After her husband is killed, Jo McAllister moves from New York back to Maryland where she grew up and opens up her own craft store, Jo's Craft Corner. Having put all her money into the store, Jo needs as many customers as possible and on opening day she hires a clown, Cuddles, to attract customers. But her store gets the wrong kind of attention when someone murders Cuddles in her storeroom using one of her knitting needles. Police Lieutenant Russ Morgan seems to think Jo not only killed Cuddles but also arranged the explosion that killed her husband. Jo is anxious to clear her name and with the encouragement of some of her loyal customers, she begins to investigate the murder with the help of 15 year old Charlie, the son of her best friend Carrie. Jo has plenty of suspects but when there is another murder and someone poisons Jo, causing her to crash her car, she realizes she may be getting too close to the truth.
"Wreath of Deception" is the well-written first book in the Craft Corner Mystery Series. Jo is a sympathetic character as she struggles to rebuild her life after her husband's devastating death. One of the things that made this book so enjoyable is the friendship between Jo and Carrie and Carrie's family. Carrie's family is well developed and the strained relationship between Charlie and his father is well done. Charlie's relationship with his "Aunt" Jo is also well done and he's a great help in solving the mystery as his character grows during the course of the book. Jo's Craft Corner's customers are also well written, especially the ones that take her craft workshops: elderly Ina Mae Kepner, who has the energy of someone half her age; Deirdre Patterson, who is married to a senator and very aware of her image; Loralee Phillips with her large tote which seems to carry everything but the kitchen sink; dentist wife Javonne Barrett; and doting mother to twin toddlers, Mindy Blevins. The craft elements are deftly weaved into the story and figure more into the mystery than first appears. Author Mary Ellen Hughes has a nice way with words that is shown when Jo wonders if she is dragging Charlie into dangerous waters and decides it's okay as long as she swims beside him. The mystery itself is well plotted and the identity of the murderer comes as quite a surprise.
"Wreath of Deception" is a well-done cozy mystery and I look forward to reading more books in this series.