Seems there’s a Black Sheep Knitting Shop just around the corner near the seaside in Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Shop owner Maggie Messina has played the role of amateur sleuth before, a couple of times to be exact, and in author Anne Canadeo’s third knitting conundrum, A Stitch Before Dying, Maggie sets out to lead a knitting class during a “Creative Spirit Weekend” at a pricey New Age spa in Western Massachusetts, where positive thinking and good karma rule the day.
Maggie and the Black Sheep Knitters—her close friends Lucy, Dana, Suzanne, and Phoebe—get to share that weekend at the Crystal Lake Spa, courtesy of Maggie’s friend Nadine, who works there and needs a fill-in teacher. Intrigued by the promised participation of the spa’s new owner, Dr. Max Flemming, whose star has been burnished after an appearance on “Oprah,” the group sets out to experience a weekend of yoga, tai chi and enlightenment in a luxury setting. Instead, they encounter a deadly moonlight meditation, along with some decidedly unholistic activities and assignations.
Also making appearances are spa business manager Anne; her angry son, Brian; Joy, a yoga teacher who has a history with Dr. Max; assorted weekend New Agers, including former model Shannon; Curtis, a writer whose iPhone is busy taking surreptitious photos; and Rita and Walter, an elderly couple with attitude. Some participants seem to be on a possible investors’ list for Dr. Max’s planned spa expansion.
Maggie’s workshop combines “mindful knitting” with yoga, asking that guests “slow down and focus,” while encouraging “relaxation and contemplation” and “a kinder, gentler attitude.” Instead, suspiciously unkind intentions begin to surface, after one of the guests is found dead in a mountain hut. As the weekend wears on, the venal appears to overtake the cosmic, and tensions escalate. The Black Sheepers sometimes resemble eight-year-olds rather than adults, afraid of every twig, tree and unfamiliar corridor, but they share helpful ideas and clues in their close-knit group. A second death casts any remaining serenity to the winds, as guests vie to be the first ones out the door and safely home.
Maggie counts her stitches and casts on all the clues that are accumulating, and it’s not surprising to discover that the final, deciding clue has been hiding in her possession all along. It’s only a matter of time before she unravels the skein of problems and works out a pattern that solves the crime.