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Friday, April 3, 2015

Plagued by Quilt by Molly MacRae

The Boston Globe says Molly MacRae writes “murder with a dose of drollery.” She’s the author of the award-winning Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries, published by Penguin/NAL. Molly’s short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine since 1990. After twenty years in northeast Tennessee, Molly lives with her family in Champaign, Illinois.

Yarn shop owner Kath Rutledge is at a historic farm in Blue Plum, Tennessee, volunteering for the high school program Hands on History. But when a long-buried murder is uncovered on the property, Kath needs help from Geneva the ghost to solve a crime that time forgot . . .

Kath and her needlework group TGIF (Thank Goodness It’s Fiber) are preparing to teach a workshop at the Holston Homeplace Living History Farm, but their lesson in crazy quilts is no match for the crazy antics of the assistant director, Phillip Bell. Hamming it up with equal parts history and histrionics, Phillip leads an archaeological dig of the farm’s original dump site—until one student stops the show by uncovering some human bones.

When a full skeleton is later excavated, Kath can’t help but wonder if it’s somehow connected to Geneva, the ghost who haunts her shop, and whom she met at this very site. After Phillip is found dead, it’s up to Kath to thread the clues together before someone else becomes history.

Blurb for series:
The Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries follow the adventures of Kath Rutledge, a textile preservation specialist, who inherits her grandmother’s fiber and fabric shop in Blue Plum, Tennessee, finds herself investigating murder with a group of avid needlework artists called TGIF (Thank Goodness It’s Fiber), and ends up with a depressed ghost on her hands. Kath inherits a couple of other things she never expected – her grandmothers secret dye journals and an odd ability to “feel” a person’s emotions by touching a piece of clothing.

Excerpt from Plagued by Quilt:

Chapter 1

“But where will we find the real story? Where will we find the dirt? Where . . .” The end of Phillip Bell’s question disappeared as he paced the stage in the small auditorium at the Holston Homeplace Living History Farm, hands behind his back. The two dozen high school students in his audience tracked his movements like metronomes. I watched from the door, where I could see their faces.
Phillip, who couldn’t have been ten years older than the youngest student, screwed his face into a puzzle of concentration as he continued pacing. He brought one hand from behind his back to stroke the neat line of beard along his chin. If he hadn’t been dressed in a mid-nineteenth-century farmer’s heavy brogues, brown cotton trousers, linen blouse, and wide-brimmed felt hat, he would have looked like a freshly minted junior professor. The students’ reactions to him were as entertaining as Phillip himself.
Without warning, Phillip jerked to a stop, swiveled to face the students and flung his arms wide. “Where?” he asked. “Where are the bodies buried?”
Startled, the teens in the front row jumped back in their seats. The boy nearest me recovered first. He slouched back down on his spine, stretching his long legs out so his feet rested against the edge of the stage. He smirked at his neighbor, then turned the smirk to Phillip.
“In the cemet—” the boy started to say.
Phillip flicked the answer away. “No, no, no. Not the cemetery. Boring places. Completely predictable.”
“Unlike Phillip Bell,” a woman’s voice said behind my left ear. “Full of himself, isn’t he? What a showman.”
I glanced over my shoulder to smile at Nadine Solberg. She’d crossed the carpeted hall from her office without my noticing. She didn’t return my smile. She was watching Phillip as raptly as the students and gave no indication that she expected an answer to her comment. I turned back to watch, too.
“No,” Phillip said to the students, “there’s someplace better than cemeteries. That’s beside the fact that no living Holston—or anyone else—is going to let us dig up his sainted Uncle Bob Holston or Aunt Millie Holston from the family cemetery. And you can bet that is chiseled in stone. Not chiseled on a gravestone, though.” The students laughed until they realized Phillip wasn’t laughing, too. When their laughs died, he turned and stared at the boy who’d brought up cemeteries. “You aren’t a Holston, are you?”
The boy started to open his mouth, then opted for a head shake. Under Phillip’s continued stare, the long legs retracted and the boy dropped his gaze to the open notebook in his lap.
Phillip looked around the room. “Are any of you Holstons? Last name? Unfortunate first name? Anyone with a suspicious H for a middle initial?”
Students shook their heads, looked at each other.
“Just as well,” Phillip said. “The Holston clan might not like what I’m about to tell you. Have you got your pencils ready? Take this down. Two words. Two beautiful words describing some of the most interesting places on earth. Some of my favorite places. Much less predictable than cemeteries.” He turned a pitying look on the formerly smirking boy. “And that makes them so much better than cemeteries. Where are we going to find the real stories? Two words. Garbage dump. Yes sir, I love a good old garbage dump. ‘Old’ being the operative word.”
“Will your ladies and a crazy quilt be able to compete with Phillip and his garbage dump?” Nadine asked in my ear.
“I think we can hold our own, although ‘crazy’ might be the operative word in our case. Is Phillip always ‘on’ like this?” We watched as he described the contents of a nineteenth-century household dump in loving detail.

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