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by Susan Wittig Albert
Berkley Prime Crime, August 1996
293 pages
ISBN: 042515405X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

China Bayles was a criminal defense attorney in a big Houston law firm. As she approached 40, she began to have moral twinges about her work, the fact that most of the people that she was working to free were guilty. She resigned and moved to Pecan Springs, TX, where she bought a small herb shop, Thyme and Seasons. The shop is adjoined by the Crystal Cave, a New Age venture run by her best friend, Ruby Wilcox. China recently began to live with her cop lover, Mike McQuaid and his 11-year-old son.

China is on the planning committee for the annual herb conference. Mike has lent his pick-up truck to a friend, Rosemary Robbins, to move some furniture. China needs to use the truck to pick up some conference supplies. When she does so, she discovers Rosemary in the truck, dead. Suspicion first turns to Rosemary's ex-husband, Curtis, who physically abused her in the past and then to Rosemary's current lover, Jeff, who has disappeared.

I don't know if I suddenly became very astute, but I figured out the killer about 1/3 of the way through the book. Although the plot was a bit thin, Albert has several great strengths. Her characterization is excellent. China is an imperfect person who is torn between her own need for independence and her feelings for McQuaid and his son. Albert perfectly captures the Texas setting--its climate, rhythm, dialect and attitudes.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, August 2002

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