A Finely Knit Murder (Seaside Knitters Mystery)

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9780451471604: A Finely Knit Murder (Seaside Knitters Mystery)

Readers can't help but get entangled in this USA Today bestselling series.

In the newest mystery from the national bestselling author of Murder in Merino, the sleuthing skills of Izzy Chambers Perry and the Seaside Knitters are tested as death mars the beginning of the school year...

Seaside Knitter Birdie Favazza is thrilled that her granddaughter Gabby will be visiting for the fall and attending the Sea Harbor Community Day School. Gabby loves the school, with its newly-adopted progressive curriculum, and she loves that the Seaside Knitters are teaching knitting as part of the enrichment program. It’s a huge success, and on crisp autumn days, girls camp out on the terraces, knitting up hats for charity.

But not everyone is happy with the direction the school is taking. Outspoken board member Blythe Westerland has sparked tempers with her determination to unravel the current administration. Then, on the evening of an elegant school event, Blythe’s body is found near the school boathouse.

With a killer on the loose, Birdie is determined to keep Gabby safe. Working together, the Seaside Knitters carefully unravel the layers of Blythe’s complicated life, bringing faculty members and town residents under scrutiny. Before the cast-off rows are made on the students’ projects, the knitters will need to stitch together the evidence to see if a murderer has been walking beside them all along.

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About the Author:

Sally Goldenbaum is a sometime philosophy teacher, a knitter, and an editor, and the USA Today bestselling author of more than thirty novels. Sally became more serious about knitting with the birth of her first grandchild and the creation of the Seaside Knitters mystery series, which includes the recent titles Murder in Merino and Angora Alibi. Her fictional knitting friends are teaching her the intricacies of women’s friendship, the mysteries of small-town living, and the very best way to pick up dropped stitches on a lacy knit shawl.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:



M y thanks to readers everywhere, but especially to those who live on or near Cape Ann and allow me to take such great liberties with the towns and places and establishments that make your homeland so unique and wonderful. Rocky Neck Art Colony, Gloucester’s Pleasant Street Tea Shop, the Franklin, Sugar Magnolias, the Good Morning Gloucester blog, Ravenswood Park, Bearskin Neck, Toad Hall, and dozens more have provided inspiration and ideas for the Seaside Knitters Mystery series (as well as being terrific places to eat and visit when the Knitters venture out of Sea Harbor). In A Finely Knit Murder, in particular, a wonderful Gloucester school—Eastern Point Day School—provided me with the inspiration I needed to create Gabby’s Sea Harbor school. Not only is Eastern Point a magnificent structure, but its teachers provide the very warm, nurturing, challenging, and inspiring environment that Dr. Elizabeth Hartley, headmistress, is striving for in her Sea Harbor Community Day School.

Cast of Characters

Nell Endicott: Former Boston nonprofit director, lives in Sea Harbor with her husband

Izzy (Isabel Chambers Perry): Boston attorney, now owner of the Seaside Knitting Studio; Nell and Ben Endicott’s niece; married to Sam Perry

Cass (Catherine Mary Theresa Halloran): A lobster fisherwoman and lifelong Sea Harbor resident

Birdie (Bernadette Favazza): Sea Harbor’s wealthy, wise, and generous silver-haired grand dame


Ben Endicott: Nell’s husband

Sam Perry: Award-winning photojournalist, married to Izzy

Danny Brandley: Mystery novelist and son of bookstore owners

Sonny Favazza and Joseph Marietti: Two of Birdie’s deceased husbands


Andy Risso: Drummer in Pete Halloran’s band; son of the Gull Tavern owner, Jake Risso

Christopher and Nick Marietti: Gabby’s father and her uncle

Don and Rachel Wooten: Don owns the Ocean’s Edge restaurant and Rachel Wooten is the city attorney

Ella and Harold Sampson: Birdie’s longtime housekeeper and groundsman/driver

Gabrielle Marietti (Gabby): Birdie’s granddaughter

Gracie Santos: Owner of Gracie’s Lazy Lobster Café

Jane and Ham Brewster: Artists and cofounders of the Canary Cove Art Colony

Mary Halloran: Pete and Cass’s mother; secretary of Our Lady of Safe Seas Church

Pete Halloran: Cass’s younger brother and lead guitarist in the Fractured Fish band

Willow Adams: Fiber artist and owner of the Fishtail Gallery; Pete Halloran’s girlfriend


Alphonso Santos: Construction company owner

Annabelle Palazola: Owner of the Sweet Petunia Restaurant; Liz and Stella Palazola’s mother

Archie and Harriet Brandley: Owners of the Sea Harbor Bookstore

August (Gus) McClucken: Owner of McClucken’s Hardware and Dive Shop

Beatrice Scaglia: Mayor of Sea Harbor

Esther Gibson: Police dispatcher (and Mrs. Santa Claus in season)

Father Lawrence Northcutt: Pastor of Our Lady of Safe Seas Church

Harry and Margaret Garozzo: Owners of Garozzo’s Deli

Harry Winthrop: Cottage owner

Janie Levin: Nurse practitioner in the Virgilio Clinic; Tommy Porter’s girlfriend

Jerry Thompson: Police chief

Laura Danvers: Young socialite and philanthropist, mother of three, married to banker Elliot Danvers

Liz Palazola Santos: Hostess at the yacht club; married to Alphonso Santos; daughter of Annabelle Palazola

Mae Anderson: Izzy’s shop manager; twin teenage nieces, Jillian and Rose

Mary Pisano: Middle-aged newspaper columnist; owner of Ravenswood B&B

Merry Jackson: Owner of the Artist’s Palate Bar and Grill; keyboard/singer in the Fractured Fish

Polly Farrell: Owner of Polly’s Tea Shoppe

Rebecca Early: Lampworks artist in Canary Cove

Stella Palazola: Realtor in Sea Harbor; Annabelle’s daughter

Tommy Porter: Policeman


Angelo Garozzo: School maintenance manager; brother of Harry Garozzo

Anna Mansfield: Student and daughter of Blythe and Barrett

Barrett Mansfield: School board member and Anna’s father

Blythe Westerland: School board member

Bob Chadwick: Blythe’s cousin

Chelsey Mansfield: Anna’s mother; Barrett’s wife

Daisy Danvers: Laura and Elliott Danvers’s oldest daughter; Gabby’s school friend

Elizabeth Hartley, PhD: Headmistress

Josh Babson: Teacher/artist

Teresa Pisano: School secretary; Mary Pisano’s cousin

Chapter 1

Monday, early autumn

T he glass in the headmistress’s door rattled, but it was the chilling echo of footsteps on the polished floors that rattled Dr. Elizabeth Hartley’s soul. She stood still at the office door and stared through the reception area and into the round entry hall.

Captain Elijah Westerland, the subject of the school hall’s gigantic painting, looked in at her, his bushy eyebrows pulled together, his eyes black and small and piercing. Judging eyes.

What had she done now? This woman who held his beloved home in her hands?

But that was foolish. It was a painting, after all, and the captain had been dead for nearly a hundred years. Moreover, his home was no longer a home, but a wonderful school.

She took a deep breath and tried to shake off the unease. Elizabeth hadn’t anticipated the volcanic anger or the teacher’s abrupt departure. Maybe the captain hadn’t, either. But neither of them should have been surprised. Of course he’d be upset. People didn’t like it when you messed with their livelihoods—and Josh Babson was soon to be out of a teaching job in a town with few openings.

But the decision had been taken out of her hands. Josh’s recent absences were known to the board, his faint excuses not very credible. And although he had a charming manner, he could be prickly.

Elizabeth had attributed it to his artistry. Weren’t artists supposed to be temperamental? The few paintings she had seen of his were lovely, and his students liked him. If only he had toed the line a little more precisely.

She’d tried to reason with him as best she could, hoping to help him see that missing work and confronting board members didn’t go over well at Sea Harbor Community Day School. She needed the art teacher to be there when the bell rang, when eager students filed into his classroom. And he was getting better, paying closer attention to the artist’s clock that sometimes kept him painting at home after the magnificent girls’ school on the hill opened its doors, preparing for a new day.

Josh was getting better . . . but once a few of her board members got involved, it was too late. It wasn’t within the purview of her position to rehabilitate the teachers or staff, one had pointed out to her.

Controlling his exit, however, was her job.

And that had gone badly.

On the other side of the administrative suite, the door to a smaller office opened and the assistant headmistress stepped into the reception area. Mandy White stood tall and composed. She glanced at Teresa Pisano, who was shuffling papers behind the reception counter, trying to look busy. “What’s going on?”

The school secretary lifted her bleached-blond head and shrugged one shoulder. It was an off-putting mannerism, one Teresa had recently developed.

Mandy looked back at the headmistress, still standing in the doorway. “Do you need help, Elizabeth?” she asked.

Elizabeth met Mandy’s look and offered a half smile and a slight shake of her head.

I’m fine, the gesture said. Everything was under control.

Before Mandy could pursue the issue, Elizabeth closed her office door and moved back into the safe shadows of the room.

The elegant office seemed tarnished by the anger and harsh words that had filled it moments before. In spite of the faded drapes and worn Oriental carpet, the room seemed to demand quiet and respect, intelligent conversation. Not the hand waving that had scattered the paperwork she had carefully put together to document her decision.

Elizabeth looked down at her computer and checked the next appointment. Ten minutes to collect herself.

And it was just the beginning of the week. If she had had her way, she would have waited until Friday to talk to Josh. Then he would have had the weekend to come to grips with being fired, and he could have come back on Monday to finish up the remaining week in the quarter. Then depart from his students gracefully. She had suggested he tell the students he was moving on to other opportunities. He was talented, she said to him. He shouldn’t forget that. There was a life beyond teaching. And she would help him in any way she could.

Sea Harbor was a small town; she owed him some support.

But her plan to wait until Friday was thwarted by the planned Tuesday board meeting, and Elizabeth was asked to tie up this loose end so she could report on it at the monthly meeting the next evening.

Tie up this loose end . . .

Was that what she had done?

Or had she created another loose end, a life left frayed and dangling?

Elizabeth set her glasses on the desk, rubbed her temples, and walked over to the lead glass windows fronting the school. The view beyond the windows was a tonic. She would have given up the ornate desk and elegant bookshelves in a heartbeat. But the view? That she would never give up.

From the day she had arrived in Sea Harbor, the magnificent seaside had soothed her, helped her acclimate to the new headmistress position, helped her through rough days of budget negotiations, decisions to reduce staff and adjust protocols, and dealing with student problems and board disagreements.

She pushed away the sliver of fear that had come with the slamming of the door. The parents and board didn’t think of her as fearful. Audacious. Brave. Intrepid. Those were the words some of them used—although she sometimes had to stop herself from saying, “No—that’s not me. Not really.” Fear wasn’t a stranger to Dr. Elizabeth Hartley, and it often surrounded the tough decisions she had to make. She was good at this job. Very good.

Her heartbeat slowed as she pushed the heavy windows open and welcomed in the salty breeze. It lifted strands of brown hair from her forehead, cooling her flushed skin.

Just a short distance below the windows, tiers of stone terraces gradually gave way to a wide lawn that rolled down to the sea, its expanse broken only by the granite boulders that seemed to have been tossed haphazardly about the property by some giant prehistoric claw. Beyond the lawn was a narrow road, nearly empty at this time of day save for a jogger or two and an old man walking his dog. And across from it was the old boathouse wedged in among the giant boulders, once filled with the Westerlands’ oceangoing sailing vessels, canoes, and motorboats. Another thing on her to-do list. Tear it down? Fix it up? Turn it into a little theater or art studio as students and teachers had suggested?

The thought pushed Josh Babson back into her head. Although the run-down boathouse was used mostly to store odds and ends, there were reports that some—Josh Babson and others—had sometimes used it as a personal hideout to rendezvous with a beer or a woman or a joint.

Or so the rumors went.

But even the boathouse was a part of the view she loved, its history and gray weathered sides merging into the color of the sea.

The view continued on forever, across the boulders, over whitecapped waves—until finally it touched the sky and melted into one single masterpiece.

Peace. She had found it here.

And she would protect it with her life.

*   *   *

Just a floor below, mixing in with the familiar odors of a science lab and cleaning supplies, the lilting voice of a recently enrolled student filled the wide hallway.

“Angelo, my Angelo—”

The singsong words hung in the dusty air like a hummingbird, fluttering lightly.

Angelo Garozzo looked up from his desk as the long-legged girl with the infectious voice filled the doorframe of his office.

“What was your mom thinking to give you that name?” Gabrielle Marietti asked, a frown teasing the man behind the desk. “Angel? I mean, seriously?”

“Humph.” Angelo sneezed. His rimless glasses slipped down to the ball that formed the end of his nose.

Gabby leaned her head to one side, an uncontrolled mass of thick hair falling across her cheek. “But maybe it fits. You’re sort of an angel to me. My nonna thinks so, anyway. Even though you’re wicked cranky sometimes. I probably should have been more discriminating when I put in my order for a guardian angel.”

Angelo laughed at that, his head pressing back into his high-backed chair. Then he leaned forward and glared at his visitor. “Don’t you know New Yorkers don’t get to use the word wicked? You trying to fit in here or somethin’?”

Gabby loved Angelo’s accent, the absence of r’s. Sometimes she tried to think of questions for Angelo that would require only r word answers. “I went to a Sox game with Sam and Ben last weekend,” she said, walking into the small room. A slice of sunshine fell from the high casement windows onto her blue-black hair. “So that counts for something, right?”

She brushed a layer of dust from a folding chair and sat down. The small room was crowded with manuals and tools, shoved onto shelves that lined one wall. A single filing cabinet stood beside Angelo’s metal desk, a small table holding a coffeepot and lunch box against another wall. The only other furniture were Angelo’s high-backed office chair, a heavy table with a printer on it, and a few folding chairs.

But the bright posters lining one gray wall made the office wonderful in Gabby’s mind. Broadway shows performed at the local high school, Sea Harbor Community Day School productions, shows performed in a small theater over in Gloucester. Angelo himself had sung a tune or two in his day, he confessed to Gabby one time.

But no matter, he loved them all, and donated generously to keep their doors open.

And Gabby loved that he loved them.

“Whattaya doin’ down here, anyway?” Angelo growled. “Shouldn’t you be in class somewhere, learning how to behave like a lady?” He waved one fist in the air as he talked, his bushy eyebrows tugging together until they almost touched—a white caterpillar shadowing piercing eyes.

Gabby grinned and flapped a folder in the air. “I’m Miss Patterson’s errand girl. I was about to fall asleep in her history class and she took pity on me.”

Angelo tsked and shook his head. “You watchit, Marietti. Your nonna holds me responsible for you, God knows why. You get yourself booted out of here and it’s all on poor Angelo.”

His words were soft, his gruff expression fading into a lopsided smile. He picked up an envelope from the corner of his desk, half rose, and shoved it toward her. ”Might as well give you an excuse for coming down here. This gets put directly into Dr. Hartley’s hands. And don’t lose it, you hear me talkin’ to you?”


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