|Earlene Fowler: Sunshine and Shadow|
Prime Crime (Hardcover), ISBN 0425188558
The title Sunshine and Shadow as well as the quilt by the same name, fit neatly into this story: shadows of the past connect to the sunshine of the present.
Fowler's ninth Benni Harper novel returns to San Celina where we reunite with the old gang -- Benni, her hunky Hispanic lawman husband Gabe, her best friend Elvia, Gramma Dove, and cousin Emory.
Benni's supportive sisterhood join her in wedded bliss. Dove and Elvia both say, "I do." Elvia and Emory embrace their new life together. But, after more than three decades of widowhood, Dove enters marriage with much trepidation. She finds it difficult to adjust her life and her house to her husband's needs. She cleans out storage areas, delivering several boxes to Benni's house. The boxes hold the remnants of Benni's life with her first love and first husband, Jack. We see her past life via flashbacks spaced throughout the book.
While Benni avoids
the boxes and her painful past, a children's author returns to the San
Celina area after being away for decades. She and Benni resume their friendship
that had just started to bloom back in the days of Benni and Jack. But
the children's author hides a few secrets whose answers lie in the folds
of a crazy quilt. The past repeatedly casts shadows on the present.
Even shadows of Gabe's past return to haunt them. An old friend and partner from his days in undercover police work in Los Angeles stops in to say, "hey," but skirts their questions when asked about his family and what brings him so far from Los Angeles. Within twenty-four hours, the old friend lays dead, a victim of a vicious stabbing.
When someone stalks and then threatens Benni's life, Gabe convinces himself that his past has returned to harm the woman he loves. His macho, protective stance strikes just the right romantic chord for this reader as the couple struggles to make peace with their respective ghosts.
This book reinforces why I admire this author. Fowler makes San Celina come alive as one of the characters. She paints multi-faceted characters, creates well-paced suspense and best of all, she uses the past to shape the present.
Publisher's Weekly gave Sunshine and Shadow a starred review. To my mind, this book almost rivals Fowler's Mariner's Compass, for which she received the coveted Agatha award.
I reread Fool's Puzzle after completing Sunshine and Shadow. With the added understanding of Benni and Jack's relationship, the earlier book gained strength, making Benni and Gabe easier to embrace.
The twist at the end, (some might call it too convenient), leaves me with a renewed sense of hope, and a better understanding of why bad things happen to good people.
Click here to read Dawn Goldsmith's interview with Earlene Fowler.
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