As titles go, this is perhaps not the catchiest. After all, how can these three things be linked? For Mad Men, Bad Girls and the Guerilla Knitters Institute, Maggie Groff’s first novel, she has taken her inspiration from one of NSW’s most eclectic towns, Byron Bay, and connected just a few threads of its idiosyncrasies through the person of Scout Davis, a freelance investigative journalist.
To start with, Scout’s editor in Sydney sends her on a path to investigate the secretive Bacchus Rising cult, which seems to have set up operations in the Gold Coast hinterland not far from where Scout is living (in a flat over an Italian restaurant, sharing with a rescued stray cat named Chairman Meow). Scout’s first steps on that path lead her to the mother of one of her own daughters’ school friends, said friend having been whisked off by the cult leaving behind a 9-year old son, a baby, and a distraught husband. As well as this, Scout’s sister Harper, a teacher at the exclusive girls’ school Tattings, enlists Scout’s aid to uncover the culprit behind vandalism of personal property on the school grounds – more specifically, someone has been cutting up other girls’ underwear with scissors in the changing rooms.
Scout, being an investigative journalist with principles, and a boyfriend working for Reuters in a war zone, ensures that she also stays in the good books with the local police force, which is helped along by the admirable physique and good looks of Sergeant Rafe Kelly. What Rafe doesn’t know (although Scout suspects that he suspects) is that Scout is also the secretary of the very secretive Guerilla Knitters’ Institute, a group that performs “yarn bombing” or as they see it, urban beautification, by applying wool to the local surroundings in unexpected ways. Knitted orange wigs in chemist store hat displays, knitted koala bears in local parks, and a daring raid right on the police station’s front doorstep, sees Scout prepared to jeopardise her ongoing investigations by being investigated herself.
This novel is as full of twists as one of Scout’s own yarn bombs. And with humour and compassion Maggie Groff helps Scout unravel the mysterious cult and the scandalous scissor-work, somehow wrapping everything up just so – you’d think it’s all in a day’s work for Scout. The quirky characters of Byron and the somewhat eccentric cast of the novel make this a very enjoyable way to while away some time – put this on your rainy day pile.
Available now: MacMillian RRP$27.99