Crash Landing!

Ah, Sweet Valley. Nothing takes me back to be preteen years faster than looking at this book series I was completely obsessed with. When I first became interested in them, they were out of print which just made me want them more!

How will I collect them all?

As I kid I really liked the series and wanted to even live in their idyllic Californian world, and I thought the stories were fun and interesting. But as an adult I know they weren’t the best written book. Most of them are cheesy, silly, or sometimes don’t make sense; but these were the ’80s-’90s versions of Gossip Girl or One Tree Hill except with a different type of drama.

So the story follows twin sisters, Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield. Both are juniors, blonde, 5’6, and size sixes. Elizabeth is the smart, responsible one who dreams of being a journalist or writer. Jessica is the fashionable, social butterfly, cheerleader that dreams of parties and popularity.

They live in Sweet Valley, near Los Angeles, and attend school with their friends. The first book focused on the two girls, but the later ones were divided into two stories: one about a friend or relative while the other is about the girls. The later series got a bit darker and was done in short series, two or three books that went together. The topics ranged from drugs, sex, school dances, serial killers, sports, werewolves, princes, vampires, kidnapping, stalkers, etc. You know normal teenage girl stuff. 😉

Yes as the series progressed the writers changed, and while I didn’t like some of the alterations I still continued to read and collect (still do so today) the novels. What can I say? They are such a big part of my childhood they bring on a tsunami of nostalgia.

So what does that have to do with us? Well quite a few of the books in the series were mysteries, supernatural, had psycho characters, or other themes that fall in line with this blog.

So the novel series is similar to the Nancy Drew Files were you have a little teaser at the end like a preview, and the book picks up from there. In the last review Elizabeth was kidnapped. Since then Elizabeth (who always lectures Jessica) cheated on her boyfriend with Nicolas Morrow, Tricia Martin’s sister had some trouble, Roger turned out to be Bruce Patman’s cousin and a millionaire, Caroline had a fake boyfriend, Bruce and Regina got together but Regina had to leave for Switzerland, and Jessica and Lila fought over a two-timing guy who turned out to be a drug dealer and threatened Jessica’s life.

Quite a lot. So here we are onto the next book:

Crash Landing! (Sweet Valley High #20) by Francine Pascal & Kate William

Remember in Secrets (Sweet Valley High #2) Enid reconnected with old boyfriend and pen pal George Warren. Well, since then—George has been stepping out on her with her pal Robin, a cheerleader.

Ugh cheerleaders.

But we aren’t supposed to hate Robin, we are supposed to feel bad because they are in “love”. They meet in pilot’s class and “fell” in “true love”. Sorry for the snark, I’ve been reading the blog Snark Valley and it must have been rubbing off on me.

Elizabeth had caught them and made them promise to tell Enid and Allen (Robin’s boyfriend) the truth. George agrees to do so after they go on their first flight. But all goes wrong and they end up crashing in Secca Lake.

George is okay with a bump, but Enid loses her ability to walk and has to use a wheelchair. They are investigating the crash, but George knows it is all his fault as if he was more experienced he would have handled it.

So the mystery is-What caused the plane to crash? Will George date Enid even though he is no longer in “love”? And what about poor Robin?

It’s like a soap opera.

Usually I do a little synopsis that they provide, but my copy of this is a hardcover and doesn’t have one.

I know, right?

So Jessica has hated Enid since she chose her sister over her, but in this when she discovers that Robin and George were cheating-she totally becomes Team Enid and has all the girls freeze Robin and George out.

“…Jessica really did feel sorry for Enid. She had never thought much of George Warren one way or another-but now she was prepared to see him as a villain”.

I can just see him as a regular guy, then in the next scene wearing a handlebar mustache and top hat to show his evilness…sorry-the snark is just overflowing. 

Low Jessica, very low.

Now some may say this is hypocritical, but at this point in the series she has only had one boyfriend, Bruce Patman, (who cheated on her-maybe that’s why she takes it to heart). She has never cheated as she was never in a serious relationship-she does later-but at this time not a hypocrite. Elizabeth is as she is always cheating on Todd. She always “owes” people a date or some stupid justification.

Anyways, George decides to stay with Enid as she saved his life and lost the ability to walk. No George, no. Don’t do it.

Even though I’m actually in love with another!

This is probably why I love Lifetime movies and such. These books trained me.


George breaks up with Robin, of which when people see his car out front think he is meeting her for a tete-a-tete. Robin becomes so blue she goes off her diet and starts consuming everything.

Enid has to go through surgery and they have no clue what will happen, will she be able to walk or lose her ability forever?

Robin kind of annoyed me, coming from someone who struggled with anorexia I don’t think they dealt with her emotional issues the right way-in how she starts becoming anorexic and develops emotional eating issues.

The writers

Robin reaches out to “Everyone’s Best Friend and Always There to Help” Elizabeth Wakefield, but Liz totally disses her. Man you are awful. How dare you say you are a friend and not even care to listen at all.

Liz has a dinner party for herself, Enid, George, and Todd. It is super awkward as George is finding it harder and harder to pretend to care about her romantically when he doesn’t, and Enid is clinging to him tighter and tighter. It makes me think in Couples Retreat when the counselor is talking to Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell.

Don’t leave!!!

They are having a dance, I think in almost every book there is a dance or fancy party. I have to stop and say it gave me highly unrealistic views for how high school would be. At the dance it is super awkward and after watching George and Robin, Enid puts it together. But even though she knows he’s be cheating, she wants him and ignores it all.

Elizabeth hatches a plan to “save” Enid and wake her up and use her legs. She borrows Teddy Collins, Mr. Collins’ son, and will have him “drown” until Enid saves him. Only one giant problem with this, Elizabeth is sure that Enid will jump in and save Teddy, getting the use of her legs back. But what if Enid doesn’t save him? What if it isn’t the plan that awakens motion in her legs, but what if she instead has a heart attack as she can’t save Teddy and thinks he is really drowning? Or what if she tries to save him but doesn’t get the full use of her legs and drowns herself? I think Dr. Elizabeth should be sued for malpractice.

But of course it works, and Enid is saved and then she lets George go.

Meanwhile, Jessica’s B story is really sad. She and Lila are taking a gourmet cooking class-which Lila walks out on she was never one for doing “work”. Jessica excels at everything and has a real knack, but because she screws up once her family treats her like crap. In fact, her mom, dad, and sister are pretty awful and condescending to her in this. And then Elizabeth’s all holier-than-thou saying Jessica is awful for being mean and judgmental to Robin when she was the same like a few days earlier. When I read this series as a kid I always liked Elizabeth, but as an adult looking at her, she is full of baloney. Jessica may do some screwed up things, but at least she is honest about who she is. I really felt bad for her in this book-she definitely got the short end of the stick while Elizabeth is the golden child, meh.


No outfits in this one. So let’s move on

The Next Book in the Series:

Another thing I loved about these books is that they were designed like radio shows and TV episodes. They always made sure to leave you with a little preview of what will come next:

[Jessica] had just about enough of her family treating her badly all the time. And since her plan to impress them had been such a miserable failure, she was going to have to come up with some other way of changing their minds about her. Only I better think of something fast, she told herself, tears tricking down her cheeks as she threw herself onto her bed. Because I don’t think I can stand things the way they are around her for another minute!

Jessica embarks on a desperate course of action in Sweet Valley #21, RUNAWAY!

But we will not be reviewing that. The next will be #26 Hostage

For more Sweet Valley High, go to Kidnapped!

For more mystery reviews, go to The Glass Forest

Secrets Can Kill

Where I live, school starts tomorrow, so I thought what better way to get “back to school” than with a school centered mystery.

Secrets Can Kill (The Nancy Drew Files #1) by Carolyn Keene

So I know most people started with the original Nancy Drew books, but I never grew up reading those. My first introduction to Nancy Drew was The Nancy Drew Files. And of course, the TV show.

In fact, I was first introduced to Nancy Drew by accident. I was looking for a Sweet Valley High book to read and someone had mis-shelved a Nancy Drew Files. 

I first was interested in Nancy Drew when I picked up a copy on accident, as it was mis-shelved with Sweet Valley High. 

Why not try it out?

I read it and loved it and immediately wanted to read the whole series.

Unfortunately, when I started reading them, they were out of print and the library only had a few books in the series. It then became a treasure hunt as I tried to find copies in thrift stores and library book sales.

Background Information:

So this series began in the ’80s and have some updates from the original series. Nancy Drew originally was a 16 year-old, high school, amateur detective, but in this version she has been aged up to 18, and a high school graduate.

She still lives in River Heights, IL and is in a long distance relationship with Ned Nickerson, who is a student at Emerson College.

Yes that is Rick Springfield. He played Ned in the Christmas episode which you can check out on Netflix or youtube.

Her friends are still cousins Bess Marvin and George Fayne; Bess being the beautiful blonde shopaholic who is always eating and George the super athlete in every way. Instead of a blue roadster, in this book she gets a blue mustang convertible.

One of the best things I love in this series are the clothes, the author (as Carolyn Keene is a pseudonym), always gives great detail to what she wears. I’m totally going to add a special section at the end.

One other thing that this series does a little differently is that every book cover has a handsome guy on it, someone who appears in the book. Some people hate that, but I always think of it as a fun guessing game as we try and figure out which of the characters it is.


Another thing this book series does, is that since it is a “case file” there is a little information sheet at the very beginning. Sometimes the suspects mentioned turn out to be who did it, while other times the person whodoneit is someone Nancy never saw coming.

ASSIGNMENT:To pose as a student, go undercover, and investigate a series of thefts at Bedford High.

CONTACT: Daryl Gray, a gorgeous senior with sexy, blueberry colored eyes and an instant attraction to Nancy.


  • Jake Webb, a genuine creep who seems to have something on half the kids at school.
  • Walt “Hunk” Hogan, the tough football captain who’s acting strangely paranoid.
  • Carla Dalton, who hates Nancy on sight. Mere jealousy–or something more sinister?
  • Hal Morgan, the class “brain” who Nancy catches cheating on a test.

COMPLICATIONS: There’s more going on at this school than meets the eye. Much more. If Nancy isn’t careful, she could get herself into serious trouble…She could get herself killed.

Nancy thinks this will be a simple job, a few rooms at the school have been broken into, one or two things were stolen. The police can’t do anything as the fingerprints don’t match any of the adults, and the offenses are so minor.

The principal turned to Nancy to pretend to be a student and search who did it, as it is most likely a student. She bought new clothes, will take some easy classes, etc. However, things take a dark turn quickly.

After her shopping trip with Bess she discovers a VHS on her porch. When she puts it in to watch, she sees HERSELF!


Someone videotaped her, which means whoever she is out to investigate, knows who she is.

The next day, Nancy gets into a race with a handsome guy. When she goes to see the principal and report for her job, it turns out that her contact to know who she really is, is the guy she was racing!

He’s cute!

Daryl Gray is cool, handsome, rich the student body president, and drives a porsche. He and Nancy spend a LOT of time together, and things start heating up between them…

Smirkity smirk smirk

Nancy starts investigating and discovers that they call the strange happenings in the school “the ghost”.

As she searches further she discovers this case involves a kleptomaniac, hidden injuries, false test scores, blackmail, cut brake lines, and espionage!

Nancy figures out who the is responsible for the break ins, but when she goes to confront them the next day-they turn out to be dead! Will Nancy solve the mystery or turn out to be next?


This book doesn’t have as many as later ones do. There is one that caught my eye, when Nancy goes to the dance near the end of the novel. I always imagine her in something like this:

And let’s not forget the cover, I love the purple leather jacket and would totally wear that of I could find one.

Thoughts After Reading:

Loved it! From beginning to end. It had a great twist I didn’t see coming as well.

Nancy’s next case:

Another thing I loved about these mysteries is that they were designed like radio shows and TV episodes. They always made sure to leave you with a little preview of what will come next:

Nancy’s next case:

When she investigates a rock star’s mysterious disappearance, Nancy once again finds herself probing perilous secrets! Her only lead takes her straight to Bess’ new boyfriend. What is he hiding? Finding out my kill her friendship with Bess. But not finding out may kill the kidnapped rock star–with Nancy and her friends next on the hit list.

Can Nancy survive the dark side of the rock scene? Find out in DEADLY INTENT–Case #2 in The Nancy Drew Files,™ available now!

For more Nancy Drew, go to Betty and Veronica: Stranger Than Fiction

For more private investigators, go to Sam the Cat: Detective

For more female private investigators, go to B is for Burglar

For more ’80s mysteries, go to C is for Corpse

For more undercover mysteries, go to The Hyde Park Murder

For more espionage, go to The Manchurian Candidate

Peach Cobbler Murder


Peach Cobbler Murder (Hannah Swenson #7) by Joanne Fluke

So we haven’t reviewed a Hannah Swenson Mystery in  while. Let me do a quick review. Hannah is still in a love triangle with Mike and Norman; although it is clear that Mike is not the right guy. Just dump him already!


Hannah’s brother-in-law has been elected Sheriff, although I don’t think he is smart enough to have that job.

I don't think so.

And Hannah’s mom is dating some English Earl. An English Earl visiting small town Minnesota in the winter? Come on now, that’s super suspicious! Why would a rich Englishman choose smallsville snow capital of the States to visit? Sounds like a conman to me. A real Earl would want to visit Miami, L.A., or something.


Just an FYI for all you readers: I HATE PEACH COBBLER!


I think it is gross, liquidly, and pretty much like eating wet bread. That being said, I will not be making any, whether the recipe is from this book or something else. Just so you know.


The Review:

Shawna Lee Quinn, (Hannah’s nemesis as she is cute, blonde, thin, and extremely interested in Mike)

Hate her that's so raven

Has just opened up a bakery, the Magnolia Blossom Bakery, across the street from The Cookie Jar, with her sister; the wealthy, widowed, and just as beautiful, Vanessa.


Everyone in town has been visiting the Magnolia Blossom Bakery, except Norman because he’s awesome, and business has been slow.


So Lisa and Hannah come up with the bright idea of sending Hannah’s sister Andrea over to spy and find out whether or not their desserts are really all that good Andrea also has a real knack for manipulating information, so they know she will get the skinny on everything.


When Andrea returns with the desserts, it turns out that this “true Southern bakery” is nothing but average, their only “Southern dish” being peach cobbler. Andrea also discovered that nearly everyone in town is at the bakery “helping Hannah” by spying to see of the bakery is really that good.

I can’t believe that Andrea feel for that.


Hannah is worried about the bakery putting hers out of business, and with baited breath they test the desserts.

Sabrina the teenage witch salem dum di dum dum dum

It turns out that the desserts are okay, with the peach cobbler tasting vaguely familiar.

Deja Vu

Looks like the Bakery might continue to cause issues for them.


They also introduce a side story about Hannah and her cat mousing (but not really) but we’ll skip that as it is boring, dumb, and useless padding.


So the next day Hannah’s mother, Delores, call her to propose a way for Hannah to beat the Magnolia Blossom Bakery. She tells Hannah to create her own peach cobbler and the afternoon meeting of the Lake Eden Quilting Society will do a blind test taste to see who’s is better. And Hannah agrees as it may be her only chance.


She makes a testing batch and it gets warm applause by all.


Herb and Lisa love the Minnesota Peach Cobbler that they ask for her to make it, in addition to her cookies and cake. Hannah agrees, and all this talk about cobbler reminds Lisa’s father, Jack, of something he did. He invited Shawna Lee to Lisa and Herb’s wedding.


Valentines’ Day has arrived,


Also the day of Herb and Lisa’s wedding. The Cookie Jar is closed for business as it will be busy with the preparations for the wedding.


While she is working, a knock at the door shows that Mike has sent her flowers for Valentine’s Day! Hannah is thrilled! That is, until she discovers from her chatty delivery man that the flowers he is sending Shawna are her favorite and twice as expensive.


I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again. Stop this love triangle!


It is crystal clear who she should be with: NORMAN!!! Just marry him already. Jeez!


Angrily Hannah reads the card from Mike:

Happy Valentine’s Day! I volunteered to work during the wedding, but I can make the reception. Save the first and last dance for me? I’ve got something special for you and I’ll follow you home.

To Hannah all is forgiven, but I’m like dump the chump!


So back to business, except Hannah gets a call from Lisa telling her that Shawna is going to bring a peach cobbler. As hers is a gift, Hannah’s will have to stay unmade.


Hannah is upset, but quickly gets over it as Norman gives her a ruby pendent for Valentine’s Day.

Aw, how cute.

Aw, how cute.

That afternoon, during the wedding, Hannah notices that Winthrop, her mother’s boyfriend, has disappeared.


He comes back with her mother’s rice, but he seemed gone for such a long time.


However, Hannah can’t think on this too long as the limo driver broke a bone and can’t drive, leaving Hannah the only one to do it.

As Hannah is helping hand out desserts, she and Sally are upset that Shawna has yet to arrive with her dessert. Where is she and where is her cobbler? To Hannah’s dismay Mike has also failed to show up and her mind starts going to only one conclusion.

2013-11-27-bradpitt friends ugh slap face stupid

Hannah makes plans with Norman for after the wedding as with Mike, you snooze you loose.

See ya!

See ya!

After the wedding, Hannah makes a quick pit stop to unload the leftovers. While in her shop she notices that the Magnolia Blossom Bakery’s lights are still on. She calls to warn them, but all she gets os the answering machine.

Hannah grows uneasy and starts to wonder if maybe there was a robbery. And in true Baby-Sitters Club fashion, she heads over there by herself with no weapon  to investigate. The thought that she should probably phone the police doesn’t even cross her mind.



She goes in and finds Shawna’s dead body, shot.


Mike and Norman come on the scene and Hannah let’s Mike take over. It turns out that he was headed to Shawna’s place as they had an “appointment” before his date with Hannah. And Shawna had missed it.

Hannah is furious with Mike, even more that he repeatedly called Shawna, but the simple courtesy call to let Hannah know that he was running late neveer even occured to him to place.


Hannah goes home after answering a few questions and she and Norman discuss strategy to figure out who the murder is. Hannah is eager to solve this as she looks like the #1 suspect. 1) Everyone knew the Cookie Jar was going down. 2) Shawna was also dating Mike. 3) Hannah Hates Shawna.


On a happy note, they discover that the Magnolia Blossom Bakery wasn’t making a real “Southern peach cobbler” but using a frozen one and passing it off as their own.


The next day Mike comes over and tries to pass off his “thing” with Shawna as just pure, platonic friendship. Yeah Right! And he does some bogus flatterly to get Hannah to forgive him. Forgive? More like forget!


Hannah goes out that night with Norman to talk strategy further. They are going to be joined by Andrea and while they wait to be seated, Hannah looks at the stiffed and mounted bear and gives a paragraph lecture in her head why the story of shooting it is false. All I can think is why? Why, Joanne? Why is this in here? It doesn’t further the plot. It doesn’t bring depth to the characters. All it is, is a extremely strange tangent.


Later, Hannah and Andrea resume their investigations at the mall. They stop at the Logo store. She finds shirts on sale for a $1, Lake Eden Gulps, and buys them all for her softball team. She also recruits the girl working there. Now isn’t that cheating? This woman has nothing to do with The Cookie Jar, it’s not really fair.

How rude

And this softball team, we never see it again.

See ya!

Andrea talks to Kyle at the flower shop, while Hannah gets distracted by Mike. Mike takes Hannah out to eat, but the real reason why he does this is because he wants an Orange Julius recipe for Vanessa.


Ugh! Dump this CHUMP

He’s going to the house to get it ready for Vanessa as he has a key.


Yes a KEY!!! And what to you think he was going to use that key for, really? Dump HIM!!!!

See ya!

See ya!

Hannah returns the usage, by asking him about the investigation. Mike tells her that he is at a halt, he can’t find  suspect who doesn’t have an alibi, and there are hardly anyone really who has a motive to murder her.

Hannah and Mike go back to her place where she makes the Orange Julius and gives it to Mike. He gives her an extremely passionate kiss, and then tells her:

“Thanks Hannah. I really don’t know what I’d do without you. You’re the best friend I ever had.”



Best friend!!!??? Best Friend????!!!! DUMP HIM NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


The next day Hannah gets to work at five in the morning, and spends the whole drive worried about seeing Vanessa and Mike together. When she gets there she discovers an awake Mike, and passed out Vanessa.

suspicious Hmm

Andrea comes in mad at Minnesota snow, and complains, but Hannah refutes it saying there is no place like it. Actually this is wrong. Most of the Midwest resembles itself. The only real unique place, truth be told, in the United States is California. It has everything.


As they are talking, Andrea sees Shawna Lee across the street.


It actually turns out to be Vanessa. From far away the sisters look exactly alike.


So yes, the reason why she was killed was because someone thought she was Vanessa. Now who would want to kill Vanessa? I don’t know but it definitely opens up a can of worms.


So Hannah calls up Norman to help her out, and is it just me or in every book does it look like he and Hannah do less of their “real work” and more of their hobby of “detective work”.


They want more information on Vanessa, but no one knows her married name. After her husband croaked, she changed it back to her maiden name of Quinn.

That afternoon, Hannah heads over with Andrea to check out the bakery supplies and fixtures Vanessa is selling, along with trying to pump out any information they can out of her.

It turns out that Vanessa is from Macon, Georgia the same place that is headquarters of Pretty Girl Cosmetics. And guess who just happened to choose Lake Eden as the site for the big Pretty Girl Cosmetics corporate retreat at the same time Vanessa came to town, the VP Gloria Travis.


It turns out that last year Gloria was engaged to Neil Roper, head of Pretty Girl, and then miss thang came along and Gloria was thrown over for her.


They question Gloria and she tells all. Neil broke his leg and wasn’t completely healing right. His house keeper quit after she had a heart attack, so he hired a physical therapist, Vanessa Quinn. Gloria tried calling him, but he was asleep, out, on drugs, etc. Three weeks later, he was married to Vanessa. He died and she got everything. Gloria is positive that Vanessa drugged him, forced him to marry her, and them killed him.

Gold Digger and Grave Digger

Gold Digger and Grave Digger

Now Gloria, I’m with ya on murder, but I don’t think she forced him to marry her. A hot 2o year old with the perfect body can easily beat out a pretty, but middle-aged woman.

Sad but true.

Sad but true.

Gloria found out that Vanessa was there, made the retreat there, and went to talk to her to try to get her to confess. When she got to the bakery she found Vanessa dead, but then got closer and saw it wasn’t Vanessa but Shawna.

Before Hannah and Andrea can process all that, they get called by their mom to come over as she has something important to share.



They get over there and it turns out that when their mom was snooping in her boyfriend, Winthrop’s, house, she found a picture of Shawna Quinn. She sends her girls over to investigate whether or not he is a cad.

At his place, they discover that Winthrop has no real pictures but fakes to look “homey”. Only one type of person would do such a thing. A CONMAN.

Charles Ponzi

Charles Ponzi

The next morning Hannah thinks about everything, and starts to wonder is it Shawna or Vanessa in the picture? And what is the connection?


They come up with the idea to check the photo to see who took/printed it. When they find out they call, pretending they want a copy of the photo. It turns out a Bobby Joe Peters paid for it. Who is Bobby Joe?


Norman does his usual vague, but perfectly problem solving computer research, and finds out that Bobby Joe and Winthrop are the same person. He is a con artist and usually has a female accomplice.



Hannah sneaks into Winthrop’s house to return the photo to his apartment. While there, who should come in but Winthrop? It turns out that he and Vanessa planned together to kill Neil. Vanessa was supposed to cut him in on the inheritance and insurance money, but turned on him and he ended up in jail. He was trying a new scam on Delores, but when Vanessa came to town, he was ready all about payback.


Only problem, he accidentally killed Shawna.


Delores comes in and saves the day. They then get Vanessa, and Hannah trades the best lawyer for buying everything in the bakery for the cheap sum of $1000.


At the end of the book both guys ask Hannah to marry them. And she tells them to wait for her to decide.


Guess one wedding wasn’t enough.


But who will it be?

Sad but true.


Thoughts After Reading:

I thought it was a pretty good mystery. I mean it had a few problems: like that whole mousing subplot


And the fact that no one was suspicious of Winthrop?


And the fact that Hannah still wants to see Mike?

2013-11-27-bradpitt friends ugh slap face stupid

But the actual mystery was good. And the rest was an enjoyable read.



For more Hannah Swenson Mysteries, go to Sugar Cookie Murder

For more mysteries featuring the murder of the wrong person, go to A Dark and Stormy Knit

For more mystery reviews, go to The Saint Valentine’s Day Cookie Massacre


A Stitch Before Dying


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.

Are you lying to me?

Are you lying to me?

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.

this is going to be good

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.


That was close

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.

Something's fishy

Something’s fishy

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.

urkelgif interesting hmm

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?

Something's fishy

Something’s fishy

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


Yes. Murdered.

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?

urkelgif interesting hmm

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.


What a horrible person!

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.


Dr. Max.

Sabrina the teenage witch salem dum di dum dum dum

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!

I doesn't work

I doesn’t work

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