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KRAL: Needled to Death by Maggie Sefton

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Hello, Gentle Readers, I had time to read for fun this week, so I finished the second in the Knitting Mystteries series with main character Kelly Flynn. Here are some questions to get you started.

 

1. Modern mystery series often depend as much, if not more, on character development to drive the story than the mystery or murder that frames the narrative. Did Sefton successfully develop the character of Kelly in Needled to Death? Did this advance or detract from the story?

 

2. Setting is important to structure action and draw the reader into the story. How was setting used in this novel?

 

3. Writers are often advised to “write about what you know.” Has Sefton convinced you that she understands and ‘knows’ knitting and accounting?

 

4. The first story involved adoption as part of the murder scenario; this second story incorporated gambling addiction as the motive for the murder. Both are powerful and emotional issues. Was this conveyed successfully in the story?

 

5. Sefton employs coincidence more in this story. Kelly coincidentally inherits alpaca from her cousin Martha in order to provide a reason for Jayleen to be a prominent character and suspect. Did you find this convincing?

 

Have fun! Patty

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Here are my own (very wordy! sorry for the length) answers.

 

 

1. I didn’t think Kelly’s character had developed much since the first story, even though the reader was reminded several times that three months had passed since her arrival in Colorado. The only change in her situation was her agreeing to go on a date with Steve at the end of the story. Her character remains the same—ambivalently talking about returning to D.C. to work, worrying about how to make mortgage payments on three properties (even though no mention is made of whether a mortgage exists on the Wyoming property), running away from any personal entanglements with Steve but more than willing to become intimately connected with the women of the knitting group. I’d have liked to see her have a stronger reaction to Vickie’s murder, whose body she herself found, coming as it did so recently after the murder of her aunt. I thought her reaction was more detached and impersonal, not the reaction of someone acquainted with both victims. Not that I need my characters to develop—I’m a big fan of classic mystery series like those written by Agatha Christie, where there is no character development of the main detective (Hercule Poirot is essentially the same throughout the series). But modern readers have come to expect this, and when the author deliberately tracks the passage of time, implying change, I expect to see some change in the character.

 

2. Setting was limited to brief descriptions of windy canyon roads and starry nights. Having been to both Colorado and Wyoming, I could easily picture the locations more readily than readers who have not. I wonder if they had difficulty comprehending the large expanses with minimal human presence that this part of the world has.

 

3. I’m not sure Sefton is either a knitter or an accountant. Even as a novice knitter, I found her descriptions no more detailed than what could be found reading the Yarn Harlot’s blog or some knitting books. My mother is a bookkeeper, so I have a little familiarity with these kinds of things, but the accounting discussions were limited to talking about “financial statements.” So, no, I’m not convinced Sefton knows much about either subject. If I weren’t reading carefully in order to write answers for a discussion group, this wouldn’t bother me. But I think authors should write as if the resulting book were going to be dissected carefully; it makes them more careful of details.

 

4. I think the emotional gravitas of gambling was handled better than the adoption issue. We know that Gretsky, the murderer in the first book, was angered that his biological mother wasn’t responsive to his demands. But it was a fleeting part of the explanation of his motive for murder and not delved into in any substantial way. Here, we witness in greater detail Geri’s desperation and can empathize with what her gambling has brought her to, how her passion for her alpaca breeding and her gambling conspired to force her into a desperate corner. I thought Sefton handled this well.

 

5. Weeelll, I’m not a huge fan of coincidence, but I usually can buy it, especially if I’m not reading to critique. But, since I was reading for the discussion group, I was paying attention, and the opening of the story, where Christopher Lambert tells Kelly that first she has inherited cattle, then that she inherited sheep, and a third time, “Oh, and by the way, you have alpaca, too,” stretched the limits of my credibility. I mean, after all, a ranch manager who is reporting to a lawyer on an estate undergoing probate would be much more precise in what is present, no after thoughts. But Sefton needed a way to bring Jayleen into the story and I guess this was the only way she thought to do so.

 

 

Personal peeve: I was a volunteer with my local Humane Society for several years and belong to a breed rescue group, so my ears perk up when dogs and animals are mentioned in a book. I’m not sure about Colorado, but here in Arizona, tie-outs are illegal in my county. Carl would have been confiscated from Kelly and she arrested for animal cruelty, had anyone found him tied out in the yard. I’m glad that she decided to fix the fence to prevent his escapes, but horrified that she owns a Rottweiler, even as gentle a one as Carl, and hasn’t taken him to even a basic obedience class. Rotties are one of the dog breeds that several national organizations are trying to ban, and maybe this is way more info than a simple mystery novel needs to address, but it makes me wonder if this is another example of Sefton writing about something that she doesn’t quite know intimately. (“Hmmm, I’ll give her a dog, but it’s gotta be a dog appropriate to the wild west, not some Chihuahua or terrier. Hey, how about a Rottweiler? They look big and goofy. Guys like them, so her love interest would like him and it would be a way for him to weasel his way into her heart, by playing with her dog.”). Hey, I said it was a pet peeve! (yes, pun intended!)

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I just finished this book, too. Here are my thoughts.

 

1. I was a little disappointed that Kelly's character didn't seem to be any further developed in this book. It all seems the same as the first book....coffee drinking, softball practice, knitting, wondering if she should stay or go back to DC. To me there was NO further character development, aside from the tiny bit of potential interest in Steve.

 

2. I think the setting was effectively used. The isolation of Vickie's ranch would have facilitated her murder. Coming from the eastern part of the country, it is rather hard for me to imagine such a place, but I think it worked in the story.

 

3. Again, I don't think Sefton convinced us that she is knowledgable about either knitting or accounting. The knitting references are pretty general, even to someone like me who is the most basic of beginner knitters! And the accounting, too....I don't know anything about that, and reading the book didn't convince me that the author knows a whole lot about it either.

 

4. Gambling addition....hmmm...I think this definitely contributed to the murder, and I think it was more believable than the adoption angle was in the first story. It seemed to have been a bit more developed than the adoption angle.

 

5. I don't know if I would say that inheriting alpaca was a convinced "coincidence". It was actually rather predictable, once Kelly inherited the ranch in Wyoming.

 

I agree with some of the things you mentioned about Carl. I, too, found it sort of odd that a single woman would have such a powerful breed, and never had taken the dog for any sort of training. I was sort of bothered by how she left him tied out, or even how she left him outside in the fence which he routinely escaped from! As the owner of three dogs myself, I would never, ever leave them outside if I wasn't home....it just seems very irresponsible.

 

In general, I have found these books to be a wee bit disappointing. They are the sort of books that, once you get so far, you want to find out what happened, but the whole time you feel as though you are wasting your time. They are basically a light mystery, not very substantial. IMHO.

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Are we really the only two who read this book?? Where is everyone?

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Are we really the only two who read this book?? Where is everyone?

 

No, I've read it I just haven't had time to post. Will get to it later today :D

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I agree, rascalsmom, these are light reads. Which is totally fine, but I too am a bit disappointed so far. I like Kelly, I want the books to be better! Maybe since these are early in the series, the author is still feeling her way through them and learning how to write. I just read no. 8 or so in the Tea Shop mysteries by Laura Childs, and I really enjoyed the first 5 or so, but these last couple have been disappointing. It must be hard to maintain interest in the same character after too many books.

 

So, do we want to move onto book no. 3 in the series or try something else, maybe some nonfiction? Or fiction that's not a mystery? What do you think?

 

patty

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Hi there! I wasn't going to say anything, but since you all have expressed your disappointment with the book....I started it but only got a few pages read. I just felt it is not realistic, still going on with the theme of Kelly getting help and support from the knitting group but never really supporting anyone else. I think the author picked out some themes she thought would be attractive---unlimited coffee:eek, ready-made support group with no give and take required and no personality conflicts, beautiful yarn shop to play in--- but there is no substance to the books really. Well, anyway, by the second book I was finding the whole thing rather annoying. Sorry, do not mean to be negative, that is just my opinion.

 

In the meantime I read Died in the Wool by Mary Kruger and really liked it. Have you all read anything by her? It is a mystery and spinning, knitting, designing, running a yarn shop are all important to the plot. There is an excerpt in it of the second in the series, which I think is called Knit Fast Die Young, and it seemed like it would be good also. Just better characters and plot, better written than the Sefton, in my opinion.

 

I do think a read-along is a great idea :D If you all want to continue with the Sefton books, I will wait until you finish those and then rejoin you. If you want to switch to something else now I am up for that. Besides Kruger's books, ones I thought look good are The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood, or Knitting by Anne Bartlett. (those are available at my library ;) but I can seek out other books as well....) Or non-fiction would suit me fine....what do you suggest?

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I am ready for something different. There's only a few books I've read where I've gotten "too far" to quit, and had to go on to see what happened, and these were two of them. "Memoirs of a Geisha" was another.

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Well personally I think Kelly needs to invest in her own coffee pot. Running to the cafe every time she needs a caffine fix is just plain stupid (IMO)

 

As for the book it was a little better than the first one. The characters were fleshed out a little bit more but still I think Sefton needs to focus a bit and stop trying to have the whole town mentioned.

 

I'm ready to read someone else. Don't matter to me if its fact or fiction.

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I made the mistake of reading the fourth Sefton first, and it kind of ruined it for me, because she mentioned the earlier murders and who the killers were. The fourth book had a bit of a cliffhanger ending-someone doesn't want Kelly to have the land she bought, so I will read the next one, but I'm not holding my breath.

I've read the other knitting stories mentioned. There is a lot of sadness and tragedy in them, and the characters turn to knitting for therapy. Not the fun, faster reads like Sefton. The Monica Ferris series is more informative about running a shop, but again, there are a lot of characters running around to keep track of.

If you all want to switch to something else, fine by me. I'm going to check my library for Died in the Wool.

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Wow! My county library system has only one copy of Died in the Wool and there are 4 people ahead of me on the waiting list! I'm going to check Borders.

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Has anyone read "The Friday Night Knitting Club"?

 

I haven't read it. Have you read it, and if so did you like it? My library has it but all copies are checked out right now.

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I haven't read it. Have you read it, and if so did you like it? My library has it but all copies are checked out right now.

no, I haven't read it yet either. Like you, I was kind of hoping for a review :D

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I have no problem abandoning the series if we don't like it. Life's too short to waste time reading something you don't like! Especially is you could have been crocheting or knitting something instead! I've been wanting to read Died in the Wool, so I'll get that one, too, (thanks for the recommendation Magic, want to get the ball rolling in a week or two with some questions since you've already read it?) and then we can compare the two mystery series to each other. Strengths, weaknesses, etc. I saw a book on Amazon I'm really interested in, but it's like $20 or more, so I'm going to ask for it for my birthday: No Idle Hands: A Social History of Knitting in America (well, the subtitle might be a bit off, but the No Idle Hands part is correct). Sounds great, but my library doesn't have it.

 

Another format we could copy is one I've joined over at ravelry. It's called Knitting 19th Century Literature, and they are taking 2 months to read great classics from the 19th century. The first up is Alice in Wonderland. It has to be 2 months long so people can make something inspired by the book. We could try to come up with something similar to that here, if people like, rather than just trying to find books with knitting in them. Redheart's review of those other titles has me leery (a little) of tragedy after tragedy. That would be a total downer!

 

Or we could try one of the Yarn Harlot's non-fiction titles after Dies inthe Wool? Patty

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I'll be happy to post some discussion points for Died in the Wool. Before I totally commit to that, guess I better make sure I can get my hands on a copy of it again...looks like it should be available at the library again. Hmmmm, let me think:think......

 

Maybe I should check out the book, then post a new thread about that book, and ask you all (and whoever else decides to join in if anybody does) to post when you have the book and are ready to start reading. :book:compute I should be able to get to the library within a few days; we are supposed to get sleet and rain and snow later today and tomorrow, even though it is about 70 now:eek

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Hi AngieInCa, I have read The Friday Night Knitting Club. It is a very good book and I would suggest the book to everyone. The book is by Kate Jacobs and it was her first novel. the book has a Scarf pattern and recipe at the end of the book.

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Oh, shoot, I just saw The Friday Night Knitting Club at Target when I was there this morning. Ah well, off to the library's web site to check out if they have that one, too.

Patty

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I picked up Died in the Wool at Borders. It was more expensive than I expected for a paperback, even with my coupon. Hope it's worth it! I can start it after I finish the epic World Without End.

I read Friday Night Knitting Club and heard that Julia Roberts has optioned the movie rights. As I read, I was casting the various roles-Julia, of course, and Denzel Washington as Dakota's dad.

I will read whatever we decide to do next.

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My library doesn't even have Died in the Wool, I'll be stopping by Barnes & Nobel today which just happen to be right down the street from my favorite yarn shop

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Hi everybody! I have Died in the Wool checked out from the library again. I will skim it again and start a new thread in this section with discussion questions. I have not done that before so questions may be pretty brief, bear with me please! I think I will also put something in Off-Topic Conversations so others will know we are doing this.

 

I am wanting to read Friday Night Knitting Club but I think it will be a while before I can get it. RedHeart and HappyTee, since you have read it already, maybe you would want to be the discussion starters on that? I noticed today it is #7 on the "trade paperback" bestseller list!

 

Do we need to only do one book at a time, or should we have a couple of discussions going? With waiting lists at libraries, it is hard to all get a book at one time.

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I don't know if I would be the best person to start off a talk about the book but I will join in when everybody has had a chance to read the book. I might need to re-read.

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Well, I see no reason why we can't leave threads active so that people who get whatever title from their library can join in. I certainly read all new postings to the book threads, so why not? People's answers are more than enough to remind me what the story was.

 

My copy of Died in the Wool just arrived at my library, so I will pick it up today or tomorrow. They don't carry Friday Night Knitting Club so I need to make the rounds of the used bookstores before I break down and buy it new (tight budget, :().

 

I think general questions are always good ones to start discussions off with: questions about the main character, was the use of knitting central to the story or just an angle to market the book, stuff like that. I love us all taking turns posting questions and hosting different titles. Gives each title a new spin and really makes the group cohesive!

 

Patty

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Hi Desertcrocheter, Does your library offer intralibrary loans. My library does this is where the library puts out a request to other libraries for the book you want. All I am required to do is pay the postage for the book getting shipped to my local library. My most recent request is from SC and I am in NC. It is the 4 book in The Maggie Sefton Series. A killer Stitch. I know the are very easy reads and that most of you don't like them. I don't know what to say but I really like the books they are easy entertaining reads.

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