Spanish Dagger (China Bayles Mystery)
by Susan Wittig Albert
Review by Gayle Surrette
Berkley Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425213940
Date: 03 April 2007 List Price $23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
China Bayles' herb shop, Thyme & Seasons is doing well but not well enough to pay all the bills if her husband Mike's PI business doesn't get some customers. But in the vein of being careful what you wish for, Mike's next case is for China's newly found half-brother, Mike Danforth. Danforth believes that China's father was murdered and wants McQuaid to open this cold case. This, as you might guess, upsets China's mother.
And speaking of mothers, Ruby's mother is causing quite a stir in her seniors community and Ruby needs to have her moved to a new apartment where she can get the intensive care she needs now that she's showing signs of dementia. With all this going on, China has little time to spend with Carole Gayle who has arrived to give a papermaking workshop and needs help gathering samples. It's while they're out gathering Spanish dagger that they find a body and now time may be running out … the killer needs to be found before the town gets torn apart by a jurisdictional dispute between local police and Texas DEA agents.
When you pick up a China Bayles mystery, you know several things: the book will be filled with interesting herbal information; the characters you've come to care about will be involved in some sort of mischief or mayhem; there will be a mystery to solve; there will be some delicious recipes to try out; and Pecan Springs will still be a smallish town filled with characters that can support even more books to come.
The mystery hinges on some very interesting bits of Texas legal history. I think I enjoy these books as much for their information about Texas history and culture as I do for the herbal lore and the characters.
If you like cozy mysteries where the violence is off stage but you still have characters you can care about and learn from -- give these books a try. You don't need to start with the first one. Albert manages to give you enough back-story to pick up on what's happening to the characters and how they inter-relate. But, I'm sure once you read one you'll want to start at the beginning.