Last Wool And Testament by Molly MacRae

Last Wool and TestamentBlue Plum, Tennesse and Ivy McClellan, the owner of The Weaver’s Cat, a fibre and fabric shop, has dropped dead of a heart attack. Enter Kath McClellan, her granddaughter, who arrives at her grandmother’s funeral to find that Ivy was suspected of poisoning a local man when she died. But that’s not the only problem.

Against all expected behaviour, she seems to have sold her house and her cat has vanished into thin air. Kath finds a strange man breaking into the house that she is staying in, and he’s not the only unwanted guest…

Oh, and Ivy’s bequeathed her magical powers onto Kath as well…

You can blame Curtis Evans for this one. Not me.

Occasionally, I dip my toe into the cosy waters. I’ve mentioned it before, but I love the array of cosy mysteries that you’ll find if you go into any US bookshop. The Cheese Shop Mysteries. The White House Chef Mysteries. The Magical Cupcake Mysteries. The Talking Ostrich Mysteries. (I made one of those up – can you guess which one?) Curtis has been writing on his blog recently as to what constitutes a cosy (UK spellings here) mystery. Well, my rules are as follows.

1)      Not Agatha Christie.

2)      The sleuth must have a slightly odd career. This extends to isolated village policeman (Hamish Macbeth) or village busybody.

3)      The sleuth must have an entourage (of varying size) who the reader will know is never going to be the murderer. NB The official investigate is allowed to suspect them, but they will be found innocent by our hero – actually, normally our heroine.

4)      There must be an animal somewhere on the scene – preferably a cat, possibly capable of solving the crime themselves.

5)      There will be a love interest for our hero/heroine. If an ongoing character, then it will probably have a happy ending unless the series goes on and on and on. The romance is allowed to fizzle out if it’s a one-off character.

6)      No gore. Nothing to say that the body can’t be found rammed into a giant cupcake mixer, but if so, we won’t dwell on it. Certainly the phrase “the jam in this cupcake tastes funny” will never appear.

7)      The story must be presented as a whodunit for the reader to guess the killer.

So in fact the majority of the books that this genre is trying to emulate are, for me, not classified as cosy mysteries. The genre consists primarily of books that, initially at least, were designed to emulate what people thought Agatha Christie was like, but now has become its own genre. And there wouldn’t be so many of the things if there wasn’t a readership for them, so they deserve a look every now and then. Hence a dive into the deep end of the cosies with this, the first of the (drumroll) Haunted Yarn Shop mysteries! Haunted because of on top of most of the above points, our heroine has a ghost as a sidekick!

I picked this one as it seemed to be an extreme example of the genre, but do you know what? I rather enjoyed it. Even the bits with the ghost. There’s a lovely bit with a fake confession that I thought was really well done – and original as well. The narrator, Kath, is a fun voice, once she stops bursting into tears due to the (understandable) stress of the first half of the book.

I’ll be honest and say that the mystery isn’t the best clued I’ve ever seen. In fact, at the reveal, unless I was mistaken, it could have easily been at least one other character but luckily one of them’s holding a gun at that point. Oh, and the killer is very guessable, to me at least.

But somewhat wonky plotting aside, I really enjoyed this book. Moreso, in fact, than a number of other more typical crime novels. I’m not convinced I’ll be racing back to the Haunted Yarn Shop anytime soon, but I may well be back one day. There’s plot points set up for future books – both in terms of potential love interest and the mysterious magical powers that haven’t showed up yet. I’ll hesitate to recommend it to everyone, in particular the armchair sleuths out there, but don’t dismiss it out of hand. You might be surprised…

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