Is it even remotely believable that a woman in her 50s with no law-enforcement experience, no credentials and newcomer status in a small town would become a successful amateur detective? Heck no, any more than that there would be several murders a year in and around an upscale small town.
Nevertheless, if you're hooked on any kind of needlework, you'll love the behind-the-scene glimpses of how shops like the one inherited by sleuth/businesswoman Betsy Devonshire use displays, classes and other promotions to attract repeat customers. If you're a multicraft needleworker, you'll enjoy learning a little in each book about something you haven't tried yet (such as Hardanger in this book).
The camaraderie among needleworkers rings true, as do references to the addictive nature of some crafts. I'm not a big fan of cozies, partly because of the obligatory clutter of exaggeratedly drawn oddball characters, but Betsy's co-workers and customers seem less caricatured than most in this subgenre.
There's no "literary" writing here, but the characters do develop, and Ferris, too, is getting better at her craft of writing. The mystery unfolded more or less evenly alternating with the subplot of what's happening in Betsy's shop. (...) clerk Godwin may be steretypical but he's drawn with affection; look for Goddy to grow up a bit here -- without losing any of his boyish charm. Those who remember know-it-all champion needleworker Irene from her troublemaking days in the early books will be gratified to see that she has mellowed with a success of her own.
Betsy herself is a lot more real than her detective work; she can be selfish as well as self-mocking. reluctant to get involved yet brave enough to confront a killer. She's single but not desperate enough to leave her shop, Crewel World, for a lover who has retired to faraway Florida. Betsy can be nosy, but she has an ethical core. She's a useful, vital, often-admired middle-aged woman who's the center of attention in this series, and that's a rarity in popular fiction.
To me, the mysteries in these books (and I've read them all) are not much more than an excuse for a series -- would that there were a category in bookstores for books with continuing characters outside the genre. Reading Ferris's books is almost as relaxing as needlework itself.