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Quilt or Innocence: A Southern Quilting Mystery [Kindle Edition]

Elizabeth Craig
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Retired folk art curator Beatrice Coleman knows everything there is to know about quilts, except how to make them. But with her recent move to Dapple Hills, North Carolina, she’s learning all sorts of new things—including how to solve a murder…

As the newest member of the Village Quilters Guild, Beatrice has a lot of gossip to catch up on—especially with the Patchwork Cottage quilt shop about to close. It seems that Judith, the landlord everyone loves to hate, wants to raise the rent, despite being a quilter herself…

But when Judith is found dead, the harmless gossip becomes an intricate patchwork of mischievous motives. And it’s up to Beatrice’s expert eye to decipher the pattern and catch the killer, before her life gets sewn up for good.

Includes quilting tips!  

Editorial Reviews

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1

“I’ve come to rescue you,” said the wild-looking woman at Beatrice’s front door.

Beatrice, a recently retired art museum curator, gaped at the woman, completely flabbergasted. She certainly didn’t need rescuing. In fact, she’d just brewed a relaxing cup of herbal tea to celebrate the fact that there were only ten more moving boxes to unpack in her new cottage.

Besides, who’d want to be rescued by this woman, even if rescuing were in order? She looked like she needed rescuing herself . . . with her brightly colored, mismatched clothes and disorganized gray braid hanging to her waist. Beatrice made up her mind to briskly and firmly shut the door and try out the new bolts and chains and the alarm system . . . but then the woman held out her hand.

“I’m Meadow. Your next-door neighbor. Welcome to Dappled Hills!”

Beatrice managed a smile and a handshake. She’d wondered who lived in the odd converted barn next to her country cottage. Beatrice’s daughter, Piper, who lived right down the street, had warned her that her neighbor was a little different, and she saw exactly what Piper meant.

Now Meadow clutched her arm and pulled her outside. “Come on, Beatrice. You’ll miss it!”

Beatrice pulled back. Wasn’t this how kidnappings happened? How could she possibly be abducted in tiny Dappled Hills, North Carolina, when she’d been safe for so many years in Atlanta?

“I’m sorry, Meadow,” she said with dignity. (She would not be a victim!) “But I’m going to have to insist that I stay at home. I just brewed some chamomile tea and need to put my feet up after all the rigorous unpacking I’ve accomplished . . .”

But her words were completely wasted on Meadow, and Beatrice found herself being propelled with surprising strength toward the bright red barn on the spacious property next door. And Meadow wasn’t letting her slide a word in edgewise.

“We’re all practically here,” she said inexplicably. “The unpacking is exactly what I’m rescuing you from. And everything is set out. I have tea, too, but it’s sweet.”

With great relief, Beatrice saw a police car pulling into Meadow’s driveway. Well, at least Dappled Hills had a very responsive police unit. She waved her free arm in what she hoped was an alarmed, help-seeking fashion.

A short, balding man climbed out of the patrol car. He had a tired stoop to his shoulders and a stomach that had seen its share of heavy Southern cooking. “Is there a problem here, ma’am?”

Beatrice blinked as Meadow leaned over and gave the policeman a peck on the lips. “No problem, Ram-say. Except remember that I told you the guild is meeting here this afternoon. So don’t devour our snacks, please. I put some pretzels in a Baggie for you.”

He shook his head wearily. “I was asking if the other lady had a problem. Ma’am? Everything all right? Meadow, for pity’s sake! Could you let her go for a minute? You’ve scared her half to death. Is this our new neighbor?”

Beatrice nodded, and the policeman held out his hand. “Ramsay Downey. I’m Dappled Hills’ police chief. Welcome to town. My job is to keep the citizens safe . . . from people like my wife, Meadow.” He gave Meadow a dour look.

Meadow was so singularly focused on propelling Beatrice inside her house—or barn—that she overlooked his jab. “There’s also a sandwich in the fridge for you, Ramsay, besides the pretzels. And I picked some berries today and sugared them—they’re in the fridge, too.” And again she hurried toward the barn, turning around and gesturing at Beatrice. “Come on!”

Beatrice looked helplessly at the policeman. “It’s no use resisting,” he said in a resigned voice. “It’s how we ended up marrying all those years ago. You might as well just follow her. She’s not quite as crazy as she looks,” he added kindly. “And you’ll learn a lot about quilting.”

Beatrice realized she must have seemed completely baffled when he chuckled and said, “She didn’t mention the quilting? She’s even more scattered than usual, then! The quilting guild is meeting this afternoon and she probably wants to introduce you to everyone— that’s all. And maybe give you a kit to complete a block, too, knowing her.”

With growing trepidation, Beatrice approached the barn. There was nothing like having your peaceful afternoon hijacked by a quilting nut. And she had no intention of doing any quilting. She knew a lot about the artistic merits of quilts, she could appraise one, and she could tell some of the likely history that went into a particular quilt, but she was happily ignorant of the precise methods of constructing them.

And then all her thoughts left her as she entered the light-filled space of the converted barn. She’d thought it would be dark inside, but skylights scattered through the top of the roof and sides of the barn cheerily illuminated the space. What must have previously been a hayloft now looked like a sleeping loft and sitting area. And the high ceiling—Beatrice stopped and tilted her head back. It soared up like a cathedral, with impressive exposed rafters and posts. There were vibrant-colored quilts, mostly with asymmetrical designs, hanging on the walls and the backs of chairs and any other available surface.

“It’s beautiful,” she breathed.

Meadow’s face creased in a smile. “I love it, too.” She then shoved a tall glass of what looked like iced tea into Beatrice’s hands and continued urging her along. Ramsay had pulled his lunch from the fridge and found his little Baggie of pretzels and disappeared. Now Beatrice saw that there were two women across the big, open room. The kitchen, dining room, and living room were all one big area—but it looked like there was a door that might lead to an attached master suite.

On closer inspection, Beatrice realized the women were twins, although they looked a bit like a before-and-after photo. They were probably in their early thirties, but one of the sisters seemed a lot older. She had a beaky nose and stiff militarylike comportment, and wore a long-sleeved floral dress, her thin hair drawn up in a bun. The other sister wore a pretty floral dress and had a much softer look. Fabric and scissors surrounded them, and baskets beside them were filled with quilting supplies and tools.

The softer one spoke to her, beaming. “It’s an amazing house, isn’t it? Except it’s a barn!”

Her sister frowned. “But with no animals,” she said, in the tone of one who demands perfect accuracy.

Meadow put her hands on her generous hips with mock indignation. “No animals, Savannah? What’s Boris, then—chopped liver?”

At the sound of his name, a massive creature bounded up from behind the kitchen counter and bolted across the room. It galloped up and Beatrice flinched as it charged right at them. The quilters nonchalantly continued sewing their blocks. The dog jumped onto Meadow, putting its tremendous paws on both her shoulders. Meadow hugged it, crooning to it softly, then gently pushed him back down.

“What breed is Boris, exactly?” asked Beatrice.

Meadow said in a considering voice, “Well, Ramsay and I think he might be part Great Dane, part Newfoundland, and part corgi.”

The minuscule part that was a corgi, thought corgi-owner Beatrice, was clearly cowed by the other genetic components.

Beatrice started as Meadow gave her an impulsive hug. “We’re thrilled you could quilt with us this afternoon. More tea?” Meadow automatically refilled Beatrice’s glass without waiting for a reply. Although, thought Beatrice with some irritation, she hadn’t even taken a sip yet.

Meadow’s eyes twinkled at Beatrice from behind her red-framed glasses. “Savannah and I were just saying the other day—Savannah, you remember my saying this, don’t you?—that we really needed another member in the Village Quilters guild.”

Savannah gave a jerking nod as she expertly stitched an appliqué with darting movements.

“And the very next thing I know, you’ve moved in next door, Beatrice! It’s divine intervention.” Meadow beamed at her again as she absently continued filling the others’ glasses with tea . . . even though, thought Beatrice as she squinted across the room, it appeared they’d been drinking water. The other two women didn’t make a peep to stop her.

Beatrice cleared her throat. Really, it was too much. Meeting new people in a new town, being expected to suddenly take up quilting . . . it was all a tremendous adjustment. But she had to admit that the people of Dappled Hills were nothing if not friendly.

Meadow chuckled. “Mercy, but you do look confused. Introductions are in order! Good thing we only have a few members here today. Fewer to boggle your brain with. Although it looks like your brain might not be the boggling type. Of course, you already know me—I’m Meadow Downey, your next-door neighbor and new best friend.” She bowed at Beatrice, eyes glittering.

The plain woman with the stiff comportment gestured a needle at the pretty woman beside her. “We’re the Potter sisters. I’m Savannah and she’s Georgia.” Savannah continued steadily stitching beautiful needlework with her bony fingers.

“Savannah, Georgia,” murmured Beatrice weakly. “Our mama just adored the city,” said Georgia. “It was all moonlight and magnolias to her.” “Mama,” repeate...

Product Details

  • File Size: 415 KB
  • Print Length: 303 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0451237331
  • Publisher: NAL (June 5, 2012)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0073XV4KW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,226 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Beatrice Coleman had recently retired and moved from Atlanta to Dappled Hills, North Carolina to be closer to her daughter, Piper. At first glance it appeared to be the type of town where one might find Opie Taylor just around the corner, but she quickly discovered it just wasn't so. A disheveled, decidedly maniacal woman showed up on her doorstep and attempted to drag her into the neighboring barn for some sort of guild meeting. Beatrice was going to call the police, but Police Chief Ramsay Downey was practically at her door before she dialed 911, claiming "She's not as crazy as she looks." Beatrice had just made the acquaintance of Meadow Downey, his wife.

It looked as though her dreams of walking with her corgi, Noo-Noo, swinging in a hammock drinking southern sweet tea and reading the "Whispers of Summer," would have to be put aside. The Village Quilters guild was anxious to have her as a member despite her inability to thread a needle. As a folk art curator she knew more about things like the Quilts of Gee's Bend, but she "was happily ignorant of the precise methods of constructing" any kind of quilt. Needles were a no-no, but Meadow was insistent. Unexpectedly, the members of the guild began to gossip and trash-talk, so much so they could have opened a dump.

Everyone from Posy, the owner of the Patchwork Cottage, to the Potter twins managed to have a bone to pick with Judith. She was doing everything from trying to fleece Felicity out of a valuable Civil War quilt to attempting to put Posy out of business. Piper had warned her mother that the woman never missed "an opportunity to irritate large numbers of people at once." Beatrice was on an early morning walk with Noo-Noo and accidentally ran into Posy when they spotted something indescribable.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's only "OK." June 15, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'm sorry to say that I was disappointed in the writing style of this author, and certainly this debut wasn't what I'd thought it would be.

I'm a huge fan of cozy mysteries, and while this is certainly defined as a cozy, I found the writing to be almost amateurish, which was a huge disappointment to me. I realize the author has no control over formatting, but the Kindle edition was "locked" in its formatting, and I couldn't change my font style. The font it's written in is one I'm not personally fond of, so that didn't lend itself to an enjoyable read for me, but that's no slight against the author. What I found highly annoying about the writing itself, was that she chose to italicize far too many words, I suppose for emphasis, but in terms of the reading, I felt they were totally unnecessary. There was also an overuse of the exclamation mark, so for me the formatting and typeface/set were bothersome.

As for the story, while I agree it's a cozy, and it's not a bad storyline, it was truly amazing to me that the "heroine" had been in town but 2 days when the murder happened, then she went on to solve the crime from a cast of people she'd just met, and basically could know nothing about (how can that be?). For me that was just too far a stretch for total believability, and to some degree you want your cozy mystery to be believable, even if a little far fetched (that's part of the fun of a cozy).

Though the characters are described well, they don't seem like mostly likable characters, and unfortunately, there was almost nothing described or talked about as it relates to the physical locale of Dappled Hills. From the little descriptions given it sounds lovely, but I truly like to read and get into the geographic area that a book takes place in.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a Quilter but I loved Quilt of Innocence! July 6, 2012
Format:Mass Market Paperback
What is it about you might ask?
As the newest member of the Village Quilters Guild, Beatrice has a lot of gossip to catch up on -- especially with the Patchwork Cottage quilt shop about to close. It seems that Judith, the landlord everyone loves to hate, wants to raise the rent, despite being a quilter herself... -- But when Judith is found dead, the harmless gossip becomes an intricate patchwork of mischievous motives. And it's up to Beatrice's expert eye to decipher the pattern and catch the killer, before her life gets sewn up for good.

Elizabeth has done a great job with the supporting characters in this book. She has made them fun and quirky. Have to say that I love quirky characters! Meadow is Beatrice's next door neighbor (her husband is chief of police) and she just made me laugh. Meadow has a huge dog named Boris that is a hoot also. Posy owns the Patchwork Cottage quilt shop and her husband, Cork, owns the wine shop. One of my favorites though is Miss Sissy. An elderly lady who drives a big old car and takes up the whole road as well as the sidewalks. If you have the misfortune to be on the sidewalk when she drives by, you won't be for long and then she will holler at you out the window "Roadhog!"

I enjoyed Beatrice's character also. She has recently retired and moved from Atlanta to be closer to her daughter. She handles moving to a small town and then being surrounded by what appears to be crazy neighbors probably much better than what I would have done. She keeps trying to read a book while laying in the hammock but it never seems to happen. For a small town, Dappled Hills has a lot going on.

The mystery is good also and kept me guessing until the end. I was afraid that there might be too much about quilts in the book but that isn't the case. They do talk about them but it wasn't too much for a non-sewer like me and what was mentioned, was interesting.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good light reading
Published 28 days ago by Nimbleneedle
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Loved it
Published 29 days ago by Candy Evers
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
just the kind of read expected so sad when it ended ,
Published 1 month ago by c.s.crowther
4.0 out of 5 stars funny and a good read
It was fast moving, funny and a good read.
Published 1 month ago by Linda C. Hall
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Bought it for my quilting friend who enjoyed it very much.
Published 1 month ago by Betty
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by Lucy Hoffman
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Fun read with some quilt tie-in. I definitely want to read other books by this author.
Published 1 month ago by Cheryl A. Wilcox
4.0 out of 5 stars Good 1st mystery murder in quilting circle
An easy, fun read. I bought the rest of the series after finishing this authors 1st book about quilting & an unusual murder in a small NC town. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Classic Teacher
4.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoyed this and am looking forward to reading more of ...
I really enjoyed this and am looking forward to reading more of Elizabeth Craig. Light, but a convincing murder and the characters were well created.
Published 2 months ago by aine
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun, light quilting mystery
This was a great read. I enjoyed the mystery and especially all the character. Not a heavy book at all... Just a fun and related_ingrrad.
Published 2 months ago by M. Chair
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More About the Author

Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque mystery series for Penguin/Berkley (as Riley Adams), the Southern Quilting mysteries for Penguin/NAL, and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink and independently. She blogs at Mystery Writing is Murder, which was named by Writer's Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers for 2010--2013.

A lifelong resident of the South, she enjoys finding inspiration for her mysteries in the beautiful states of North and South Carolina.

Elizabeth Spann Craig (Riley Adams)
Twitter: @elizabethscraig

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