Mystery Books for Sale

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by Susan Wittig Albert
Berkley, April 2008
304 pages
ISBN: 0425219569

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

China Bayles is still happy in Pecan Springs, Texas, having left her lucrative big-city law practice many years ago. She runs her herb shop, and, with her friends and partners, a tea room and catering service. She has married ex-cop Mike McQuaid, who, with his sixteen-year-old son, now make up her family.

She recently discovered she had a half brother. Her father had a long running affair with his secretary, and Miles Danforth was the result. Miles has hired McQuaid, now a PI, to help him discover if Robert Bayles was murdered sixteen years earlier. At first, China wants no part of this, but when Miles turns up dead in the parking garage of his firm, she reluctantly joins in the search for the truth.

Secreted in a barn on a distant farm, McQuaid finds Bayles' old car, in which he died in a fiery accident. Before he can have it moved, the barn burns. But of course China and Mike persevere and find the truth behind her father's death so many years before.

All of the books in this series are named after an herb or family of herbs. Nightshade consists of thousands of plants, some of which are edible and some of which are deadly poison - potato, eggplant, paprika, chile, tomato, sweet potato, petunia, phlox, datura, mandrake, belladonna, morning glory - many plants we use for food or spice or medicine or deadlier pursuits.

The problem with this book is that the Nightshade of the title really isn't necessary to the story. In the other sixteen books in the series, the herb of the title has a part in the plot. Here, all we get are some lame recipes, which seem to equate good with a large helping of capsicum. Ruby and China's other friends have no roles to play, it's all Mike and China. I wonder if the series has jumped the shark.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, December 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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