Cooking the Books: Yarn to Go by Betty Hechtman

Casey Feldstein is a notorious quitter, at least according to her mom. So far, she’s quit law school, substitute teaching, and working in a private detective’s office—among other temporary jobs. Frankly, the main reason she’s still in the California town of Cadbury by the Sea is that the aunt she’d moved there to live with was recently killed in a hit-and-run. The crime is as yet unsolved, and Casey is having a hard time dealing with everything Aunt Joan left behind.

One of those things is the yarn retreat business Joan lovingly built from the ground up. Her “vacations with a purpose” attracted yarn artists to come stay for a weekend at the hotel and conference center across the street from where she lived. While on retreat, they could let their problems fade into the background as they took on new projects and mingled with like-minded individuals.

While Joan was very much a knitting and crochet enthusiast, Casey can barely even tell the difference between the two. Casey’s creativity is channeled through her baking, which has provided her with a steady income as she supplies desserts and breakfast items for several businesses throughout Cadbury by the Sea. Now, however, she has to figure out how to run the very last yarn retreat her aunt had scheduled so she can close the books on her aunt’s business and, perhaps, move on.

Easier said than done, of course. Luckily, Casey has several people on her side ready to help make this last retreat a success. Kris Garland is the expert engaged to guide the knitting programs. She’s capable and friendly, stepping in whenever Casey’s utter lack of yarn knowledge shows. Edie Spaghazzi, a retreat regular, is a super enthusiastic booster, sometimes off-puttingly so. Lucinda Thornkill, a local restaurateur, is Casey’s best friend in town and a sympathetic ear. Despite some road bumps involving the other retreat participants’ varying levels of interest in being there, Kris, Edie, and Lucinda are all happy to help guide and support Casey through the process of running the retreat.

Disaster strikes, however, when one of the yarn enthusiasts is murdered. In an effort not only to shield her retreat group but also to clear her own name from undue suspicion, she sets about investigating, using some of the tips she picked up from her old boss at the detective agency. The more she sleuths, however, the more connections she finds to her aunt’s murder. Will Casey be able to solve both crimes, or will a killer add her to a long list of victims instead?

This was a solid series debut for the Yarn Retreat Mystery novels. As with all the other Betty Hechtman books I’ve read, Yarn to Go had me itching to indulge in some fiber arts myself while I was reading. Serendipitously, I’m currently working on a very large blanket, so I had the chance to knit several rows while enjoying the novel. Casey is a sympathetic heroine, and I really enjoyed getting to know her from the ground up, so to speak. I’ve been reading this series out of order, but fortunately, each one stands alone enough that you don’t feel like you’re missing too much if you can’t get to them in sequence.

In addition to the easy knitting pattern included here, there’s also a recipe for chocolate muffins!

Heal the World with Chocolate Muffins

Ingredients

1 stick unsalted butter (4 ounces), melted and cooled

2 large eggs, well beaten

1 cup buttermilk

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup sugar

2 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter or line with paper inserts 14 muffin cups.

In a bowl, whisk together the melted butter, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla extract.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the chocolate chips. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir just until the ingredients are combined. Do not overmix. There will be lumps in the batter.

Fill the muffin cups evenly with the batter. Place in the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes before removing the muffins from the pan.

I’m not sure if I overmixed these muffins, as the texture came out chewier than I expected. They were very rich and chocolatey, though, and everyone but me seemed to really, really like them, so I’ll chalk up my lukewarm response to the end product here as a me-issue. I suppose I can’t love everything I bake—though I usually do!

Next week, we head southeast to solve an explosive case while putting a twist on a tasty baked treat. Do join me!

See alsoCooking the Books: Four Leaf Cleaver by Maddie Day

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