Bittersweet
by Susan Wittig Albert



Berkley, 2015. ISBN 978-0-425-25562-9.
Reviewed by Susan J. Tweit
Posted on 06/10/2015

Fiction: Mystery

Bittersweet is Susan Albert's 23rd China Bayles mystery, a series based in the fictional Texas town of Pecan Springs, at the edge of the Hill Country. The story opens in the fading daylight of a November evening when a single-engine plane with an expired license touches down at an isolated airstrip owned by two brothers who are illegally importing black-market white-tailed deer to turn their family land into a trophy game ranch.

Their actions set this absorbing story into into motion, derailing the quiet Thanksgiving China had planned at her mother and step-dad's nearby place, and throwing China and her friend Mac, a Texas game warden, into the world of big-game ranching, animal-rights activism and drone surveillance. Along the way, the two women deal with murder and other mayhem, and come to know each other and themselves better.

What makes Albert's novels stand out in the world of series mysteries is their strong sense of place, tight plotting, and the authentic way her characters interact, learn and grow in each book. Plus the way Albert educates readers about contemporary issues without preaching.

Bittersweet shines as well for Albert's deft use of multiple points of view—alternating chapters are told by different characters. Each voice contribute to what we know (and don't know) about the action without interrupting the tension or the flow of the story.

If you haven't met China Bayles, the hard-charging trial lawyer turned herb-shop-owner and stepmom, Bittersweet is a great place to start. It's Albert's best mystery yet.


Susan Wittig Albert grew up on a farm in Illinois and earned her Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley. A former professor of English and a university administrator and vice president, she is the author of the China Bayles Mysteries and a family-friendly mystery series set in the early 1900s featuring Beatrix Potter. She and her husband, Bill, coauthor a series of Victorian-Edwardian mysteries under the name of Robin Paige. The Alberts live near Austin, Texas. Visit Susan's website, her China Bayles' website, and her blog.

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