30. Crewel World by Monica Ferris
Publication: Berkley (March 1, 1999), Paperback, 256pp / ISBN 0425167801
Read: February 17-18, 2010
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.
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.
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.