After a tree falls on Tom Riordan’s house, landing him in the hospital, the police discover a mountain of junk piled high in his home. Locals in Excelsior, Minnesota—including Betsy and her Crewel World Monday Bunch—offer to help with the cleanup while Tom recuperates.
But when Tom is found murdered in his hospital bed, the sole heir to his property—his cousin Valentina—becomes the number one suspect. Betsy believes there’s more to the case than meets the eye, but finding clues to the killer’s identity in the clutter Tom left behind will be like looking for a needle in a haystack …
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By Monica Ferris
I have a little talent that has proved itself useful over the years. I don’t need an alarm clock. Before I fall asleep, I picture a clock in my head with the hands set to the time I want to wake up. And I wake up within five minutes or less of that time. It doesn’t matter that I’m in a different time zone or that we’re going off or on daylight savings time, I will wake up at the time I set. Maybe I’m like Peter Pan’s crocodile and somehow swallowed a clock.
On an ordinary weekday I wake at six, bathe, dress, make breakfast for myself and my lady, annoy the cat Thai, log on to my computer and, if the world hasn’t come to an end, begin the unscheduled portion of my day.
This consists of housework, needlework, shopping, visiting friends, short sight-seeing trips, fishing, skiing, volunteering at a local nursing home, working occasional hours in a needlework shop, and reading history and action novels.
My lady, whose name is Elizabeth but who is called Betsy, owns her own small business, over which, like the Queen of England (of similar name, though I doubt she was ever called Betsy), she lives. It is a needlework shop, focusing mainly on needlepoint and counted cross stitch, with a side aisle devoted to knitting and a corner to crochet. I myself am a knitter – I spent many years at sea and there are long idle hours in that occupation, so taking up a craft that does not occupy a great deal of space or make a big mess is called for. Though I am now retired, I still knit. Fortunately, I am a muscular man with a harsh, weathered face, so no one dares to remark unkindly when they see me working with needles.
I sometimes help out in the shop, because Betsy has a second occupation, of which I secretly strongly disapprove, because it can be damned dangerous. She helps people wrongly accused of a serious crime prove themselves innocent. Often this calls for discovering the actual perpetrator, who very naturally resents her interference. I am clever enough not to try to talk her out of her sleuthing, because I want to continue living with her. So I support her efforts when I can, condole with her when things become difficult, and soothe her troubled spirit when it turns out that the culprit is someone she came to like.
Her latest adventure involved a local man injured when a tree fell on his house during a violent storm. When rescue crews broke in to save him, they discovered his house was full to the rafters with an astonishing mix of trash and treasure. A cousin drove all the way from Indiana to help care for him and organize a clean-up. While he was still in the hospital someone entered his room and smothered him with a pillow. The police, of course, suspected his cousin, who was seriously in need of the money she would inherit from the sale of his property. Betsy, bless her heart, set out to prove her innocent.
*The painting of the scene through words.
One of the things that Ms. Ferris does extremely well, is use her words and attention to descriptive detail to transport you, as a reader, from wherever you're sitting to the world in which she has created. It is superbly brilliant!
*The fact that this is a clue based mystery.
A lot of the cozies that I've read have a tendency to fall in to a mundane pattern of things happen around the hero/heroine and then all of a sudden, BAM! Clues quickly fall in to their lap and happen so quickly that before you know it, the book is over. With Darned If You Do, however, this wasn't the case. The story presented itself like a true mystery - with time. The crime in this book doesn't happen until about midway through the book, but events leading up to the crime itself leave you with clues and suspicions. I would imagine that this is much more realistic to how true life tends to go with murder investigations.
*Our heroine, Betsy.
She's a modern day sleuth with old-school skills. A perfect character for the way this mystery is written. And completely impressive that after 18 books, she still manages to keep you engaged and eager to read more!
What I Didn't Like:
*The descriptions becoming TOO long.
Now, don't get me wrong... I said earlier that I loved the way she paints a scene with prose. But there are instances where I felt that the descriptive passages became a little long-winded and unnecessary. There were only a few, but I feel that I should clarify :)
This was a great new addition to the series! 18 books and still going strong, I'd say Ms. Ferris is doing something right!
Rating: 4.5 stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All conclusions reached are my own.