by Susan Wittig Albert

The Berkley Publishing Group, 2008. ISBN 9780425219560.
Reviewed by Rhonda Esakov
Posted on 03/28/2008

Fiction: Mystery

China Bayles said all along that she didn't want to become involved in investigating the sixteen-years-past death of a father she never could seem to please. She would like nothing better than to have the past and its painful memories stay dead and buried. Recent events, however, have turned up not only a half brother she never knew, but letters and other evidence that point to the possibility that her father was murdered. When her half-brother is killed under suspicious circumstances, it is up to her husband, McQuaid, to convince her to investigate further and even to narrate part of the story—a new twist.

Gladly, we meet old friends from Albert's prior stories as we visit Pecan Springs and China's herb shop and catering business, but the subtle twists and turns of her new investigation soon drag a reluctant China on a journey into the past. In this third book of a trilogy (first came Bleeding Hearts and Spanish Dagger), the door is closed on China's complex relationship with her father and maybe on some cold cases from her past as well. This doesn't happen without a lot of pain and soul-searching on China's part. What is it about fathers and daughters?

As in the prior fifteen books in Albert's herbal mystery series, we learn many interesting facts, uses, and mis-uses for plants. In this case, the often deadly nightshade genus is featured. The origins will surprise you, though, as they can be found in most people's everyday diet. Readers will be eager to try the herbal recipes and will be entertained from page one through to the surprise ending. Whether you are a long-tern fan of the series or this is your first Albert read, you'll enjoy China's latest exciting and suspenseful adventures.

Susan Wittig Albert grew up on a farm in Illinois and earned her PhD 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, co-author a series of Victorian-Edwardian mysteries under the name of Robin Paige. The Alberts live near Austin, Texas. Visit their website.

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