|Earlene Fowler: Broken Dishes|
Berkeley Prime Crime (Hardcover), IBSN 042519597X
Earlene Fowler's fans embrace Benni Harper, her friends and family while following this Agatha Award winning series. Fowler takes her titles from traditional quilt patterns beginning with Fool's Puzzle through this the eleventh book of the series: Broken Dishes.
Fowler never fails to offer something new or surprising, and this book offers both. Shifting settings from the city of San Celina, California, to the Broken DIS guest ranch in San Celina County, Fowler paints a vivid ranch-life background for her ensemble of characters.
Benni steps up to help the newlywed daughter and son-in-law of her father's recently deceased friend. The young couple faces the challenge of turning a working ranch into a guest or "dude" ranch. If this first event fails, the young couple could lose the family farm.
As long-time director of the Josiah Sinclair Folk Art Museum, Benni knows about planning events. She jumps in with both feet to pull together every element for a successful fete and prepare for the inevitable detours of best-laid plans. Grandma Dove and her Historic Society committee sign up for a ranch retreat, and several men pay to participate in hunting trips. When a famous quilt teacher offers to conduct classes, which fill up quickly with her fans, success teeters on the horizon.
All goes well until a ranch dog retrieves a bone from an old, but recently disturbed, grave that laid hidden on the Broken DIS land. Hud, a detective with the county sheriff's department conducts the investigation and makes his third appearance in the series. He and Benni feel a romantic connection, which he wants to explore and Benni wants to ignore. Gabe, Benni's hunky husband, demonstrates a streak of Latin-American jealousy. Benni worries more about what Gabe will think than the threat of natural disaster while stranded with Hud in an intimate setting.
Readers will appreciate the author's masterful connection between the bones, the ranch and a painful family secret. Tenderhearted animal lovers will embrace Gumby, a particularly intelligent bridle horse, and Socrates, a goose that zealously guards Benni's Grandma Dove. Be sure to read the author's testimony to these two critters in the acknowledgments.
Once again Benni relegates Gabe to barely more than a walk-on character. But in a recent exchange of emails, the author assured me that Gabe will be much more involved in the next book of the series. Fowler also admitted that Loretta, Reba and Gaynelle, the rich quilting sisters from Georgia, would make charismatic main characters of their own series. But Fowler quickly disavowed any plans for such a departure from Benni's story. Although she mischievously added that Hud may turn up again and again, much to Gabe's chagrin.
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