Spanish Dagger
by Susan Wittig Albert

Broadway Books, 2007. ISBN 0425213943.
Reviewed by Judith Helburn
Posted on 09/12/2007

Fiction: Mystery

China Bayles is back. This time she is sponsoring a paper-making workshop behind her herb shop. However, while she is gathering wild yucca or Spanish dagger with the workshop teacher, she comes across a body—once again. Susan, a friend of mine, has written her sixteenth China Bayles mystery, all with herb titles and a plethora of information about the featured herb slipped in between page-turning mysteries. I have learned to schedule time to read my once-a-year treat because once I begin, sleep, meals, grandchildren, and other pleasures are neglected.

Spanish Dagger is no exception. Subplots abound, in some instances wrapped up from previous books; in others begun, such as China's complex relationship with her father. Not so much as to annoy the reader, however, because you could pick up any one of the books in the series and be fully satisfied with a complete story. This time, the mother of China's friend and business partner, Ruby, shows signs of Alzheimer's, and Ruby must work with that very serious issue through the book. Ruby's current love plays a major part as well.

China's involvement in the most recent murder begins when she volunteers to feed and water the murder victim's Rottweiler. She just happens to look around the place and discovers a note hidden in one of the potted yuccas. Naturally, she hands the note to her friend Smart Cookie, the police chief, but not before she has read it. The plot thickens!

Albert's writing is gripping, intelligent, and often humorous—not cute and coy humorous as some mysteries are. Her main characters are true-to-life and believable. She has written another entertaining mystery with the occasional pause for deep thought.

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