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Blood Orange
China Bayles Mystery #24
Susan Wittig Albert

Berkley Prime Crime
April 5, 2016 / ISBN 978-0-425-28000-3
Mystery / Cozy / Amateur Sleuth

Reviewed by Laura Hinds


China Bayles is a wife, mother, formerly practicing attorney and current proprietor of an herb shop, Thyme and Seasons, as well as partial owner of a few side businesses. She's a wonderful friend and a very logical and methodical woman. She also has a knack for solving murders. Twenty-three previous books have detailed her exploits and followed the events of her life.

In Blood Orange a young nurse has suddenly disappeared from the cottage located behind Thyme and Seasons, which she was renting from China. Kelly Kaufman had confided in China that she was going through a difficult divorce and needed a quiet place to stay while she dealt with the situation. Her disappearance looks like an abduction and China turns to the police for help. Soon, however, she hears from Kelly who explains that she took off the way she did because she felt that she was in danger. She had uncovered a murder and wants to see China in private to seek her advice.

Kelly is in a terrible auto accident on her way to China's house, and China can't help but get involved in investigating what happened and why, and digging to find out about the murder Kelly spoke of.

There is a lot to this book, as is usually the case with this series. It's obvious that a lot of research, time and plot planning went into writing it. I read it over the course of two days, often reading for hours on end because I was so intrigued by the story. It is the type of mystery that is truly both a whodunit and a whydunit. I really liked it, and highly recommend it. You don't need to have read any of the previous books to enjoy it, but I am glad that I did so that I was familiar with the series-regular characters.

What I didn't like: There wasn't enough of Ruby, China's best friend and business partner. China's husband, Mike McQuaid was out of the country for most of the book, and his son, college-aged Brian, was hardly mentioned.

What I really disliked: That there came a point in the book when China, whom I consider to be a strong and smart character, put herself intentionally in a really bad situation of the type that is often called “too stupid to live.” I've come to expect better from China. That said, I understand why the author did it and what the plot point was, so in the end I made peace with it.

What I loved: That Ms. Albert continues to write fascinating books populated by a wide variety of characters in believable settings and situations, and that she keeps things at the herb shop and other businesses fresh and current, all the while teaching readers about the many uses of herbs and how to use them safely.

When I say that I read a book for hours on end you know it is a good one. In this multi-distracting world devoting hours to anything is a really big deal. I recommend that you get a copy of Blood Orange as soon as you can and make sure to set aside a day or evening to settle in for an engaging read. You won't be sorry!

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 Note: Susan Wittig Albert also writes The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter Mysteries and The Darling Dahlias Mysteries.

Reviewed 2016