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 About the book: Darned If You Do, a Needlecraft Mystery by Monica Ferris, Berkley Prime Crime, hardcover, USA $24.95, 295 pages with crochet pattern.


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.

I would like to marry Betsy, but she is twice divorced and so does not trust her judgement of the male sex.  I think she’s a terrific judge of character – how else could she so successfully investigate her cases? – but dare not press my cause too strongly for the reason given above: I want to continue to live with her.  I am beginning to see how the characters in a romance novel come to live such tangled lives.  I hope ours comes to as happy an ending as they do.