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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Review - Blackwork

We are drawing closer to Halloween and we have a perfect book for it.  Imagine a witch, micro-brew beer, a small town with gossips, a Halloween parade, and a locked room mystery.  We have all that right here.

Author:  Monica Ferris

Copyright:  October 2010 (Berkley) 294 pgs

Series:  13th in Needlecraft Mysteries

Sensuality:  N/A

Mystery Sub-genre:  Cozy

Main Character:  Betsy Devonshire, midde-aged owner of the Crewel World needlework shop

Setting:  Modern day, Excelsior, Minnesotta, approaching Halloween

Obtained Through:  Publisher for an honest review

The town drunk, Ryan, falls off the wagon and loudly taunts the town's only Wicca practioner, Leona who co-owns a microbrew pub in town.  Within a week Ryan is found dead and people initially think it was his long-time drinking problem that got him.  But turns out that his death is rather suspicious and somebody has started a crusade to pin it on Leona.  Leona goes to kindly Betsy and asks her to please find out who is spreading the nasty rumors about her.

In classic cozy fashion Ryan had made several enemies who could have hated the drunk enough to kill him.  But he was in a locked room with no evidence of how he was killed nor any hint of a murder weapon.  The Medical Examiner puts it down as natural causes.  But there is a murderer on the loose and Betsy starts out on the trail, first figuring out the murder weapon then starts on who had access along with a reason to hate the mean and vindictive drunk.

This is a classic cozy with a locked room puzzle.  I liked the murder weapon, it was creative and very effective.  The plot is not an edge-of-your-seat ordeal but I thought moved along nicely.  I enjoyed reading a mystery where the sleuth didn't have to make excuses and have contrived reasons for investigating, she just did it.  I know there are readers who want it to be really plausible why the sleuth gets involved.  I get frustrated over that, since the whole point I am reading is for this person to get on with nosing around.  So a note of warning, if you expect an excuse for your sleuth to be poking around you won't get it here.  Betsy just jumps in and the town has come to expect it.

I will say that for a cozy it didn't seem to have developed the characters to the usual expectation.  Typically a cozy is heavy on the world building, developing a community that the reader feels enveloped in.  I suspect that is why cozies are so popular - they are downright addicting.  I was drawn into the story and enjoyed Betsy and her store employee Godwin but I can't say I felt strongly about the supporting cast.  There is the Monday Bunch, a group of needle crafters who meet at the shop every Monday.  But I didn't feel they were buddies I will miss.  I can't speak for the previous books that might have had this sense more strongly.  Incidentally, the title "Blackwork" refers to a type of needlework that plays into the story.

I appreciated the evenhanded treatment of the character Leona and her Wicca faith while the main character Betsy attends church faithfully.  Ms. Ferris obviously did her homework to fairly represent Leona and it was well done.  Kudos I think are in order there.  Some readers may be upset by that topic while others will find this a safe way to find out some tidbits about Wicca from a distance. 

The great reveal I thought was imaginative - including a chase scene during a hectic and confusing parade.  I have to say I enjoyed this book from beginning to end and have become a fan.  I am eagerly awaiting the next book to get to know the characters better.

The story goes into the Microbrew beer process a little in the story, which is interesting.  I am including this short clip about brewing beer for your enjoyment.

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Anonymous said...

It has got to be good if it was written by Monica Harris. I have read every book by her in the local library. She mentions blackwork in one of her other books but I can't remember which. She is very good at explaining things and she has a great knack for cozies.


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