Crewel Yule, by Monica Ferris


This is the seventh in Monica Ferris’ Needlework series; by now, Our Heroine has settled a bit more comfortably into being a needlework shop owner, having inherited it from her sister1. The book begins with INRG2 notifying its members that they’ve had to move the annual convention from February up to December due to a scheduling conflict at the hotel they’d reserved. It ends, not surprisingly, with the solution to the murder that’s occurred in the middle; I have to admit that the murderer’s identity is one of the reasons I really appreciate this particular cozy. Too bad I can’t say why without completely spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t read the mystery.

The bulk of the book takes place in a hotel in Nashville, Tennessee where everyone is snowbound by an unusually heavy snowfall for the area3. To make matters worse, one of the conference attendees dies by falling over the atrium railing4 in a manner that makes it unclear whether this death was accidental, suicide or murder. There was no one visible near her when she fell, but the angle at which most people viewed the incident would render all but the tallest person invisible unless they were standing at her side. The railing is high enough to prevent accidental falls–hotels aren’t stupid in this regard. Jill, Godwin and Betsy can’t agree on which is the cause of death…so they proceed to investigate. The local police and emergency response crews are overwhelmed by dealing with the unusual weather, so the Investigative Trio is left to their own devices and techniques with minimal outside interference. Well, the hotel manager gets firm with them when they test just how hard it would be to flip someone over the railing, but otherwise they’re on their own.

I’m rereading this for the [cough]th time right now simply because it’s unpleasantly hot outside and the book’s set (surprise surprise given the title) right before Christmas in a snowstorm. if you’re reading for surprise plot twists, there isn’t much point to rereading murder mysteries; you’ve already seen the reveal. I’ll admit this is purest mind candy for me; Ferris’ mysteries are fun, no quibbles there, but they’re not for people who want to have to think about what they’re reading. Indeed, clever readers will probably guess who the perpetrator is long before the detectives do. I like this series because I’m into knitting and the details about needlework ring true and because it’s got a flamboyantly open gay character. Before anyone winces about stereotyping, with my apologies to all the very real and ordinarily mainstream gays out there, I’m glad that there is an openly gay character who is accepted by the other characters in the novel. No one pays much mind to the fact that he is gay, but just includes the character and his partner in activities. The shrieking giggling fairy aspects of the character get on my nerves about as fast as they would others’. I like this particular book in the series because I appreciate how the paraplegic characters are presented: perfectly normal people…who happen to be unable to stand. They’re presented with exactly the same depth and complexity as the others.

1my apologies to those familiar with the series…but then if you’re familiar with the series, you’re probably not reading this review with any real interest on your own behalf, no?
2International Needleart Retailers Guild; yes, it really does exist, and indeed Ferris has included (with permission) some equally real retailers in this mystery
3those of us from ****-freezing northern climes can just stop laughing now, OK! Snow removal is hard on a municipal level when you haven’t any municipal snow removal equipment and it doesn’t help, as one of the reviewers on Amazon pointed out, that the temperatures hovering just below freezing usually ensure that there’s a really nasty layer of ice underneath all that snow.
4the hotel is designed with the rooms in a ring around a central atrium rather than on the hallway plan many older hotels use; this reminds me amusingly of the Embassy Suites in Chicago, which I snarkily described to [husband] as ‘an inside out Motel 6’ plan.

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