It’s audiobook review o’clock, and this week we’re diving into the second book in Betty Hechtman’s A Yarn Retreat Mystery series, Silence of the Lamb’s Wool: A Yarn Retreat Mystery, Book 2. This time we’re joining Casey and the gang on a grand sheep-to-shawl adventure that gets off to a decidedly tangled start (in more ways than one).
Title: Silence of the Lamb’s Wool (affiliate link)
Series: A Yarn Retreat Mystery, Book 2
Author: Betty Hechtman
Narrator: Margaret Strom
Rating: 3/5 stars ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Craft and genre: Knitting cozy mystery
Publisher’s description/jacket copy:
Dessert chef Casey Feldstein has learned one end of a knitting needle from the other after inheriting her aunt’s yarn retreat business, but a murder threatens to unravel her latest event…
Casey’s running a new retreat called “From Sheep to Shawl” at a resort on the atmospheric Monterey Peninsula. Participants will learn about sheepshearing, fixing up the fleece, and spinning, and will eventually knit a lovely shawl.
Nicole Welton has been hired to teach the fleece-to-fiber portion of the retreat. She’s an expert spinner, and her small shop in Cadbury by the Sea houses a beautiful assortment of spinning wheels and drop spindles. But when the new teacher fails to show up for class and is found lying dead on the boardwalk, it leaves everyone’s nerves frayed.
Now Casey has to knit together clues faster than she can count stitches before someone else at the retreat gets dropped…
Includes a knitting pattern and a recipe!
[Book cover image and publisher’s description via Penguin Random House]
My thoughts on the story:
As you may recall from my review of the first book in this series, I wasn’t entirely in love with the characters. In this installment, things did improve a bit in that regard. In the opening catch-up section during the first few minutes of Silence of the Lamb’s Wool, I immediately found the main character to be much more relatable than I had found her in the entire previous book, and the new round of knitting retreat attendees seemed to be much fuller characters. (These improvements aren’t particularly strange for the second book in a series—as I’ve said before, first books have an awful lot of heavy lifting to do plot-wise, and I am a creature of habit who doesn’t like anything unfamiliar.)
One of the things that annoyed me most about the first book in the series was Casey’s almost pathological inability to just behave like a business-owning grownup. This was styled as a character quirk, but I really didn’t find it appealing. So, I was very happy to find that, when it came to the portion of adulting that involved actually planning the knitting retreat, Casey gave me about 50% fewer HOW DID YOU NOT PLAN THIS AHEAD OR EVEN THINK ABOUT IT heart attacks in book 2 than she did in book 1. Even so, there is still a short list of questions that I’d love to ask of our main character:
1. Why in the world does she keep bringing somewhat dubious teachers into the retreat when there’s obviously an established local yarn shop and experienced fiber-related instructors right in town?
2. Has she ever considered asking locals for help with deeply solvable problems?
3. Maybe next time could she text Officer Not-Quite-Boyfriend and say that she needed help instead of texting him something flirty and crossing her fingers that he’d be intrigued enough to just show up. (Who does that?!)
4. Has she forgotten that she lives LITERALLY next door to the resort AND has a yard? Because those are two facts that could have really helped solve an early snag in her plans.
But, putting my grumbling about seemingly stubborn suspensions of logic aside for a moment, I can honestly report that I felt a marked improvement on both the character-related warm fuzzies front AND on the realistic knitting retreat front in this book, and it looks like the series is truly starting to develop. And, much like my experience with the first book, the wrap-up during the final chapters of book 2 almost made up for all of the minor irritations along the way. By the end of Silence of the Lamb’s Wool, I found myself intrigued and full of OPINIONS about the identity of a certain mysterious person, and I’m now unquestionably invested enough in the storyline to continue on to book 3. (Plus, the book closed with Casey planning a retreat in advance and with helpers, so that definitely bodes well for the future!)
Note: So, why do I get so cranky about whether or not the knitting retreat aspect of the plot is realistic? (I swear I’m not just being contrary for the sake of being contrary!) If you ask me, cozy mysteries with amateur sleuths aren’t any fun if you can’t play along with the main character and try to solve the mystery too. And, if the foundation on which the plot is constructed—here, a yarn retreat—is filled with people behaving in ways that real people would never behave, jumping to illogical conclusions, or reacting to situations/problems in a way that most people would never react (yes, yes, this is HIGHLY subjective), the reader can’t possibly get in on the chase!
Bonus opinion on a quote from the book, because this sort of thing is important:
“There was nothing wrong with a man knitting.”
Nope! There sure isn’t. We already tackled the not-at-all-surprising fact that some men like to knit in the first book in the series.
Also: Enough with using “coming out” and shaming language when talking about men who knit. It’s not cute to equate being a dude who knits with the experience of being gay, and neither of those things are remarkable, or problematic, or shameful. So, can we just not?
My thoughts on the narrator:
Just fine. No complaints.
My thoughts overall:
Silence of the Lamb’s Wool was a perfectly pleasant audio companion while I worked on some of my own projects, and I finished the story ready to move on to book three, so I’d say that’s a pretty acceptable outcome overall!
Feline/canine sidekick bonus points awarded:
Kitty, FTW! (And, whew, do I ever have OPINIONS about indoor/outdoor cats. Strong ones!)
You can buy the book here: Silence of the Lamb’s Wool (affiliate link), or request it at your local library!
You can also add it on Goodreads here.
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