cover image The Road to Cardinal Valley

The Road to Cardinal Valley

Earlene Fowler. Berkley Prime Crime, $25.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-425-25284-0

Fans of Fowler’s Benni Harper mystery series will welcome this likable sequel to The Saddlemaker’s Wife (2006), which follows troubled but mainly goodhearted characters in Cardinal, Calif., a small town in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Lucas McGavin is restlessly looking for a profession or a woman he can commit to, in particular gentle Ruby McGavin, who’s still hung up on her dead husband, Lucas’s brother. In addition, Ruby is terribly worried about whether Nash, her own younger brother, can stay off liquor and drugs. None of what happens with these characters or the vividly drawn supporting cast is earthshaking, but together the events make up an appealing panorama of ordinary people trying to live up to their best potential—if they can figure out what it might be. Fowler demonstrates that such a story can be religious without being sanctimonious, though outrageous authorial manipulation at the conclusion weakens the effect. Agent: Ellen Geiger, Frances Goldin Literary. (Jan.)