Book Review: On Skein of Death by Allie Pleiter
By Janet WebbJune 8, 2021
On Skein of Death, Allie Pleiter’s first Riverbank Knitting Mystery, has all the elements needed for a successful series, particularly a great hook. Libby Beckett is a recent divorcée who has returned to her Maryland hometown to make a fresh start in familiar surroundings. Locals and tourists are drawn to Collinstown and adore the picturesque, welcoming main street. If you’re tempted to pop Collinstown in your GPS, alas, it’s a fictional town. Libby sinks her sizable divorce settlement plus her heart and soul into her new hometown enterprise.
The series hook is Libby’s colorful, warm, inviting shop Y.A.R.N., aka You’re Absolutely Ready Now. The shop’s name embodies Libby’s zest for living in the moment, carpe diem if you will.
Y.A.R.N. is a comfort space. More than just comfortable, the shop exudes comfort with deep cushioned chairs, bright warm lighting, tables to gather at, and thick rugs underfoot. It smells like good coffee, frequently of baked goods, and of the particular but unidentifiable scent of creativity. Not a speck of chrome to be found here, just deep shelves and bins in every nook and cranny.
This isn’t just a place where you just duck in and grab what you need; it’s a soothing haven where you linger and discover. Where you sit for an hour and no one cares—in fact we love when you do.
Y.A.R.N. is the thing I was born to do.
Y.A.R.N. is a refuge for those who wield knitting needles and crochet hooks. Libby needs a sensational event to put Y.A.R.N. on the map and she’s sure she’s found it in the person of Norwegian knitting sensation, Perle Lonager. Everyone loves Lonager’s exquisite Nordic designs. What makes them irresistible is how good they look on Lonager’s favorite model and companion, Henrik.
The fact that he appeared to be a modern-day drop-dead-gorgeous Viking didn’t hurt either. Photographs of him in Perle’s sweaters, the sleeves pushed up just enough to showcase muscular arms, only added to the appeal. Her pattern books boasted shots of his piercing blue eyes peering soulfully out from under Perle’s slouchy beanies.
As Libby quips, “why can’t hot guys sell knitting?” Libby has planned a whole weekend of events to showcase Perle Lonager’s talents and “the mayor of Collinstown even decrees a Collinstown Yarn Day to celebrate.” Since the mayor, Gavin Maddock, was Libby’s high school boyfriend, George Barker (Libby’s nemesis and the president of the local Chamber of Commerce) accuses her of trading on a personal relationship to garner publicity for Y.A.R.N. Barker is quite annoyed when Libby’s unstoppable mom and her gal pals yarn bomb every tree on Main Street with hand-knitted scarves.
Finally, the big day arrives. Perle, Hendrik and Derek Martingale, Perle’s publisher, descend on Collinstown. Inexplicably, something seems off with Perle. Libby decides to talk to Perle before her appearance in the town theater. Libby’s a good listener, maybe she can help. Unfortunately, it’s not to be.
There, slumped up against the back wall, was Perle. Her head cocked at a gruesome angle above what looked like a skein of read yarn wound around her neck, twisted tight around one of her needles in a lethal tourniquet. A set of the large needles lay at her feet, their mother-of-pearl beauty marred by bloody red smears on the tips.
Perle Lonager couldn’t hear us—or anything—because she was dead.
Perle was murdered by a deadly combination of her personally designed mother-of-pearl needles and red yarn from Y.A.R.N. This is a disaster for Libby. Not only is she personally sad at the demise of one of her knitting heroes, but showman P.T. Barnum’s adage—there’s no such thing as bad publicity—does not hold true in this case. Libby takes a financial bath after refunding countless tickets for Perle’s canceled events. The sooner the murder is solved, the sooner Y.A.R.N. can move on from the tragic event, so Libby decides to lend a hand. It helps that Police Chief Frank Reynolds is a friend. There’s no dearth of suspects—is Henrik really the studly Scandinavian he purports to be? What about a young relative of Perle’s who shows up for the festivities? Libby’s detective tool bag includes guile, persuasion, generosity, tact, and even bribes (a timely hamburger for a hungry witness).
On Skein of Death sees Libby juggling many crocheted toques—she’s a dog mama to her English bulldog Hank (also “Y.A.R.N.’s official mascot), her busybody mother is relentless is fostering a romance between Libby and her old boyfriend and current mayor—not to mention the demands of Y.A.R.N. Libby makes a likable and believable sleuth and I’m looking forward to a return visit to the charming town of Collinstown.