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by Susan Wittig Albert
Berkley Prime Crime, January 2003
304 pages
ISBN: 0425188280

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China Bayles left her high pressure job as a Houston criminal attorney several years earlier and opened an herb shop, Thyme and Seasons, in the small town of Pecan Springs Texas. She shares the space with her friend, Ruby Wilcox, who keeps a new age shop, The Crystal Cave the same building, and they are partners in Thyme for Tea, a teashop. There's a small outbuilding which China rents as a small self-contained unit for holidayers when she is not using it for other purposes. A pretty young journalist from Ohio is staying there at the time of this tale.

China and Ruby are going to spend the weekend in Indigo, Texas, at a workshop teaching dying with natural dyes and a celebration of the founding of the town. However, at the town meeting, Casey Ford, who owns most of the town, declares he is going to sell the mining rights to the local strip miner, thereby causing the destruction of the town and the livelihood of those trying to bring Indigo back from the dead, which include several touristy type businesses being run from the old buildings that once made up the town center. Within 24 hours, Casey is dead, of a shotgun blast to the chest, purportedly caused by one of his own booby traps.

McQuaid, China's husband of a year, has brought his son Brian to Indigo on a fishing and camping trip, but when Casey is murdered, McQuaid, a retired policeman, can't help but accept the invitation to help the local sheriff, one of his ex-students. There are lots of suspects, all 37 residents of the town, for starters, but the crime scene burns down during the night, before the police have a chance to study it.

This is the 11th book in the series. Each one is based on the folklore associated with a plant, and in each one we learn more about the characters, and about Texas law. . Publisher's Weekly compares Bayles to Warshawski and Plum. I think that does Ms. Albert a disservice. Her characters are unique and interesting, neither as dark as V.I nor as brainless as Stephanie. Somehow, in this book, the folklore was more interesting to me than the action, which seemed forced.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, November 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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