by Cynthia Chow
Details at the end of this review on how to win a copy of A Basket of Trouble.
Gift Basket designer Claire Hanover was hoping that the getaway to celebrate her brother’s opening of his Gardner’s Stables would be a successful venture, as well as a mending of the strained relationship between the siblings. After being forced to close his stable in Durango, Claire encouraged Charley Gardner to move to the more tourist-steady Colorado Springs area, where he and his wife Jessica would be able to operate commercial horse trail runs and even promote Jessica’s non-profit hypnotherapy business that helps special needs children.
What no one expected were threats from a rival stable, neighbors protesting the disturbance by riders and horses, and the city council threatening to revoke their business permit as a result of the complaints. The Gardners also definitely did not need for one of their handlers, Kyle Mendoza, to be discovered stomped to death by one of their more rambunctious, but beloved horses. When the police reveal that the death was not an accident but murder, business continues to fall as customers flee and Charley loses what little staff he can afford. Bad-mouthing by a rival to Jessica’s occupational therapy business, a lawsuit and rumors of illegal immigrants working for Charley further endanger the future of the stable and have Claire feeling that she must do everything possible to salvage her brother’s future.
While the mystery plot is strong, it is the examination of domestic relationships that also stands out in this unique series. After Roger Hanover was arrested for murder motivated by jealousy in the debut A Real Basket Case, the Hanovers emerged from the experience with a marriage stronger than ever and their love continues to support and strengthen one another after nearly thirty years together. Clare’s best friend Ellen and her ex-husband, Dave Redding, have also begun a tentative reconciliation after their marriage was shattered by an affair and the resulting rage.
No one can inflict pain like the person who loves and knows you the most and Claire winces every time she witnesses how Jessica’s insecurities and guilt over the death of their child by illness cause her to poke, snap and chip at Charley’s self-esteem. The relationship between the siblings also has its own historical pitfalls, as their mother’s favoritism caused Charley to feel that he constantly lived under Claire’s shadow. While their parents paid for Claire to achieve a Fine Arts degree they couldn’t afford for Charley to attend anyplace other than community college where he never finished his degree. As a result Claire not only feels responsible for his move to Colorado, but that she is why his success, business, esteem and marriage are now on the line.
Groundwater succeeds at getting the readers so invested in the characters that we feel their pain and hope for them to find some happiness in their lives. Very complex themes are confronted as well, as Claire encounters the impossible and seemingly unsolvable problems facing illegal workers and feels helpless in the face of incomprehensible laws. She still manages to maintain her humor and relentless dedication to her family though, and she finds aid in the most unlikely of sources.
From the detective who previously arrested Roger for murder to the drug lord and barbecue restaurant owner Leon Fox, no one seems to be able to resist the charm and likability of the intelligent and compassionate Claire Hanover. Beth Groundwater, who also authors the RM Outdoor Adventure series, continues to shine with each fun and unpredictable mystery novel.
To enter to win a signed copy of A Basket of Trouble, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Basket,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 30, 2013. U.S. residents only.
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