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A Stitch in Crime


available from FIVE STAR Publishing in May 2015 is the first in a series of cozy mysteries set on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where men outnumber women and moose outnumber men and homicides typically involve deer and cars.

Read an excerpt!

FIVE STAR Publishing, May, 2015

When Hatti Lehtinen, owner of a bait-slash-knit shop agrees to take on the role of police chief in her tiny close-knit hometown on the Keewenaw Peninsula, she figures her toughest task will be trying to pry the nickels out of the frozen parking meters on Main Street. It’s the middle of winter and too cold for crime which is a good thing, because Hatti is no Finnish Columbo. She knows worms and yarn, not murder.

But someone wanted lovely Liisa Pellonen dead and when, on the eve of the first annual Christmas festival Pikkujoulu, the body of the reigning Saint Lucy, turns up in the funeral home’s sauna, it’s Hatti’s job to find out who, among the people she’s known all her life, would commit murder.

Review 3/1/2015

“The Nordic background will appeal to those who enjoy Kathleen Ernst’s Chloe Ellefson mysteries, which also concern Norwegian Americans.”


Issue: March 1, 2015

Hoping to increase tourism, the residents of Red Jacket, Michigan, on the Keweenaw Peninsula, are gearing up for the St. Lucy’s Day parade and the Pikkujoulu (Little Christmas) festival, events designed to earn the town a stop on the Keweenaw Snow Train. When town father Arvo Maki picks his protégé, Liisa Pelonen, as this year’s St. Lucy, bypassing the traditional method of choosing a young woman for the coveted position, he angers many in the town. When Liisa is found dead, acting police chief Hatti Lehtinen investigates. However, Hatti, owner of Bait & Stitch, the local fishing and knitting shop, is quickly out of her depth and enlists the aid of her sister, cousin, and good friend, along with her estranged husband, Jace Night Wind, whose half-brother is the prime suspect. Details of Finnish culture and small-town life frame Hatti’s investigation, related in the first person. The Nordic background will appeal to those who enjoy Kathleen Ernst’s Chloe Ellefson mysteries, which also concern Norwegian Americans. — Sue O’Brien


Kirkus Reviews

Being the temporary police chief of Red Jacket, Michigan, is no sinecure. Hatti Lehtinen, separated from her lawyer husband, Jace Night Wind, is running a combination bait and knitting shop. When her stepfather is hospitalized, she takes on his job, …

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION or Maybe Michigan can’t beat Ohio State in football but we won the Toledo War

Let me explain.

In 1835 there was a skirmish between the powerful senators from Ohio and the boy-governor of the Michigan territory. Both parties wanted the southern strip of land at the base of the mitten. The senators won, of course, but Michigan was awarded the consolation prize of the Upper Peninsula.

I think we got the best end of that deal.

The U.P., in particular the Keweenaw Peninsula, a spar of land that pokes into frigid Lake Superior, is a weird and quirky place. During the long, long winter it sustains hundreds of inches of snowfall. The first part of the short-short summer brings swarms of blackflies and mosquitoes who thrive around the fresh water of the Great Lakes. There are few jobs, more deer than people and, thanks to the copper mining boom that ended nearly a century ago, there are leftover mine shafts, ghost towns and elegant edifices like the gothic cathedral in Calumet.

A large percentage of the folks who live there are descendants of Finnish copper miners and the Finnish influence is strong in the close-knit community. They are kind and generous to tourists and loyal to each other and their home. It is an awesome place to visit and, I decided, it is an awesome place to use as the setting for a mystery series.

In the first book, A STITCH IN CRIME, Hatti Lehtinen, recently separated from her Ojibwe husband, has returned home to run her stepfather’s bait shop. She, her sister, cousin and another friend form a knitting circle and she decides to sell yarn supplies along with worms and she changes “Carl’s bait Shop” to “Bait & Stitch.”

When her stepfather, the police chief, is injured in a hit-and-run snowmobile accident, the town’s funeral director and Grand Pooh bah, Arvo Maki, asks Hatti to step in as temporary, acting. Hatti is completely unqualified to be a law officer but folks in tiny Red Jacket are accustomed to wearing more than one hat and Arvo assures her she’ll be called on to do nothing more onerous than trying to pry the coins out of the frozen parking meters on Main Street. But Arvo is wrong. On the night before the Christmas Festival, Pikkujoulu, after he discovers the body of the reigning St. Lucy on the floor of his sauna, he pleads with Hatti to find out who killed the girl and why, not an easy task when she’s known most of the suspects all her life.

I think small towns make the most interesting settings for stories because just like in a large family, there are always tangled relationships and complicated relationships involved.

Lenny Bruce once said that he hated small towns because once you’ve seen the cannon in the park, there’s nothing left to do. I guess he forgot about love, marriage, betrayal and murder.