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Mystery Monday – Mariner’s Compass

Mariner’s Compass by Earlene Fowler (Book Six in the Benni Harper mystery series)

Review by Vicky T. (VickyJo)


The first thing I thought of when I saw a series of mysteries with quilt patterns for titles was, “Uh-oh.  This could be—different.”  I enjoy quilts, but I’m not a quilter.  And while I like mysteries, and I like crafts, I am a bit leery of combining them to any great degree.  I have to say that I shouldn’t have worried; Earlene Fowler has this combination down perfectly.

Fool’s Puzzle” introduces us to Benni Harper, a woman in her mid-30’s who was raised on her father’s ranch in central California.  Benni lost her mother when she was six, and her grandmother Dove stepped in and raised her.  She married her high school sweetheart Jack, and lost him to a car accident about a year before this first novel begins. She must leave the ranch that has too many memories, and make her own way in the world by becoming the curator for the local folk art museum.  During the course of the series, Benni comes to terms with widowhood and opens her heart to a new man, Gabriel Ortiz, the newly-hired chief of police in her hometown of San Celina.  We see the culture conflict between a California cowgirl and a Latino cop, and come to care about the secondary characters which people the novels.

“Mariner’s Compass” is the sixth book in the series, and happily Ms. Fowler just keeps the plots coming, the characters growing, and the homespun sayings rolling along!  There is no murder in this book, “just” a mystery, and I have to say it’s sort of refreshing.   I always wonder how these fictional towns can sustain murder after murder!  And Ms. Fowler must wonder that too, as she has changed locales for the various books, and in this book, abandons murder altogether.

Benni receives word that she is the sole beneficiary of Jacob Chandler’s estate.  Mr. Chandler has passed away quite suddenly, an apparent heart attack.  He has left everything he owns, all his assets to Benni.  There’s only one catch: she must spend two weeks in his house, alone, in order to inherit.  If she fails or refuses, everything goes to the federal government.  Now, we can’t have that!  Benni is game to try this, mostly because of one huge mystery.  She doesn’t know who on earth Jacob Chandler is (or was) or why he would leave all his worldly possessions to her, a total stranger.

Imagine Benni’s surprise, and unease, when she discovers that Jacob Chandler kept a scrapbook with information about Benni in it.  Her missing denim jacket is hanging in his closet.  Her favorite brand of imported German hot chocolate mix is in his kitchen cupboard.  And Chandler, whose hobby was wood carving, had carved a beautiful horse head, and named it after Benni’s first horse.  As if all this isn’t bad enough, Benni soon learns that Chandler has set up a sort of scavenger hunt for her to work on.  Can Benni track down enough clues to solve the mystery of Chandler’s identity and why he chose her to inherit his estate before the people in Chandler’s life who believe they should have inherited take matters into their own hands?

I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery.  Fowler left a few clues scattered in the story for a good detective to spot, and the ending was enough of a twist to be very satisfying.  I’m so glad she has continued on with Benni’s adventures.  I will definitely keep reading this series!

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One Response to “Mystery Monday – Mariner’s Compass”

  1. Jerelyn H. (I-F-Letty) says:

    Just what I need Vicky another book for my TBR! Great review BTW.

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