Friday, June 6, 2008


I just finished reading Nightshade by Susan Wittig Albert. Nightshade is the sixteenth book in a cozy mystery series featuring China Bayles. You read that right. Sixteen books in a series and I've read all of them.

China Bayles left practice as a criminal attorney in Houston and bought a century old building in the fictional city of Pecan Springs in the Texas Hill Country. In Pecan Springs China turned to her love of herbs and started her shop Thyme & Seasons. Her best friend, the vibrant and flamboyant Ruby Wilcox, runs the only New Age shop (Crystal Cave) in Pecan Springs and co-owns with China a tea shop called Thyme For Tea.

China's husband, McQuaid is an ex-cop who has tired of the politics involved in his position as an associate professor in the criminal justice department at the local college. He recently hung out his shingle as a private investigator.

Nightshade centers on the story of China's half brother Miles and their father Bob Bayles. Bob died sixteen years ago in an automobile accident. Miles believes that there was something funny about their father's death and hires McQuaid to help him investigate the case. China has mixed feelings. She had a difficult relationship with her father and it was just a few months before that she learned that Miles Danforth was her half brother, a product of a long term relationship between her father and his secretary Laura Danforth.

Albert takes some chances with Nightshade. The usual cast of Pecan Springs characters - Ruby, Brian (McQuaid's teenage son), Smart Cookie (beautiful and tough Pecan Springs Police Chief), Blackie (county sheriff) - are hardly seen. The story centers on China, McQuaid and Miles. Albert's previous books in the series are written in China's voice. In Nightshade, Albert adds the third person perspective of McQuaid. While interesting to read what McQuaid is thinking and feeling, I thought it broke the flow of the book.

As usual, Albert includes snippets of herb and plant lore along with the ever popular recipes. I missed my yearly visit with the characters living in Pecan Springs, but Nightshade did answer many questions about China and her father. I recommend this series to cozy mystery lovers as well as those who are interested in herbs.

Albert has a web site that includes information about her books (3 different series), herbs, recipes and the blogs that Albert writes. Enjoy!

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