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By Monica Ferris
Berkley Prime Crime, 2008 ($24.95)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Doris Valentine returns from a month in Thailand with bags of goodies and a "refreshed" look. She went for some primo shopping and also to take advantage of cheaper costs for certain medical procedures. Her friends at Betsy Devonshire's needlework shop, Crewel World, are thrilled when she shows up with a suitcase full of her loot. In addition to yards of beautiful Thai silk, silk thread, and a few baubles and bangles, she brought back a package entrusted to her by an American expatriate who’d given her a tour of his textile factory. It was meant for an antique shop in St. Paul, near her home, and it wasn’t much trouble to hand-deliver it. He seemed like a nice guy, and the box didn’t take up much room. One might say Doris was naïve, too trusting, or just plain stupid, but it seemed like a simple kindness at the time.
Her friends, a group of needlework enthusiasts known as the Monday Bunch, want to know what’s in the carefully sealed mystery box, and Doris obliges. Inside, wrapped in a dirty rag, is a stunning stone Buddha. Although the style is old, the statue must surely be a copy. Thai antiquity laws are strict, so Doris certainly hopes it is only a copy. She’d hate to end up in jail for smuggling antiques when she was just trying to do someone a favor. She throws away the rag, carefully re-wraps it in one of her best tea towels, and reseals the box. A local newspaper reporter records the lovely items.
When she delivers the package to Mr. Fitzwilliam at his antique shop, he isn’t happy that she opened the box, but there’s nothing he can do about it. As soon as she leaves the store and gets in her car, a woman steps from a Hummer parked nearby and goes into the shop. Doris presumes this is the buyer, and wonders why she's so eager to pick up that Buddha.
A series of unfortunate events begins when she returns to her cozy apartment over the store and finds it ransacked, and all her Thai purchases gone. There’s a murder, she and her friends are followed and attacked, and somebody lets her know in no uncertain terms they want something she has, and will go to great lengths to get it. She’d gladly give it to them, if she only knew what it was.
Betsy has some experience in crime solving, and she and the other members of the Monday Bunch, including her beau, a retired railroad engineer, put their skills to work to protect Doris and find out exactly what she has that is so important someone is willing to kill for it.
Betsy and her friends are likable, resourceful characters who, even though some of them are up in years, can still take care of themselves. The final denouement is a hoot, literally. This is the twelfth in the series of amusing and intelligent traditional mysteries. The author includes a cross stitch pattern that ties in with the mystery.
Edcom: This titled is scheduled for release in paperback, December 1, 2009 from Berkley.
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