Threadbare by Monica Ferris

Monica Ferris has been writing the Needlecraft Mystery series since 1999. The series protagonist, Betsy Devonshire, is the owner of Crewel World, a needlework shop located in Excelsior, Minnesota. Each title focuses on a different type of needlecraft including knitting, crocheting, cross stitch, tatting and needlepoint. Needlework aficionados will greatly enjoy this aspect of a well written mystery series.

Threadbare is a bit of a diversion for this cozy series. Monica Ferris thoughtfully tackles the uncomfortable social issue of homeless women. She handles it with compassion and avoids maudlin sentimentality while bringing to light some of the fundamental causes of homelessness. The homeless characters are presented realistically and sympathetically, at the same time pointing out the decisions and adversities that led to their very unfortunate situation.

The story begins in a snowy alley behind the Excelsior movie theater, when a teenager unexpectedly stumbles over the body of Carrie Carlson, a local vagrant and petty thief. The presence of an empty bottle of bourbon appears the obvious cause of her death. Surprisingly, Carrie’s death is ruled not to be an accident. Her cousin Margaret, and friend of Betsy, is accused of causing Carrie’s death. Hoping to clear Margaret of these allegations, Betsy’s investigation uncovers the deaths of several other homeless women. Is there a connection between their deaths? Who would want them dead and why?

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