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It’s lucky that curator/quilter Benni Harper knows so many folks in San Celina, Calif., because her neighbors simply cannot stop killing each other.

The director of the children’s musical Pilgrim’s Progress—The Joyful Journey has been called to attend her pregnant daughter in Kentucky, and Benni’s gramma Dove has graciously volunteered to replace her and volunteered Benni as her assistant. So Benni’s curatorial duties at the local folk art museum are supplemented by rehearsals with a group of kids from the San Celina First Baptist Church—and one, Maisie Ford, who isn’t a member of the congregation but the daughter of mopey Detective Hud Hudson. The most troublesome child in Benni’s life, however, is Luis Ortiz, brother of her police chief husband Gabe. Instead of acting like a grown-up, Luis turns up uninvited on Gabe’s doorstep, drinks too much, makes frequent rude remarks and turns out to be a three-time loser in the matrimonial stakes. Because Benni can’t live by domestic intrigue alone, there’s also a murder (the elderly handyman at First Baptist) and a grand theft (a Native American–built violin from the Mission period). But even though she’s the police chief’s wife—a position that once again lands her in the soup—Benni continues to work more effectively as an inspirational neighbor than as a detective.

Withal, Fowler (Sunshine and Shadow, 2003, etc.) continues to wrestle with the question of why bad crimes happen to good people.

Pub Date: May 3rd, 2005
ISBN: 0-425-20249-6
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Berkley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2005


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