Friday, September 13, 2013

Hooked on Murder

Hooked on Murder  
(Crochet Mystery #1)
by Betty Hechtman

Publisher's Blurb:
When bookstore event coordinator Molly Pink stumbles across the dead body of a crochet group's leader, her complicated past with the woman makes her a prime suspect.

But while Molly's fending off a detective with a personal grudge and navigating the pitfalls of crochet group politics, the real killer remains at large. And it's up to her to catch the culprit-- before she winds up in a tight knot.

My Reaction:
It was kind of boring, to tell the truth.  (I know that you non-crocheters are shocked.  What?!  A "crochet mystery" is boring?!  Alert the media!)  However, I happen to find crochet very interesting-- and some mysteries, also-- so I was disappointed that this combination of the two fell so far short of the mark.  It wasn't unreadable, but I'm not making urgent plans to follow up with the next in the series.

Unless you count Agatha Christie as "cozy mysteries", this may have been my first exposure to the genre.  Sadly, I suspect that many "niche cozies" are formulaic and not very well-written-- but that's just a suspicion, and given my lack of experience, I can't really compare Hooked on Murder to the genre as a whole.

Judging it as a standalone novel, I'm afraid I'm somewhat unimpressed.  I had to make myself keep reading.  Maybe the series improves with the next book...

Specific Comments ("Now with SPOILERS!"):
-- The title feels weird and... misleading.  There's no-one "hooked on murder" in the book, as far as I can recall.  Clearly the author just wanted a crochet-related title, and this was the best she could come up with.  I don't know that I'd do any better, but... it sounds weird.

--  Most of the central characters are in their late 40s or older.  (Well, actually there are one or two whose ages I must've missed...)  On one hand, this plays right into stereotypes about who crochets.  On the other hand, maybe that's the author's target audience.

--  One positive with an older protagonist?  When the main character is in her 20s, the 30-somethings always seem faded and "old" by comparison.  (That's how they're often portrayed, I mean.)  In this case, our protagonist tells a detective that she's 48, "which compared to her perky mid-thirtysomething probably seemed ancient".  ...Yeah, it's nice to be in the young, perky age range, for a change!

--  Barry's reaction to the news that his son has joined the drama club at school seems a bit over the top.  So you don't want him to go into acting?  I get it, but it's just a fun extracurricular at school.  Calm down!

--  ...But then the kid wants to be known by his "stage name, Columbia"... :o\

--  I thought it was funny that the main character (Molly, by the way) refers to that one guy as "Lawrence, not Larry" because... either he doesn't "do" nicknames or she can't imagine anyone ever daring to call him "Larry"... (I can't recall which!)  And... so what?  Maybe he prefers "Lawrence" to "Larry".  (I know I do!  Of course, I'm also not crazy about her boyfriend's name, Barry.  Yick.)  Not everyone wants to be known by a shortened version of his/her name.  If you "allow" people to call you by a nickname, chances are it will stick, and maybe you don't want to be known as "Mike" or "Micky" or whatever other irritating nickname someone else decides they want to call you.  My sympathies lie with Lawrence in this matter.  

--  I don't want to overstate my level of crochet expertise, but I'm not a beginner-- and I found some of the tidbits of wisdom from the "experts" in this book to be questionable.  Such as...

--  "'Remember, the correct gauge is essential, dears.  That's the only way we can be sure the squares will all turn out the same size.'"  Eh... Well, gauge is important for garments, yes.  And of course all the squares going into the same blanket need to be approximately the same size, but there are other ways of getting them to the same size than obsessing about something that can fluctuate with mood... I don't know; it felt to me like someone just wanted to write about gauge.  (Weirdo.)

-- "'Dear, it's not a good idea to mix yarn types in a square.  Only a master like Ellen could pull it off.'"  Pfft!  No, dear.  Actually, you can do whatever you want.  Maybe since this is a group project you need to all use the same type of yarn-- if that's what you've agreed to do-- but you don't have to be a "master" to mix yarn types.  People do it all the time.

--  The difficulty of finishing the afghan felt incredibly contrived to me.  I guess the author needed some crochet-related conflict for the book, but how many squares does one blanket need?  Even with some of the contributors gone or working slowly, they had two or three experienced crocheters.  This book made it sound much more difficult and time-consuming to whip out a blanket than it really is.  Yes, it's a lot of work and requires a lot of time, but they made it sound like a monumental effort-- and it's just not--  especially with that many people working on it.

--  The open rivalry between the crocheters and the knitters also felt silly.  Maybe that's how a very few crafters behave, but most are adults who behave normally.  Which means they don't have noisy, public confrontations over the comparative merits of crochet and knitting.  We all have our preferences, but... I don't expect anyone to care what I think, one way or the other.

--  "'Dear, we have to let her go.  If she wants to join the knitters, so be it.  I never felt she was a committed crocheter anyway.'"  ...So, do you have to sign a pledge or take an oath or something to prove that you are committed to crochet?  "I solemnly vow to keep to the hook-- and only the hook-- for so long as I may craft."

-- More of the knit vs. crochet stuff at the yarn shop.  The knitters look up with (perhaps) "just a note of superiority in their expressions", but the owner/manager says that "crocheters are welcome here." *snort!*  Like she's granting them asylum or something!  (Well... on Ravelry, I've read "friend-of-a-friend" horror stories about shops that didn't want the business of crocheters, which is hard to believe.  If it's true, those must be hobby-businesses instead of real businesses.  Anyone who wants to turn a profit wouldn't care if the yarn s/he sold was to be knitted, crocheted, or used for children's cut-and-paste crafts!)

--  I was amused that Molly thought granny squares looked "complicated to make and something [she] could never learn".  Molly really needs to work on her self-confidence.  Granny squares are easy.  I thought everyone knew that... (But yes, they do take a little practice.  My first granny squares were far from perfect.)

--  Hook Down the Pounds:  The Magic Way to Lose Weight with Crochet.  Ah... Well, good luck with that.  Unfortunately, I've found that crocheting hasn't done much to reduce my own weight.

--  The audience's reaction to the "hooking down the pounds" concept felt farcical.  The whole idea seems to be that if you crochet for five minutes instead of eating a 400-calorie cupcake-- ta-da!-- you've just magically saved 400 calories!  Yes, I suppose that's true.  Of course, you could spend five minutes doing anything-- including absolutely nothing-- and "save" those same calories.  It has nothing to do with crochet.  But of course the audience is gushing with excitement, "pushing and shoving" to get to the limited stock of crochet supplies, snatching things out of one another's hands, and walking around in a crocheting daze, not paying attention to where they're going.  (Yikes.  Evidently there are a lot of simple-minded sheeple in Tarzana.) "The people who were still empty-handed were milling around, looking angry." ...Then "the hookless crowd" notice a celebrity in their midst and ask for his help.  "They started complaining to him about the lack of hooks and string."  (Ohmybarf.  Tell me that's not what it's really like in Hollywood.)  Molly comes to the rescue with the most obvious solution ever.  (It's embarrassingly obvious.)

--  Some newbies come in asking to see the "murder blanket".  Ha!  "'Dear, we like to think of it as Ellen's legacy, or the tribute afghan.  Nobody is calling it a murder blanket.  "Murder blanket" sounds so negative.'"  No!  Ya think?!

--  Another peeve-- the group politics.  The constant jockeying for position.  So adversarial.  I'm assuming most crochet/knit groups aren't like that, though I've never been part of one-- and if I thought they'd be like this, I'd go out of my way to avoid them.  Why does the group need an assigned "leader", anyway?  Seems a bit juvenile.

--  ...Regarding the mystery part of the mystery...  It was pretty predictable.  ...Not much to say about it, really.

--  The protagonist's main character trait is a fondness for red-eyes.  (That's a coffee mixed with espresso, apparently.  I don't know... I haven't had coffee in years.)

--  The romance segment didn't really do anything for me.  I just didn't care one way or the other-- and then there was this:  "Barry quieted me the way he knew best.  He kissed me with a long, slow, mind-blowing dance of tongues."  Ugh!  No, no, no!  Do not refer to a kiss as a "dance of tongues", I beg you! *gag*

--  On multiple occasions (iirc), people in this book whip out a single crochet hook and hold it aloft-- like, "Behold, I yield my trusty hook, Excalibur!" -- like any size crochet hook will work for any project that comes up.  But these are people who obsess about gauge.  If you're obsessed with gauge, any random hook won't really work for any project.  Most likely it'll work out, but... Just seemed odd to me.  Unless you know what size hook you need, you'd bring a range of sizes.  At least, I would.

--  "'Yeah, I've taken up the hook.'"  ...Why does that make me think of someone "taking the cloth"?

--  "She took a step closer, and I could smell the metal of the gun."  Whoa.  That must be some seriously smelly metal.  But really, how smelly can the metal of a gun be?  I think I have a fairly sensitive sniffer, but I don't usually smell metal unless I've been handling it...

--  Molly's inability to get the heck out of the room while Meredith messes around with the duct tape defies belief.  Then when she manages to pull the tape off her mouth, she can't summon her voice to call for help?!  I know it probably happens, but in this case, it was clearly just to give her an excuse to hang around longer and use her strip of crochet to bind Meredith's feet. 

-- The pattern for the granny square washcloth and the recipe for the cake and icing are a fun touch, I guess... but how many people will read a crochet-themed mystery without knowing how to make a granny square?