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State Fair (Benni Harper Series #14)

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Set in 1997, Fowler's folksy 14th Benni Harper mystery (after 2007's Tumbling Blocks) finds the avid quilter, museum curator, and reluctant sleuth readying herself for the annual San Celina (Calif.) County Mid-State Fair. Racial tensions revolving around the fair's first black general manager, Levi Clark; Levi's half-white daughter, Jazz; and Jazz's various suitors stir the plot. So, too, does the visit from Arkansas of Benni's great-aunt, Garnet Wilcox. Garnet and her sister, Dove, Benni's grandmother, get along 'like two bobcats trapped in a burning outhouse.' A valued African-American quilt stolen from a fair exhibit and a corpse in another exhibit add fuel to the fire. Fowler's congenial mix of humor (prickly, surprising Garnet applies lessons learned from mystery books and cop shows), folklore (the history of black cloth dolls), and murder makes this Agatha Award-winning series as much fun to visit as a county fair and a likely ribbon winner. (May)