Featured Writer

Molly MacRae has a quirky sense of humor. Match that with her love for the off-beat and her skill at spinning compelling stories, and you have the principal ingredients for a writer of cozy mysteries that can and do grab readers.

If you like cozies and you've not found Molly's books, you should.

Tennessee/Wisconsin writer turns out mysteries that will have you laughing

photoAlthough Molly MacRae is a Midwest mystery writer—she lives and works in Champaign, Illinois, connecting children with books at the public library—for the better part of two decades she lived and worked and wrote in eastern Tennessee, a region I came to know well in the late 1980s and the 1990s when I was a copy editor for the Oak Ridger in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and a graduate student down the road in Knoxville, at the University of Tennessee.

Molly's area is north and east of there, around Jonesborough, Johnson City, and Nolichucky, all near the western foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

This is where she sets her three series of cozy mysteries . . . her Lewis Wilder, Margaret & Bitsy, and Haunted Yarn Shop novels.

To date, she's written the first volume in each series . . . Wilder Rumors, 2007; Lawn Order, 2010; and Last Wool and Testament, published in September of this year.

Molly's Lewis Wilder mysteries take place in and around a history museum in Nolichucky, a real town in Tennessee. Lewis Wilder is the museum's curator and the sleuth for this series.

Molly once was the curator of a museum in Jonesborough, Tennessee's oldest town, so she knows well the museum business, the territory, and the people of the region.

She set her Margaret & Bitsy series in a bookstore in the fictional town of Stonewall, Tennessee. Here Margaret Welch is the proprietor, and her crime-solving partner is her sister, Bitsy.

Molly once ran The Book Place, a book shop in Johnson City, so you can see where this is going.

This series grew out of seven Margaret & Bitsy short stories Molly wrote, all published by Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. About them, fellow Tennessee mystery writer Sharyn McCrumb, a regular on the New York Times bestseller list, said, "Readers would happily spend two hundred pages in their (Margaret and Bitsy's) company."

That was the encouragement Molly needed to write Lawn Order, a story of poisoned pigeons that proceeds to arson and murder.

For her third series, Molly decided she needed a new business in a new locale, this time a yarn shop—The Weaver's Cat—in the fictional town of Blue Plum, still on the western edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Featured along with the proprietor, Kath Rutledge, is a gloomy ghost who haunts The Weaver's Cat.

Gale/Five Star published Molly's first two books, in 2007 and 2010 respectively, but she stepped up in the world with her Haunted Yarn Shop series. Penguin picked up Last Wool and Testament, bringing it out as a mass market paperback.

In this book, Kath inherits The Weaver's Cat from her grandmother and finds herself solving murders with the help of the Thank God It's Fiber knitting and needlework group that meets at her store.

Their first case is a murder in which Kath's deceased grandmother was the principal suspect. Kath, her friends, and the ghost have to clear Grannie's name.

Molly's no slouch when it comes to writing stories readers like.

She broke in as a short story writer in 1990. The next year, she sold the first of her seven Margaret & Bitsy short stories to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. A blessed few of us get in that magazine, and fewer still more than once. Molly scored seven times.

She's racked up several honors over the years, among them the highly prized Sherwood Anderson Award for Short Fiction.

Molly's also dabbled in interactive mystery theater, having written three plays, "The Dead of Winter Murder Mystery," "Daggers and Old Lace," and "Murder in Little Chicago."

Featured Writer Archive:

Wisconsin writer Spike Pedersen
Wisconsin writing teacher Chris DeSmet
New York Times
public health reporter Gardiner Harris
Husband & wife crime writers Michael Hinden and Betsy Draine
Writer of Western mysteries Stan Lynde
Chicago crime writer Bob Goldsborough (Part 2)
Wyoming crime writer Craig Johnson
Chicago thriller writer Jamie Freveletti
Chicago crime writer Bob Goldsborough (Part 1)
Minnesota crime writer Carl Brookins
Chicago crime writer Julie Hyzy
St. Louis crime writer Claire Applewhite
Chris Van Allsburg
Centuries & Sleuths owner Augie Aleksy
Genealogist Leslie Albrecht Huber
An "interview" with the late Sen. Robert Byrd
Kansas crime writer J.M. “Mike” Hayes
Kansas crime writer David Heinzmann
The Riverside Public Library (Bats in the Library)
Wyoming crime writer Craig Johnson
Ulysses S. Grant
(a.k.a. Larry Werline)
Abraham Lincoln (a.k.a. Max Daniels)
Bouchercon chief planner Jim Huang
Illinois crime writer Gail Lukasik
Chicago crime writer Julie Hyzy
Chicago crime writer Libby Fischer Hellmann
Chicago mystery/suspense writer Allen Salter (a.k.a. Sam Reaves and Dominic Martell)
Illinois crime writer Michael A. Black
Chicago crime writer J.A. Konrath
Minnesota crime writer Jess Lourey
Minnesota crime writer William Kent Krueger
Chicago graphic novelist Tim Broderick


© Jerry Peterson.

Early's Winter by Jerry Peterson