The state fair provides the bustling backdrop to Benni Harper Ortiz’s (Tumbling Blocks, 2007, etc.) latest brush with murder.
Although Benni is married to police chief Gabe Ortiz, it’s her friend Detective “Hud” Hudson’s department that has jurisdiction when Benni and her Aunt Garnet find a body in the Family Farm Exhibition Hall at the San Celina County Mid-State Fair. The late Calvin Jones was one of several young men dating Jazz, a biracial young woman whose African-American father, Levi Clark, is a controversial appointment as fair manager. Calvin had a tough life. His recent involvement with a local skinhead group provides a possible explanation for his death. So does his rivalry with Jazz’s other suitors, hotheaded Dodge Burnside and nice Justin Piebald, whose sleazy father owns a chain of profitable used-car lots. Egged on by formerly straitlaced, suddenly secretive Aunt Garnet, Benni feels impelled to solve the mystery. Sordid letters to Levi, the theft of an African-American quilt used to wrap Cal’s body and racist graffiti painted on Benni’s house only make her more determined to catch the criminal who’s sullying her long, happy memories of the fair.
Fowler evokes all the sights, sounds and smells of the fair, from deep-fried pickles to midway rides to animal contests, while providing a worthy puzzle for redoubtable Benni.