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Mourning Gloria
A China Bayles Mystery, No 19
Susan Wittig Albert

Berkley Prime Crime
April 2011/ ISBN

Reviewed by Laura Hinds

China Bayles has put her legal career behind her. She has owned her herb shop, Thyme and Seasons, located in Pecan Springs, for several years now. What she cannot seem to put behind her is the fickle hand of fate throwing one murder mystery after another into her path. Perhaps fate does know what it is doing though, as China is a very strong woman who strives to see justice served.

In this latest installment of the China Bayles mystery series, author Susan Wittig Albert pits China against a murderer who makes use of fire to hide the dastardly crimes committed. China comes upon a house trailer afire and although she gets close enough to hear a woman’s desperate scream she isn’t able to act before the trailer explodes. An investigation proves that the woman was murdered and the fire set to hide the crime.

A local newspaper intern is determined to investigate the murder on her own, hoping to find some closure for the loss she suffered when her own family perished in a fire. But when the intern, Jessica Nelson, vanishes China feels it is now her responsibility to step up and solve the murder, and hopefully find Jessica before it is too late.

This is one of my favorite mystery series. Susan Wittig Albert has hit upon just the right mixture of murder, mayhem, and plot twists, while providing readers with the everyday normalcy of a small town full of interesting characters. I always am excited to return to the imagery of Pecan Springs and the delightful Thyme and Seasons shop. There’s usually something new and exciting going on with China’s family and her friends, and the author keeps it real by having the cast who populates the series age in real time and with realistic growth and emotions.

While the herbal tips that frequent the beginning of many chapters are a treat, this time the tips from China Bayles herself are about “Mood-Altering Plants” and I found them quite educational.

Bravo to Susan Wittig Albert for another wonderful addition to this remarkable long lived series. With a strong plot, well developed characters and detailed herbal and plant lore, this is a book that mystery lovers will enjoy immensely, and those who are interested in herbs and plants will wish they could visit Pecan Springs for themselves if only to visit China’s shop.

China Bayles' Book of Days (NonFiction)

Reviews of other titles in this series

Mistletoe Man #9
Dilly of a Death #12
Dead Mans Bones #13
Bleeding Hearts #14
Spanish Dagger #15
Nightshade #16
Wormwood #17 [review 1] [review 2]
Mourning Gloria #19
Cat's Claw #20
Widow's Tears #21
Death Come Quickly #22
Bittersweet #23
Blood Orange #24
The Last Chance Olive Ranch #25 [review 1] [review 2]
Queen Anne's Lace #26

Reviewer Linda Morelli is the award-winning author of Fiery Surrender, Shadow of a Doubt, and Lani's Challenge.
Reviewed 2011