Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery, needed character growth
Cons: Some of Martha’s behavior early on (but see pro about character growth)
The Bottom Line:
Baseball field death
Martha must clear her neighbor
Builds on first book well
Murder Hits Close to Home
Among the new to me series I started last year was Mary Marks’s Quilting Mysteries. I was intrigued enough to come back for book two, Knot in My Backyard. I really enjoyed my second visit with the characters.
Martha Rose lives in what used to be a nice quiet neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley area of Southern California. Unfortunately, a nearby local private school has built their baseball stadium in what should have been an open space bordering the neighborhood. While she and her neighbors have complained often and loudly, their complaints have been drowned out by the noise of the baseball games and their property values have dipped.
In an effort to get more exercise, Martha takes up walking. On her first morning, she is walking through a nearby wash, and she finds the dead body of Dax Martin, the school’s jerk of a head baseball coach. She immediately knows that the police will start looking at her neighbor and friend Ed Pappas. While Ed is a nice man, he did get into a physical altercation with Dax not that long ago. Can Martha figure out who really killed Dax before Ed is arrested for murder?
Yes, this is the second quilting mystery. Martha and her friends still meet up to quilt, and quilting does come into play at one point in the plot, but it doesn’t drive the plot as much as it did in the first book. Since I don’t quilt, I didn’t mind, and this is quite often the pattern for a cozy mystery series anyway.
And it’s hard to complain with a plot this strong. Martha suspects early on that there is something much larger going on with the baseball stadium and Dax’s murder, but she keeps striking out when she tries to learn anything new. These dead ends really do drive the story forward, and they make sense when she does begin to get answers to her questions. I was hooked the entire time and couldn’t wait to reach the climax to find out what was really going on.
I felt like the characters were stronger in this book than the first one, which only makes sense because we’ve had more time to get to know them. This applies to the returning characters as well as the new suspects.
Having said that, I did feel that Martha did some foolish things in this book. Most of them were in pursuit of the case, but how she went about it also impacted her personal relationships. Initially, she didn’t understand why others were reacting to her actions like they were, but I was happy to see her accepting some responsibility for that, at least in her own mind, late in the book, providing some character growth. I’m very anxious to read the next one to see where her relationships go as the series progresses.
When I read the first one, I mentioned a few pointless political comments that I found off putting. I’m happy to say these weren’t present here. I’m not saying that the book doesn’t brush into a few political topics, but these are all outgrowths of the plot, and any brief comments characters make feel natural to the story. There’s no preaching here.
I mentioned with the first book, but I have to mention it again. Martha’s neighborhood is about half an hour without traffic from where I live. (Without traffic? In Los Angeles? I crack myself up.) It’s rare that a cozy uses the suburbs as a location, and I got such a kick out of seeing places I know popping up in this book. For years, I played ultimate Frisbee just a couple of miles from an open area where several critical scenes are set, so that brought an extra smile to my face.
I’m very glad I revisited Martha and her friends. Knot in My Backyard is a fun second mystery that will please cozy readers.