October 05, 2011

Stitching together the evidence

By Clare O’Donohue
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Clare O’Donohue has penned three previous mysteries in her Someday Quilts series, and like the others, her latest, The Devil’s Puzzle, is a haven for those who love a good mystery as well as the history and colorful ambiance involved in the craft of quilting. O’Donohue is also a television writer who has worked on shows for Food Network and the History Channel, and she was a producer for HGTV’s "Simply Quilts."

Twenty-something Nell Fitzgerald lives with her grandmother Eleanor in the small town of Archer’s Rest. There’s a hole being dug in their back garden, where rose bushes are planned as a gift to Eleanor, who, at 74, is about to receive a proposal. Instead, the landscapers dig up a skeleton. Reactions from the townsfolk follow on the heels (or bones) of that discovery, led by Jesse, Nell’s boyfriend and also the chief of police; various official (or officious?) town bigwigs who are planning the town’s 350th anniversary celebration; and the Someday Quilters, an eclectic group of women friends—including Nell—who work in Eleanor’s quilting store, Someday Quilts, a landmark in the town.

Whose bones are these? What stories from the past must be dug up to uncover the history that will explain the strange discovery? The sleuthing that follows nicely mirrors the quilters’ work, as they choose pieces of bright cloth to stitch into a meaningful pattern that expresses a style or era from the past. Both real and wannabe quilters will be delighted at the lore and explanations of this historical craft that are inserted neatly into the text, adding color and depth to the plot.

The Someday Quilters and their extended families form a comfortable core for the series, and the story fans out from their daily interactions, as they meet at the aptly named Jitters coffee shop to mull over quilts and clues. The curious Nell must contend with the knotty politics that seal the lips of the librarian, town historian, old-time movie theater owner, mayor, witchy reclusive lady and other sundry characters who alternately impede and enhance her search for the skeleton’s identity.

Even though I can’t help but think that any smart police officer would jettison a nosy girlfriend who sticks her “civilian nose” into every conundrum and crime that happens in town—still, that’s what makes for a good story with a dash of romance to boot, isn’t it?

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The Devil’s Puzzle

The Devil’s Puzzle

By Clare O’Donohue
ISBN 9780452297371

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