Thai Die: A Needlecraft Mystery
Author: Monica Ferris
Published December 2008
Available wherever books are sold.
Excelsior, Minnesota’s amateur sleuth Betsy Devonshire is back in the 12th installment of Monica Ferris’ Needlecraft Mystery series with Thai Die. When Betsy’s friend and “Monday Bunch” member Doris Valentine returns from Thailand, she has a lot to show the gang from her exotic vacation. Among the souvenirs and thai silks is an embroidered rag that had been used as cushioning for a buddha statue Doris agreed to bring to antiques store owner. Doris discards it, but Betsy rescues it- determined to return the small silk rag to its former glory. It’s only after the antique store owner is killed and Doris’ apartment is ransacked, does anyone begin to suspect the small embroidered rag may be more than meets the eye. With an international smuggling ring and local thugs hot on Doris’ heels for the silk, it falls to Betsy and Doris’ closest friends to keep her safe long enough for Betsy to solve the case.
I’m sorry to say I didn’t like this book as much as I liked the 13th installment, Blackwork. The story was bogged down with too much information, details, and morals- most of which was unnecessary to telling the story. Pages were devoted to telling the reader about the journey from Excelsior to Amboy, but nothing happened during that time except exposition on Doris and her boyfriend Phil’s education on boilers and steam apparatus. Steam and boilers do play into the story near the end, but for how it is used in the story, no technical education on the apparatus would’ve been necessary on the part of the person operating the device- Ferris says that the character Lars Larson just showed Doris how to work the machine.
Ferris tries to impart too many morals for one book. One is about not letting your possessions possess you. Another is how we all feel like outsiders. Another is how it is hard to serve two masters, etc. These are all lovely sentiments and wonderful to impart, but it feels like Ferris is trying to accomplish too much in one book. She also provides information on the history of silk, how boilers and steam-run cars function, crochet and embroidery techniques, the highway system of Minnesota, the course of the Minnesota river, and takes time to describe every location- even if the characters are quite literally passing through and no action will take place there. At this point, I don’t know if this serves as a plot device to help us conceive of the distance the characters are going, or is just filler.
Most of the time, the point of view is easy to follow, since the reader is not always with Betsy. Yet the point of view is sketchy at times, with characters somehow knowing what unintroduced and unknown characters are thinking. In one scene, somehow the deputy knows the thoughts of the coroner that we, the audience, haven’t met yet.
Spelling and grammar are good, but the proofreader that Penguin Books did, or didn’t, hire for this book did miss some left out words and words that should’ve been taken out. Perhaps there weren’t enough mistakes to remake the plates? Either way, though the spots where these errors occurred did break up the flow, it didn’t happen often enough to ruin the story. The pacing was good, though case information was repeated too many times. Ferris could’ve saved us the trouble in at least one scene with: “Betsy told Malloy what she’d found at the library and handed him the articles as proof.”
Overall, this was a good read, and I’m not disappointed with the book. Will I read it again? Not anytime soon. Right now I’d consider this a one-time read. That said, I’m going to read the other books in her series, because she does have a cozy world full of lovely people doing hobbies I personally enjoy. I’m not able to guess who the culprit is right away, and I find her books to be hard to put down.