Life is hectic enough for suburban single mom Jane Jeffrey this Christmas seasonwhat with her having to survive cutthroat church bazaar politics and finish knitting the afghan from Hell at the same time. The last thing the harried homemaker needs is an unwelcome visit from old acquaintance Phyllis Wagner and her ill-mannered brat of a teenage son. And the Wagner picture becomes even more complicated when a dead body is woven into the design.
Solving a murder, however, is a lot more interesting than knitting, so Jane's determined to sew the whole thing up. But with a plethora of suspects and the appearance of a second corpse, this deadly tapestry is getting quite complex indeed. And Jane has to be very careful not to get strangled herself by the twisted threads shes attempting to unravel.
About the Author
Jill Churchill has won the Agatha and Macavity Mystery Readers awards and was nominated for an Anthony Award for her bestselling Jane Jeffry series. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed Grace and Favor mysteries and lives in the Midwest.
Read an Excerpt
When Jane returned, she was a new person. Her short, streaked blond hair was combed and sprayed into a tousled upswept styleShelley had made her go to a hairdresser to learn how to create this miracleand she had on navy knee-length boots that added a full two inches to her height. With makeup, she looked a good five years younger and a great deal less stressed. "You do clean up good," Shelley said approvingly.
Jane glanced around the spotless kitchen. "So do you. If Paul ever goes bankrupt and you need a job, I'll hire you."
"The sad thing is, I'd love it," Shelley observed. "I know it's shallow of me, but I really love to clean. It's not anything compulsive, it's just that you can see a difference when you're through. Not like raising kids or something that you're not sure how it's going to turn out for a couple of decades."
Jane sat down and took another sip of the now-cold coffee. "And I hate cleaning, because no matter how often or well you do it, it has to be done againand again and again. How are we on time?"
"Plenty. Your friend's flight isn't due for an hour and a half, and it's only an hour to the airport."
''Still, I'd like to get going. Do you mind?"
"Not a bit. Are you driving, or shall I?"
This question raised a good number of conflicting emotions in Jane. Though Shelley was normally the most calm, refined individual in the world, something about getting behind the steering wheel of a car brought out a savage, competitive streak in her. On the other hand, Jane didn't think her muffler would stick with her all the way to O'Hare, and she had an awful suspicion that the kids had left McDonald's wrappers and other trash in the backseat, wherePhyllis would have to ride. Of course, Phyllis Wagner was so down-to-earth that she probably wouldn't think a thing about it. The deciding factor was really the afghan
"Why don't you drive so I can crochet?" Jane said after a moment of consideration. "I've lied to Fiona. I told her I've finished it already and have just forgotten to bring it over. I've got to get the damned thing done."
"Can you crochet and ride?''
"With you? I'd rather crochet than watch. ' Jane went into the living room and grabbed a big yellow plastic bag that contained the afghan-in-progress.
Shelley followed her. "Why don't you have a tree up vet?"
"I'll get one in a day or two. You could at least notice and appreciate all those boxes in the corner. Those are the Christmas decorations, fresh from the basement and ready to go up whenever I have a spare day or two."
True to form, Shelley made a spectacularly belligerent entry onto the main road at the bottom of their street. Jane didn't even look up from the snarl of red, green, and white yarn in her lap. She just leaned with the motion of the minivan and went on muttering, "Triple, triple, triple, single. Triple, triple, triple, single, single. Triple''
"Hold it, Jane. You just did two singles," Shelley said.
"I was turning a corner.''
"I suppose that makes sense. What I don't under stand is why you have to talk your way through crocheting. "
"For the simple reason that I'm not very good at it. Saying the stitches out loud is the only way I can keep track of where I am and what I'm doing."
Shelley made what she called a "running stop" at a stop sign and said, ''You must be a lot of fun around the fireside in the evenings.''
Jane stopped working for a moment. "Firesides would be okay. It's the television that gets me in trouble. The kids won't let me in the same room when they're watching. I annoy them to a frenzy.''
"Of course you do. Just being their mother is enough for that."
''I can't understand what went wrong with me. The women in my family were usually born knitting. You know those little hats babies wear home from the hospital . . . ? My aunts made their own to wile away time in the bassinets. I swear it. Knitting and crocheting are in our genes. Even Katie can whip up a granny square. How could I pass the ability on to my daughter without any sticking to me? My mother can work an elaborate cable stitch in three colors without even looking at the needles and discuss the history of the Reformation at the same time. I must be missing some crucial part of my brain. "
"The part that connects with your hands probably. Or maybe the part that wants to discuss the Reformation. We're only a block from Fiona's. I've got all that stuff I have to drop off for the church bazaar. We have time before we have to be at the airport?"
"And have you speed all the way to make up lost time? I'd rather go to a dentist than let myself in for that. No, I'll help you unload it at Fiona's later. Fiona's another oneshe could build a whole town with left over scraps of yarn if she set her mind to it. Of course, she's English, so that helps explain it. Probably cut her teeth on the Bayeux Tapestry."
"Isn't that in France?"
Jane cocked an eyebrow. "If you're going to get literal on me, I won't be your friend anymore."
''If you're not my friend, I won't drive you to the airport to pick up this long lost pal of yours and you'll never finish that afghanwhich might be my ultimate contribution to the long-term benefit of mankind. Now, tell me about this friend of yours."
Copyright ) 1991 by Janice Young Brooks
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What People are Saying About This
Agatha Christie is alive and well and writing mysteries under the name Jill Churchill.
Tart and clever...a delightful mystery romp...as much fun as settling in for a cozy gossip with your best friend.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This will be the first Christmas since Jane Jeffry lost her husband in a car accident and she's determined to make it a good one for her three children, Mike, Katie, and Todd. Jane thinks she has everything under control (as much as anyone can during the holidays), even having time to crochet an afghan for an upcoming Christmas bazaar, but she is thrown for a loop when an old friend, Phyllis Wagner, tells Jane she is coming for a visit. Jane hasn't seen Phyllis in years and is wondering why Phyllis would want to spend Christmas with her instead of her rich and seemingly devoted husband. However, Jane gets an inkling of what is going on when Phyllis shows up with her long lost and extremely obnoxious son, Bobby. Phyllis settles in quickly, quickly buying a house in Jane's neighborhood, but is just as quickly murdered. There are plenty of suspects, including Bobby, Phyllis's husband Chet, and Chet's son John. A second murder narrows the list of suspects even further. Jane has been involved in murder investigations before and doesn't mind helping hunky detective Mel Van Dyne as he investigates this one. "A Farewell to Yarns" is the delightful follow-up to Jill Churchill's first Jane Jeffry mystery Grime and Punishment (Jane Jeffrey Mystery Series #1). Jane continues to grow as a character - she can be strong willed yet find herself agreeing to open her house to someone she hasn't seen in years. Jane's friend Shelly Nowack also continues to grow as a character - she is a voice of reason when Jane isn't strong enough to do it herself and her helping Jane's kids plan a Christmas surprise for her was a great touch in the book. One of the things Churchill does best in the series is when she describes the world of the suburban housewife - most of the women in the series are stay at home mothers and I love the glimpses into their lives as Jane juggles carpooling for three children, volunteer activities, Christmas decorating, shopping, and crocheting an afghan for the bazaar. Mike's Christmas concert is a good example of how the small details make the book better. I also loved the details about the bazaar, especially when to came to pricing the items for sale. The minor characters are all well done especially Chet, Fiona and Albert Howard, Jane's "Uncle" Jim, and the always-delightful Suzie Williams. The romance between Jane and Mel is a nice, slow one, understandable because of the recent death of her husband, and it takes a step forward by the end of this book. The mystery is well plotted and had several intriguing twists, especially at the end, that will surprise readers. "A Farewell to Yarns" is a well-done cozy mystery.