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by Monica Ferris
Berkley Prime Crime, October 1999
243 pages
ISBN: 0425171493

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

"Framed In Lace," second in a series called "A Needlecraft Mystery," by the publisher, looks like another winner for local author, Monica Ferris. "A lot of the credit goes to the incredible openness and cooperation of local experts in needlecraft," Monica commented at a recent publishing party for "Framed In Lace."

The series began with "Crewel World," (1998) and came about from a conversation between Ferris' agent and a Berkley editor who wanted a series based in needlecraft, which Ferris assured the editor she could produce.

Framed In Lace continues Betsy Devonshire's story from shortly after the end of the first novel. From San Diego, Betsy is now in charge of her sister's Excelsior needlecraft shop. She's debating with herself whether to keep the shop or close it and move on to a warmer location. The range of employees in the shop and other small-town characters employed to try to persuade Betsy to stay continues to be fascinating and well-realized. The author has enough depth among her secondary characters to spin off more than one book.

The story opens in November with the town of Excelsior abuzz over the raising of the Hopkins, an old ferry and excursion boat that used to sail Lake Minnetonka in the Twenties and Thirties. With the coming of better roads and more automobiles, The Hopkins fell into disuse and was ultimately scuttled in the lake, late in the Seventies. That much is fact.

The excitement and anticipation turn macabre when the boat is raised and a skeleton is found. Gossip and finger-pointing ripple through Excelsior and Betsy Devonshire finds herself once more emeshed, however unwillingly, in helping the police determine what happened, and how the body came to be in the sunken hull.

One of the difficulties with series featuring amateur sleuths, particularly in this country where suspension of disbelief seems harder to achieve in readers, is making a reasonable connection between the sleuth and yet another crime. In that regard it will be interesting to see how this author fares in future books . Thus far, Ferris has skillfully employed the many secondary characters, their friendships and antagonisms, to that end. Her strong writing skills, her sense of the community and an active imagination suggests this series may be long-running.

Fans of mystery fiction in which they expect to learn new things will not be disappointed. Anyone who thought needlecraft consisted only of knitting and darning will be surprised to discover a vast world of subtlety and variation. Indeed, the solution to this well-conceived and delivered mystery is inextricably bound to the art of needlecraft.

The reviewer is the author of




Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2002

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