I’ll make a confession: I’m not much of a mystery reader. I used to be. When I was a kid, I went through a serious Agatha Christie phase. But as an adult reader, I’ve fallen away from the genre. I’m not sure why, honestly. A good mystery can be a really great read. There’s something so appealing about the hunt for answers, and something very satisfying about finding them. Maybe because that kind of clear-cut satisfaction so rarely happens in life. And really, a well-plotted mystery can be an excellent example for plotting any kind of novel—planting the right questions that the book will later provide answers for.

I’ve recently learned that east central Illinois is home to quite a few mystery writers. I thought I’d do a little series featuring some of them, just in time for summer reading, when an afternoon on a hammock with a good mystery might be the very thing you’ve been hankering for.

I’ll start today with an excerpt from the novel Knot the Usual Suspects, by Molly MacRae. Molly lives in Champaign, Illinois, where her day job is librarian at the Champaign Public Library. She used to serve as director for the history museum in Jonesborough, Tennessee. In her off-hours, she writes the Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery series. Molly’s chosen setting is a small town in Tennessee, and her home base is a yarn shop called The Weaver’s Cat that’s haunted by a ghost.

Here’s the opening of Knot the Usual Suspects. That “not,” by the way, is spelled k-n-o-t:

Waiting for twilight would have been a good idea. Waiting for full dark even better. A sunny Tuesday morning was hardly the best time for scuttling up the courthouse steps and sliding behind one of the massive columns—not if I wanted to call myself “sneaky.”
I hesitated at the bottom of the steps. My friends and former colleagues back in Springfield, Illinois, might not think so, but from where I stood, Blue Plum, Tennessee, bustled. Crowds didn’t jostle me, but in the way of small towns, as long as anyone was around, there was a chance that someone would see something and mention it to two or three others. The problem was partly my own fault. If I’d completed this measuring assignment for TGIF sooner, I wouldn’t have to worry about being surreptitious in broad daylight now. Then again, if we’d included the courthouse in our original plan, I would have had weeks, not days, to get it done. The occasional criminal investigation aside, TGIF (Thanks Goodness It’s Fiber—the needle arts group that met at the Weaver’s Cat) was not an organization ordinarily dedicated to furtive operations, though, so I didn’t want to let the others down now, as we prepared for our first-ever clandestine fiber installation event.
The way to sneak successfully, I decided, was to act normal. Eyes open, not casting shifty glances left and right. Shoulders square, not hunched as though ready to creep. Air of confidence. Relaxed smile. 

Molly MacRae’s Knot the Usual Suspects was published by New American Library, an imprint of Penguin Random House. You can visit Molly at