Crewel World Monica Ferris (1999)
**** 3 to 4 stars depending upon which book you read in the series
Crewel World, the first book in Monica Ferris's popular needlework series set in Excelsior, Minnesota, begins when Betsy Devonshire's sister and proprietor of the needlework shop, Crewel World, is killed and Betsy is accused of the murder. As Betsy, at loose ends in her life, frantically tries to clear her name and find Margot's murderer, she develops friendships with Margot's friends and employees. After being cleared of the murder, she decides to take over Crewel World and anchor her life in the legacy that Margot left her.
Thus begins the Crewel World cosy needlework mystery series. At 18 books and counting, it is arguably one of the most successful of the the cosy needlework series, and deservingly so. Although any other small town would be reeling with the large number of murders that take place there, Excelsior remains populated by down-to-earth, caring small town folk, from Godwin, Betsy's naive gay assistant, to Jill, the town's statuesque police officer. Betsy's new friends support her and develop in complexity as the novels progress. And Crewel World has something for everyone-- wool, surface embroidery, cross stitch, and even knitting supplies are sold here, and Betsy's clients do everything from design to conservation work. Plus, Ferris is tuned in to the needlework world. Two of my favorite books take place first at a Needlework Market and discusses wonderful details about the design and sale of needlework patterns, and second with a visit to Nordic Needle in North Dakota. The fresh perspective of the challenges of a small business owner, plus Betsy's struggles to learn and become competent in different needlework techniques, makes the series appealing. Although at times I tire with Betsy's methodical approach to investigation, I read on because I would simply love to shop at Crewel World and immerse myself in this needlework haven.
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