by Susan Wittig Albert
[Berkley Crime, 2006]
reviewed by Augusta R. Scattergood
When China Bayles’ 14-year-old stepson discovers bones – human bones to be exact – while excavating a cave, a story begins to unfold. The mystery leads China, her husband Mike McQuaid – a Houston cop turned private investigator – and China’s friend (who happens to be the female chief of police) to the first family of Pecan Springs, Texas. Having donated a new community theater to the town, the Obermann family appears to be philanthropic. But the family’s self-declared aristocratic history hasn’t excluded them from all sorts of sinister activity, and China and her cohorts are determined to dig up the answers to the two surviving sisters’ questionable past. Those bones just might be a clue.
Hardly the typical crime fighter, China Bayles left her criminal law practice, cashed in her retirement fund, and now runs the 'Thyme and Seasons' herb shop in Pecan Springs.
In the fourteenth book of this popular series, the herbalist doesn’t disappoint. Readers learn that rosemary is associated with remembrance because in the Middle Ages students were encouraged to twist springs of rosemary in their hair for brain stimulation. Hawthorn berries are valuable remedies for circulatory problems. Oleander is deadly and poisonous. Aha! Is this a clue to the mystery?
China is a creative cook whose recipes run the gamut from personal fragrances and pesto mayonnaise to Herbal Doggie Shampoo. If the ending is not exactly a cliffhanger, Susan Wittig Albert’s cozy mystery offers a little bit of everything – girlfriends, hunky guys, herbal lore, and a plot with enough twists and turns to keep you reading. This is a perfect book to keep by a comfy armchair or, better yet, next to the kitchen stool. You never know when you might need that recipe for China’s Curried Chicken.
Augusta Russel Scattergood, a native Mississippi Deltan, writes book reviews for USADEEPSOUTH. Her essays and articles have appeared in Skirt!, Delta Magazine, Mississippi Magazine, and the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times. Read more of her reviews at USADEEPSOUTH by clicking here: USADS BOOKS
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