Review: Crewel World by Monica Ferris

30. Crewel World by Monica Ferris
Publication: Berkley (March 1, 1999), Paperback, 256pp / ISBN 0425167801
Genre: Mystery
Rating:
Read: February 17-18, 2010
Source: Borrowed
Summary from Amazon:

When Betsy’s sister is murdered in her own needlecraft store, Betsy takes over the shop and the investigation. But to find the murderer, she’ll have to put together a list of motives and suspects to figure out this killer’s pattern of crime.

Review

Themed cozy mysteries have been all the rage for at least ten years, and some of them are better than others. I tend to go for unusually-themed cozies now, like tea or, I don’t know– truck drivers. I think needlecraft is a pretty unusual theme! And I really appreciated that this book had a lot of needlecraft-related info without being overly conspicuous about it, so that both newbies and people already familiar with needlecraft could enjoy the book. Sometimes themed cozies go overboard with that stuff, with a recipe after every chapter or something, and it can get annoying. Crewel World had a good balance between mystery and theme, I think.

Anyway, this one has the middle-aged divorcee (with a cat) character again, but it’s actually a lot more candid about middle age than I’ve seen in a cozy before. When was the last time you’ve read about an amateur detective who’s going through menopause and all the problems it entails? And that it’s affecting their detecting? Yeah, that’s what I thought. I liked that Crewel World didn’t pretend its detective was a twenty-something in a fifty-something’s body! Not that I want extensive details about a character’s hormonal balance, but the added realism was nice. And I liked that Betsy is a spunky character without being over-the-top; her moments of worry about money, the future, how the heck she’s going to run a craft store, etc, was a good garnish.

Plus, of course, one of the main characters dies. That was pretty freakin’ unusual.

What I liked best about Crewel World is that it takes the conventions of small-town cozy mystery and twists them a bit. Margot may have been used to all the conventions of living in a small town, where everyone basically knows each other and everyone is poking their nose into your business, but Betsy isn’t used to that. It was interesting watching her adjust to living in a smaller city after living in big ones her whole life, and the sort of…culture shock, I guess? that she and her friends go through as they try to figure each other out.

The mystery was good, if a bit slow. I figured out who the killer was about thirty pages from the end, but up until that point I had no idea who it was. The mystery wasn’t really the best part of the book, however– that was the Betsy-adjusting-to-small-town-life plot. I’m also not sure how Betsy is going to cope with being an amateur detective after this mystery. In this book she’s motivated because her sister is killed; that would motivate anyone to detecting! But she doesn’t seem like the nosy type, and I’m not sure how successful she’d be in other situations. I suppose I’ll have to read one of the other books in the series and find out.

If you like cozy mysteries but tend to get annoyed with the cliches, you’ll probably find Crewel World really refreshing. It’s not fast-paced, but it’s a fun book with some unusual details in it. Plus, if you have any inclination whatsoever to needlecraft, this book’ll make you want to start a project immediately after reading it. Oh, how I wish I could knit/crochet/cross-stitch…sigh.

And

Find your own copy @ Amazon or IndieBound

Other reviews: The Mystery Reader | Joy’s Blog | Fibreholic

Is it hard to cross-stitch? I never got the hang of knitting, and I haven’t tried crochet, but cross-stitch looks fun. Time consuming, but fun.

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TSS (February 21): The travel shelf

The Sunday Salon.com Yesterday I took all my books off that one shelf that tilts dangerously over to one side, turned it around so it lent the other way, and then reshelved the books. This was exhausting. I hadn’t realized how many books I had on there! But now the bookshelf leans only a little bit to the left instead of a LOT, so, uh. That’s good? (I have no idea how to fix it. I can’t drill a thing into the wall to keep it locked into place. I must have just messed up the construction of it and now it’s impossibly messed up.)

Anyway, that bookshelf is almost entirely for my TBR books (I have more TBR books on other shelves), but I dedicated one shelf specifically for travel books. Looking at my collection, I have definite favorite genres, and also not a lot of recent publications. This is probably why when I think of myself traveling around the world I’m always in a 1930’s costume– because that’s the best time period to travel!

Here’s my shelf:

I’ve grouped them vaguely by genre. And because I’m kinda obsessed about this, let’s go over just which books are on that shelf! These are all nonfiction books, by the way. If I included fiction books where people traveled I’d need a whole other bookshelf! And then…

REVIEW: Death by Darjeeling by Laura Childs

REVIEW: Death by Darjeeling by Laura ChildsDeath by Darjeeling (A Tea Shop Mystery #1) by Laura Childs
Published by Berkley Trade Paperback (2001), Paperback, 242pg
Filed under: Fiction, Mystery
Got my copy from: Borrowed
Buy your own copy at Amazon or BookDepository (affiliate links | info) or add it to your Goodreads shelf.

three-half-starsthree-half-starsthree-half-starsthree-half-stars

Ordinarily, Charleston's Indigo Tea Shop is an oasis of calm. But when tea shop owner, Theodosia Browning, caters the annual Lamplighter Tour of historic homes, one of the patrons turns up dead. Never mind that it's Hughes Barron, a slightly scurrilous real estate developer. Theodosia's reputation is suddenly on the line. Aided by her friends and fellow tea shop entrepreneurs, Theo sets about to unravel the mystery of the deadly Darjeeling and encounters a number of likely suspects. Tanner Joseph, the fiery environmentalist, held a grudge against the developer for his misuse of land. Timothy Neville, the octogenarian major domo for the Heritage Society, opposed Hughes Barron's election to the board. And Barron's unsavory partner might very well profit from a cleverly written buy-sell agreement!

Now, y’all have probably realized by now how much I like tea. And you know I like cozies, though I’ve had some problems with them earlier this year. So! A cozy mystery where the victim is killed by a poisoned cup of tea, where the amateur detective owns a tea shop, and ever other paragraph has something related to tea in it? That cozy mystery is pretty near a perfect fit for me.

I especially like Death by Darjeeling because all the elements of a cozy are in it, but they’re put together in such a way that it’s not annoying. I mean, Theo is a middle-aged single woman, BUT she doesn’t have a cat (she has a dog instead!), she doesn’t fall the potential murderer, she actually does now how to run a business and does it rather successfully, and she’s nosy without being over-the-top about it. I really liked her, actually.

The setting, Charleston, was vibrant without being overly described, and the people were Southern without being caricatures. It felt like a really friendly town, with interesting stuff in it. I liked it. And the mystery was pretty good, too. I never figured out who did it until the reveal at the end, and that’s a pretty difficult thing to accomplish with me (I’m always on the look out for red herrings and clues, etc).

The only thing I didn’t like was how overly emotional everyone was. I don’t know if it’s a Southern thing or what, but at least two of the character were in tears more than half the time they were onscreen, and even Theo teared up once or twice. It was a little bit annoying, yeah.

All in all, however, Death by Darjeeling was a fantastic cozy mystery that I really enjoyed reading. I’m definitely going to try to read the other books in the series, and I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants something fun to read.

Read: February 2010