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Cutwork: A Needlecraft Mystery    by Monica Ferris order for
by Monica Ferris
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

One would suppose murder to be unlikely in the pleasant little community of Excelsior, Minnesota. However, Betsy Devonshire, who owns Crewel World (a needlework shop) has a talent for murder (the sleuthing side that is), and certainly murder seems to find her. A body turns up at the art fair. The victim is Robert McFey, a talented carver, killed messily by one of his own knives. His cash box is missing, and clues point to a young ne'er-do-well, who is easily found and arrested. Case closed, much to the satisfaction of lead officer Mike Malloy.

However, officer Jill Cross is less easily satisfied; and eccentric Irene Potter, one of the witnesses, is vociferous about the need to call in Betsy to properly investigate. When the parents of the alleged culprit beg her to look into the matter, she is swayed to the extent of requesting an interview with the young man, and comes away uncertain as to his guilt.

Betsy's inquiries turn up several promising suspects. McFey's estranged wife and son resent his leaving a profitable business to pursue his art. Only his young daughter seems to grieve for his passing; the rest of his family are content with the hefty insurance payment, one that came in time to bail them out of financial difficulties. McFey's business partner lost everything, and blames McFey for his ruin. As Betsy delves further, she worries about her friend Shelly, who has started dating Ian Masterson, another artist and colleague of McFey's. Is Ian somehow involved?

As in all cozies, the characters are of interest to the reader. Betsy and her friends and acquaintances are pleasant to visit, and it is fun to see what is happening in their lives. Without being unrealistic paragons, they are admirable. Betsy faces unpleasant truths without flinching, including her own mistakes. This clear-sightedness is one of her strengths as a detective. Naturally, she gets to the truth of McFey's murder; and if the results are not what she wanted, that too is something she accepts.

It has been some years since I read one of Ferris's mysteries, and I was delighted to reacquaint myself with her characters and their community. Cutwork is worth the read, and as a bonus, Ferris includes a needlework pattern for those nimble of finger.

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