Fleece Navidad
by Maggie Sefton

Berkley Prime Crime, New York, 2008. ISBN 978-0-425-22360-4.
Reviewed by Mary Jo Doig
Posted on 11/09/2008

Fiction: Mystery

We rejoin Maggie Sefton's Colorado knitting shop friends on Thanksgiving Day, where they are sharing a joyous feast at protagonist Kelly Flynn's house. Discussion is as lively as the clicking of knitting needles throughout the book and traditional Thanksgiving aromas waft delightfully from the pages.

Later on the first day of Sefton's sixth mystery, preparations begin for Christmas as Kelly and her friends gather daily around the House of Lambspun's huge knitting table. They sip coffee so sumptuously described that you can surely smell and taste it, while working busily on hats for the homeless as well as gifts for friends and family.

The unfolding mystery centers around a trio of women in the knitting group. First is Julia, shy town librarian, who has volunteered to lead the children's hat knitting project at a local church. Julia has been dating retired professor, widower, and long time friend, Jeremy Cunningham, and is sensing that their friendship is growing into a permanent relationship. Next, Claudia is a newcomer to the knitting group and the town, a likeable yet rather helpless woman who has been widowed three times. She is actively searching for husband number four and after perusing the field of eligible men in town, Claudia has decided to pursue Jeremy. Then Sheila Miller arrives in town, the daughter of Claudia's most recently deceased husband. Sheila has done extensive amateur investigation and fervently believes that Claudia has murdered each of her former spouses. Sheila is both angry and passionately seeking justice for her deceased father.

On a fateful Monday just a few weeks before Christmas, word spreads around the knitting table that Jeremy has invited Claudia out for lunch and Julia out for dinner. Claudia is heartbroken, while Julia is quietly suffused with joy. But, later that evening, wearing her lovely new diamond engagement ring, Julia is struck by a hit-and-run driver and left dead on the roadside. Gradually, while carefully connecting her novice stitches, Kelly works through the tangle of clues and connects them together also, leading us to the surprising and satisfying conclusion of this well-told holiday mystery.

In addition to the sparkles of the Christmas season inside the House of Lambspun and the vivid yarn descriptions that allow the reader to both see and feel them, Fleece Navidad is a bountiful haven of sights, tastes, and smells, from the ever-present pot of aromatic coffee in the shop to the varied edible and knitted treats generously interwoven throughout the pages. At the end of the book, Sefton also presents us with nine pages of delicious holiday recipes (I highly recommend "Maggie's Cinnamon Rolls") and a generous seventeen pages of Christmas gift patterns (mittens, gloves, a hat, and two Christmas stockings) that, as I write this review, can still be knitted in time for the holiday season.

Maggie Sefton, an English literature and journalism major who has worked in varied careers, lives in Colorado's Rocky Mountains. You can learn more about Sefton at her website.

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