A Stitch Before Dying (Black Sheep Knitting Mystery #3) by Anne Canadeo
This is the third book in the series, taking place months after to Knit. Purl. Die, and the death of their friend Gloria Sterling. In this series we have the Black Sheep knitting group made up of: Maggie Messina, the leader, once a high school art teacher, but now is the owner of the knitting shop, Black Sheep (Plum Harbor, Massachusetts);Lucy Binger, newly divorced, graphic designer; Dana Haegar, yoga loving, health foodie, psychologist; Suzanne Cavanaugh, multitasker, incredible cook, mother of five, real estate queen; and Phoebe Meyer, punk rocker, fun-loving, and unconventional assistant at the Black Sheep. The group gab, knit, and solve murders.
The girls are meeting one night and talking about how overworked and overwrought they all are.
Maggie agrees with them all and tell them she has a surprise for all. Maggie’s old friend, Nadine, is a manger of the inn hosting a retreat and called to ask her to fill in as a knitting teacher. Maggie of course has agreed. And as payment she negotiated a cottage big enough for the group to stay in, for free.
The girls are all super excited for the free weekend and agree to head up.
Suzanne is a bit worried about leaving her husband in charge, but is all for a break. Lucy is happy about the weekend too as she and Matt have hit a rough patch in their relationship. It seems as if he can hardly spend any time with her and he keeps making up all these weird excuses, like “classes” he has to attend to get “certifications” in. The whole thing is highly suspicious and has Lucy worried that maybe he is seeing another woman.
She puts that aside for a moment and joins the group in looking at the place’s website and seeing all the wonderful accruements, becoming very excited for the whole event. Suzanne notices that the place is owned by Dr. Max, something Maggie forgot to tell them. Dr. Max Flemming is a famous psychologist: booming book sales, has been on Oprah, etc. He was a very successful psychiatrist with a booming practice, when one of his patients committed suicide. He lost everything, hitting rock bottom and traveling the world. He returned with new insights and has been trying to share them with the world.
Dana doesn’t like him, Lucy has never heard of him, and Suzanne is crazy about him. This should be an interesting weekend indeed.
That Friday the ladies head down for the retreat. They are awed by the beautiful inn and Maggie shares that Dr. Max used all the money from his book to buy the inn. He is looking for investors this weekend in the hope to expand his empire.
When the reach the retreat, Nadine is there waiting to greet them. Everyone heads off to eat, except Lucy who needs to use the restroom. As she heads off to the restroom she overhears a conversation between a blonde woman in a business suit, and a younger man dresses in jeans and work boots. The women yells at him that he can’t leave, but has to stay. He becomes angry at her for breaking the deal. She tells him he has to stay or he won’t get paid. They argue a bit more and the man picks up a nearby vase and throws it at the wall breaking it into pieces.
They both notice Lucy at this point, who is extremely embarrassed. The woman points her to the bathroom, while the man begins to clean up the mess he made.
Nadine discusses Maggie’s schedule, along with other things happening at the retreat. There is a moon meditation, something special that happens once a month, and a sock puppet “Finding Your Voice” class. Some of Nadine’s comments about how these are better than real therapy angers Dana so much, Maggie changes the subject and herds them to their cottage.
Maggie heads back to do her Random Knitting class, knitting without a pattern or borders, with Lucy and Phoebe joining her. Maggie has a good sized group with a wide range in ages, occupations, and knitting skills: Helen Lynch, mid fifties, a wealthy public relations executive, and never knitted; Rita and Walter Schumacher, 60s-70s, housewife and retired engineer, Rita’s an expert while Walter is just along for the ride; Curtis Hill, mid forties, travel writer, never knitted; and Shannon Piper, 30s, ex-model, and an accomplished knitter.
They get to work with Phoebe and Lucy helping Maggie out. While they work, Dr. Max comes over to speak to the group.
Lucy notices Curtis taking pics of Dr. Max on the sly with his iPhone. If he is working for a travel magazine wouldn’t they have worked it so that he could get good shots? And with a real camera?
Dr. Max joins them in knitting and shares some words of wisdom and anecdotes. Lucy and Phoebe find a lot of what he says silly, but the rest of the crowd eats it up. There is no denying that Dr. Max has a LOT of charisma.
Nadine comes by with her sister Alice. Alice turns out to be the the same woman Lucy spotted earlier fighting with the younger man.
When tea is served, the class ends and everyone goes their seperate ways. Lucy notices Curtis taking more photos and videos with his iPhone.
Dana and Lucy decide to head out to the moon meditation, just to see what it really is like and whether or not it is worth the hype. While waiting to begin their hike up the mountains, Lucy notices Curtis in the group for the meditation. Before she can talk to him, Dr. Max comes out banging a drum and the group heads up the mountains. There they burn sage, bang more drums, dance, and chant around a bonfire. They start meditating, but Lucy can’t focus on a blank mind instead racing from thought to thought. She opens her eyes a crack and sees Curtis once again recording everything secretly from his iPhone. Obviously something is up and Curtis is not who he says he is.
After Suzanne, Pheobe, and Maggie have dinner, Suzanne and Phoebe head to the cottage while Maggie goes to the lobby for another knitting class. No one seems to show up, so she just starts knitting and waits. A yoga instructor, Joy Kimmel, stops by. She is supposed to work with her on a class the next day and thought she try a little knitting beforehand. Joy ends up sharing her life with Maggie and reveals that not only does she work full-time at the retreat but is Dr. Max’s ex-wife.
She shares how her depiction in the book was correct and that she was only concentrated on material things. She divorced him when everything went south. Since the, she has apparently changed her life, became a yoga instructor and was offered a job to work at the retreat by Dr. Max. She now is much happier than before.
I don’t know if I buy that…anyways, Joy also mentions what a great help Dr. Max has been to Alice and her son Brian. After the suicide of the patient and loss of practice, Dr. Max’s partner and Alice’s husband Dr. Edward Archer died. Dr. Max has really been there for the two of them, with Alice helping run the inn and the two dating. Brian is the head handyman at the inn as well.
Joyce continues sharing her opinion and philosophy which seems to cover everything from the I Ching to Hakuna Matata. The conversation ends shortly after that and Maggie returns to her cabin, noticing a bob of a flashlight heading up the mountain. But why would someone be going there so late?
After the bonfire, those on the mountains are told to sleep in a single bungalow and continue meditating until they fell asleep. Lucy feels strange up there by herself, and sneaks over to Dana’s cabin. The two talk late into the night.
The next morning at 7:00 am Lucy awakens to a siren. As the ambulance heads into a bungalow, Lucy and Dana do a quick look at all the others trying to see what’s going on and figure out that the only one missing is Curtis.
It turns out that Curtis Hill is dead. And he didn’t die of natural causes, but
The detectives detain everyone and begin asking questions.
Maggie, Suzanne, and Phoebe are also woken early by a detective rounding up all the guests and sending them to the lobby for questioning. While waiting their turn they spot Nadine and weasel out the story. Curtis died from carbon monoxide, as his heater in the bungalow wasn’t connected correctly.
Both Alice and Nadine are worried about what this might do for business and let everyone know that not only will business be going on as usual, but that everyone can get a free massage or spa treatment.
Lucy and Dana return and all spill about what happened the previous night. Lucy shares Curtis’ strange behavior and they all speculate why someone would wish to kill him. Maggie shares how she saw someone going up the mountain.
When Maggie is questioned and reveals what happened the night before, including Joy and the I Ching, the detectives show her a clue from the scene of the crime. The murderer left behind an I Ching symbol, #18.
After the interview, it is time for Maggie’s workshop. They are in a conference room and have to go down a maze of hallways, not all with properly functioning lights. Needless to say, having flickering lights doesn’t feel good with a murder on the loose.
Joy cancels, but Dana fills in with the same group from the day before (minus Curtis [of course], and Lucy). While they are working, Helen reveals that she overheard that Curtis didn’t work for a travel magazine, but Expose, a tabloid. That changes everything as Curtis could have some real enemies.
When the class ends they discuss who could hav killed Curtis and why? Could it possibly have been Dr. Max?
While everyone else goes to the spa to redeem their coupons, Lucy takes a nap at the cottage. After she is rested she begins reading Dr. Max’s book, Confessions of a Lost Soul: One Man’s Journey to Reunite Mind, Body, and Spirit.
In his book he relates thriving practice and affluent lifestyle. The patient who committed suicide wasn’t actually his patient, but he still took part in her treatment. When she died, Archer drank himself to death, and as said before, Dr. Max lost everything. He then went on his journey of self-discovery.
Lucy is interrupted by Brian, head handyman, Alice’s son, and the man she saw fighting with Alice the day before. He reveals that they had guests in those bungalows the previous morning and night, so someone had to mess with the heaters during the meditation. If that’s the case, then the person would have had to wait to see which bungalow Curtis chose, and had to be someone on the trip. Or someone who snuck up in the middle of the night.
The detective comes back to the cottage to ask Maggie about a knitted piece he found in Curtis’ room. Maggie says that it is Dr. Max’s, but then Dana reveals new information. She saw yesterday that Dr. Max was in that room the Curtis’ dead body was found, and that Curtis originally started in a different one. So sometime during the night he moved over. But why?
Here is where I thought, obviously Curtis wasn’t the intended target but Dr. Max!
After the detective leaves, they talk more about the murder and look up the I Ching symbol. It stands for decay, or
Something has been spoiled, and it is time to repair the damage. In the world of human affairs, indulgence and corruption grow like weeds in an untended garden; they must be faced squarely, and rooted out through bold action. Eliminating corruption — and the sloppiness that often leads to corruption — is one of the most ennobling of all human enterprises, and can clear the way for fresh, new beginnings. Such repair leads to supreme success.
The time has come to be lean and efficient. The weeds must be rooted out now, before the whole garden is lost. Fighting decay, indifference and corruption is not a simple matter; all steps must be evaluated carefully, and planning must precede action. Resist the temptation to strike out prematurely. Gather strength behind you, and marshal your inner resources, because arresting decay is no simple matter. When you do act, pay close attention to the process. Make your strike as precise and clear as the path of the surgeon’s knife.
That night at dinner they run into Nadine who shares more information. Apparently Hill was complaining about his cot, so Dr. Max switched from his massively better one for Hill’s room to make him happy. Unfortunately the cops aren’t really buying that story. Why wouldn’t he tell the police that right away?
The next morning Lucy goes for a jog around the lake and runs into Brian. Her surprise causes her to fall, and Brian walks her back to the cottage. On the way they discuss the book and Brian reveals that Max gave the events quite a spin. His dad, Dr. Archer had gone out of town and left his patients in the care of Dr. Max. Dr. Max was responsible for helping the girl. She called him repeatedly but he just told her to go to the emergency room and call her from there. Or wait until next week when her doctor returned. Instead she killed herself. Brain knows this to be true as he overheard Dr. Max arguing with his father over it.
Lucy mulls this over, meeting up with the girls at breakfast and sharing everything she learned. After breakfast, Maggie has another knitting session. It’s the usual crowd, although Lucy notices that Walter seems to be having a rough day. His suit looks rumpled, wrinkled, and is stained with something greenish.
After class another ambulance comes. There’s been another murder.
Who could have done it? Jealous Alice as Dr. Max was cheating on her with many women. Brain? Was he angry about what Dr. Max did to his dad and his legacy? Or is it another person lurking at the spa?
Thoughts after reading:
I think that out of the whole series this one is the weakest link.
One of the biggest problems is that this book does not take place in Plum Harbor, like the others, but in an entirely different setting. Therefore we have all these characters that our Black Sheep Knitting Group has just met, and instead of discovering or figuring out information, it is all regulated through nadine and others.
Not enough is gleaned from the actual characters, who are supposed to be investigating!
Now I don’t know if the author is a New Age fan or not but this book just goes on and on about it.
I thought it was super boring.
And eventually just started skipping those sections altogether as they did not pertain to the mystery I’m trying to solve.
It also kept making me think of Murder in Paradise from the Sweet Valley High series. And let me say that if a plot makes you think of something in the latter half of the Sweet Valley High series when it was seriously declining? Then it is time to take a long hard look at yourself. You can do better Anne Canadeo, I BELIEVE in you.
For more Black Sheep Knitting Mysteries, go to Knit, Purl, Die
For more book reviews, go to Strawberry Shortcake Murder
For more Nostalgia Critic, go to Candy for Christmas