Mystery Books for Sale

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by Susan Wittig Albert
Berkley Prime Crime, October 2001
296 pages
ISBN: 0425182010

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It's almost Christmas and China Bayles, proprietor of Thyme and Seasons, an herb shop in Pecan Springs, Texas, and part owner of a teashop, Thyme for Tea, has been talked into opening her home to the public during the annual Pecan Spring Christmas Open House. She's not too happy at the moment. Her best friend, Ruby Wilcox, proprieter of the local new age shop, seems to be having a crisis. Her mistletoe supplier hasn't shown with the week's supply of the parasite, and they are almost out of wreaths. Someone set a trap on the farm run by Donna and Terry Fletcher and their dog got caught in it, so China offers to go pick up the decorations. While she's out that way, she figures she can call in on Carl Swenson who supplies them with mistletoe.

China, a non-practicing attorney, finds out that the Fletcher sisters are having a disagreement with Swenson. They figure he set the trap that injured their dog because a just completed survey showed that the property line between their farms was off by several hundred feet, giving the sisters the rights to the spring and a stand of old pecan trees that Swenson had claimed for his own. Terry refuses to accept China's advice to call the police and threatens to shoot Swenson the next time he bothers them.

Swenson is found dead in a ditch on the road near where he had been cutting mistletoe. The sheriff and police chief, friends of China and her new husband, ex-chief, ex-Texas Ranger Mike McQuaid, ask China's help to talk to the sisters and find out where they had been during the time the crime was committed. After many wrong turns, the proper culprit is found and punished, and China does find out what was bothering her friend, Ruby.

Each of the books in the series headlines a different herb. Albert uses quotes, this time from sources like "The Golden Bough" and China's own articles on mistletoe in the Pecan Springs Enterprise, to inform us about the history, mythology, and its uses. This is the 9th book in the series, and although it would be nice to be able to start from the beginning, it's not necessary. Albert gives a succinct precis of the previous books, or at least of the important bits concerning the players. The characters are reasonably well defined and the education in the use of herbs is laid on gently.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, November 2001

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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