the mystery, there weren’t any times in the story when it was unclear who had done what. I appreciate that because it gives me the feeling that I’m getting the information I need to figure out the mystery. However, that wasn’t quite the case with this book. Not unlike Agatha Christie, there was a whole lot of red herring and very little that would allow the reader to figure out the mystery.

I really wanted to like this mystery, but I don’t think I will read anymore books in this series. My affection for crocheting isn’t enough to overcome my dislike for so many of the characters. However, the good thing this book this did was it compelled me to start a new crochet project. If I like how it turns out, I’ll share it here.

Until then, I wish you better reads than I’ve been reading. A book that you think is going to be good and doesn’t deliver, well, that feels like a broken promise.

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Posted by on February 29, 2012 in Books, Lifestyle, Uncategorized

 

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Knitting Adventure–Class 2

For reasons I don’t quite understand, I’ve run into any number of people who think it is funny and a little odd that I’m excited about learning to knit. One dear friend even suggested that life wasn’t really that bad and that my dating slump was sure to turn around soon. Honestly, if I thought that knitting could abate my sexual frustration, I would have started much sooner, but, sad for me, it ain’t quite doing the trick.

However, what it does is give me another outlet for making something tangible.

As a writer, who is always dealing with intangible words, I love doing things that let me create something tangible. To that end I like cooking, baking, and crocheting. If I didn’t mind getting dirty and wasn’t afraid of bugs I would probably get into gardening. Like those other ventures, learning to knit satisfies that need to create something with a tangible end product.

My loving mother reminds me that part of the surprise for people who find out I’m learning to knit is that they don’t expect me to be domestic or to like to do domestic things. Perhaps it is my history of loving to go to concerts and museums, or the fact that I love my black t-shirt with the sparkly skull and cross bones on it, but I don’t necessarily exude an aura of domesticity. But looks can be deceiving. I like black eyeliner, baking, rock ‘n’ roll, Jane Austen (I like to think we’d be home girls), and now knitting. To borrow a line from Walt Whitman, I contain multitudes.

However, when people knock knitting as an older person’s pursuit, it is a tad hard for me to retort because in my knitting class of five people I’m the only one under 50. That said, I think there is something kind of fun and funky about people who aren’t afraid to learn something new regardless of their age. For example, there’s a little old lady in my knitting class named Clare. Clare’s cute as a button with snowy white hair and a voice that sounds for all the world like Betty White. Apparently, she attempted to learn to knit 50 years ago from her mother-in-law, but never quite got the hang of it and didn’t stick with it, favoring crochet instead. Yet she always thought it would be fun to know how to knit and so now, 50 years later, she’s trying again. No matter how many flowered housecoats and curlers you dress that up in, it’s spunky.

This week in class we learned how to knit and purl in the same row. I learned what I was doing wrong back when I tried to teach myself to knit and purl in the same row—you have to move your yarn to the front before your purl and then move it back when you return to the knit stitch. The results are so much better than what I had created on my own. Seriously, it was like night and day.

And knitting and purling in the same row means that I’ve started on the actual pattern for the back panel of my sweater! Yes, I’m excited. When I was knitting the bottom hem it felt like it was just a much bigger practice swatch, but now that I can see the ribbing pattern emerging it finally feels like a project. I better get cracking and make some more progress before my next class—I’d really like to finish this project close to when the class ends.

The pattern is finally visible! But I better log a lot more time knitting before the next class period.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2010 in Lifestyle, Series

 

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Knitting Adventure–Class 1

I have a confession –I have had knitting envy for years. Yes, although I’ve been crocheting for close to 20 years, I have secretly (and not so secretly) longed to learn how to knit. I love crochet, it is versatile and good for making decorative elements, blankets, toys, and accessories, but if you want to make clothing…well, most of the crocheted clothing I’ve seen looks like it is for hippies rather than hipsters. If my desire to make a sweater I would actually want to wear was to come true, I realized I needed to learn to knit.

And I have tried to learn to knit a few times. There was the sweet little old lady who taught me to cast on, there was a free lesson that got me as far as learning the stockingette stitch, and I even tracked down a copy of knitting’s modern cult classic book Stitchin’ Bitch. But it became rapidly apparent that if I continued in this vein I would never learn to knit. No, what I needed was a class so I could learn with other people.

Class 1

Last Tuesday was my first knitting class and I like this place’s approach already. Rather than starting us out making a scarf we’re going to make a sweater vest. Okay, not the most stylish item, but I’m told there is an option for putting sleeves on it and I think I could work with a cardigan. No, the nice thing about the project they have us working on is that we will actually learn how to read a pattern, shape clothing to fit, make buttonholes, increase, decrease, and a few other skills I’m forgetting. If I’m going to shell out for a class, then at the end of it I would like to feel I have the skills necessary to tackle easy patterns on my own.

My next big realization was that I had been using the wrong tools in the past when I tried to learn to knit. I figured that it didn’t make sense to spend much money on needles and yarn since I didn’t know if I would even like knitting. So I used acrylic yarn and cheap, straight knitting needles. Bad move.

The yarn shop where I have my class teaches exclusively on circular needles because they are more ergonomic and your finished product looks more professional, without those stretched out stitches that you can get with straight needles. Since I had worked only with straight needles before the circular ones looked strange and complicated, but they really weren’t and I felt like my clumsy little hands had better control with them than with straight needles.

And, at this shop, they prefer students to use natural fibers when they’re learning to knit because wool is easier to work with than acrylic. I was highly skeptical because it seemed like it couldn’t make that much of a difference when you’re just learning, but I was so wrong. Wool really is easier to work with. I don’t know why, it just is.

By the end of the first class my classmates and I were able to cast on, to knit, and to purl. For homework I had to cast on and knit in the garter stitch the first inch of the back panel for my sweater. This is what I have so far. I wonder what we’ll learn in the next class period.

I know it doesn't look like much yet, but this is on its way to becoming a sweater.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2010 in Lifestyle, Series

 

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