Showing posts with label Susan Wittig Albert. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Susan Wittig Albert. Show all posts

Thursday, January 18, 2024

2024 New Releases I’m Looking Forward To List (Just Might Be Considered the "Baddie" Version)

2024 New Releases I’m Looking Forward To List

Watch Where They Hide
by Tamron Hall
. It’s the second book in her TV journalist, Jordan Manning, series. This time Jordan is going to investigate the disappearance of a stay-at-home mom who recently left her abusive husband to live with her sister. Of course, as a TV journalist, Jordan uses her profession to not only bring awareness to the woman’s disappearance, but to also solve the crime. This comes out on March 12th.

Pay Dirt by Sara Paretsky. This is V. I. Warshawski’s 22nd case. This involve V.I. searching for a friend of her protegee who is later found remote house. Drugs are involved. The FBI is involved. Classic V.I. going after the bigwigs of Chicago. This comes out April 16th.

Circle in the Water
by Marcia Muller
. This is Sharon McCone’s 36th case. This has Sharon requested to solve a string of pranks surrounding occupants of an elite and wealthy neighborhood. What McCone finds throughout her search is not only murder, but a meth lab. So, what’s really going on in this neighborhood. This releases April 23th.

Forget me Never by Susan Wittig Albert. After about a three year break, Susan Wittig Albert’s China Bayles is back with her 29th investigation. As I’m writing this, there isn’t much information available on what the book is about (unless you scoured through the authors blog), but according to Amazon it is slated to release on May 29th. My only hope is that Albert is back to giving China a murderous crime to solve. Because, though I love all the ghost and New Age stuff, I really with the stories would go back to being these small-town high stake murder affairs.

Truth Be Told
by Patricia Raybon
. This is the third book in Raybon’s Annalee Spain mystery series. Taking us back to 1924, amateur detective and once schoolteacher, Annalee Spain, is going to be involved with a political-centric type murder mystery. This I due out on June 11th.

A Lethal Lady by Nekesa Afia. Book three in Afia’s Harlem Renaissance Mystery is due out July 30th. We’re back into the mind of her main character, Louise Lloyd, who thought trading Harlem for Paris would avail her of solving murders. Evidently, she’s dead wrong.

"2024 New Release Mystery Book Baddies I'm Looking Forward To," said the Zebra in the Blue Shirt.


Friday, June 16, 2023

3 Rare (For Me, Anyway) Book Finds

I went to this amazing out of town discount bookstore Tuesday to do what I do when it comes to used bookstores–scour EVERY shelf for hidden and rare treasures. And this visit did not disappoint. Never would I believe I would find a hardback version of Susan Wittig Albert’s first Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter cozy mystery books. A rare treat, indeed. Second to that is the first book in Robin Paige’s Victorian Mystery series, Death at Bishop’s Keep. Now, now, now, and now. To be clear, Robin Paige is Susan Wittig Albert’s penname. Regardless, I’ve always had a hard time finding this book (without ordering it online and all that extra jazz).

Lastly, who would have thought Robert Jordan’s (writing as Reagan O’Neal) Fallon books still existed in hardcover. The Fallon Legacy concludes the trilogy, leaving me in need of just the second book at this point. Nevertheless, this copy of The Fallon Legacy is more than a decent copy, as it is in excellent condition. I practically ripped it from the shelf the second I spotted it in a pile of sleepers.

Anyway, these are all rare, sought after finds for me. Got lucky this go ‘round.

Monday, September 6, 2021

China Bayles is BACK!


This BABY came in a day early today!  China Bayles is back, after her 2019 lukewarm #27 investigation in A Plain Vanilla Murder.  Nevertheless, I have a good feeling about Hemlock.  Every fifth or so book, Albert takes China out of her home in Pecan Springs and place her in another locale for a mix of crime and history.  So I have a lot of faith in Hemlock picking up the ball where the last entry dropped it (completely).  Anyway, my ride-or-die spirit will always see what's up with China, so here's to a solid start to my week. 

Friday, September 27, 2019

Just Because It's FRIDAY Book Haul

Just because it’s freakin’ Friday and I got paid Book Haul.  Let me tell you, I be out of the house by 11:30am every other Friday to handle some business.  Once that’s done, I hit up bookstores while the traffic is low.  And today, here’s what I got…

1.  The Gunslinger by Stephen King.  Tried to read this thing back in 2008–per the urging of a co-worker.  I couldn’t get into it, and eventually sold my copy.  Flash-forward eleven years later; I think I’m finally ready for it.

2.  The Institute by Stephen King.  While I stopped buying Stephen King books upon their releases (mainly because of shelf space), I ended up bending to The Institute.  I had it on hold at my library.  However, being number 15 in line didn’t sound fun.  This was one of those purchases where I knew I would think about the book until I bought my own copy.  So I just did it.  Plus, I love the cover's composition!  And it sounds interesting.  Maybe if it’s good I’ll go back and check out some of his latest releases that I’ve skipped over the past few years.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Plain Vanilla BORING by Susan Wittig Albert

"China and Ruby Wilcox are presenting their annual 'Not Just Plain Vanilla Workshop,' always a huge hit with customers at Thyme & Seasons Herb Shop. But someone involved with the workshop is driven by a deadly motive, and China soon finds herself teaming up with the very pregnant Pecan Springs police chief Sheila Dawson to solve a vanilla-flavored murder. 
Sheila, happy to get out from behind the chief’s desk, is investigating the death of a botany professor, a prominent researcher specializing in vanilla orchids. China is trying to help a longtime friend: the dead professor’s ex-wife and a prime suspect in his murder.  
However, there’s no shortage of other suspects: a betrayed lover, a disgruntled graduate student, jealous colleagues, and a gang of orchid smugglers. But the lethal roots of this mystery reach back into the dark tropical jungles of Mexico, where the vanilla vine was first cultivated. At stake: a lucrative plant patent, an orchid that is extinct in the wild, and the life of an innocent little girl."
A. Just. Plain. BORING. Book.
As many who frequent my book blog know, I love and adore Susan Wittig Albert’s China Bayles series. My loyalty for the series' is boundless. I love the mysteries, small town setting and herb shop hook. Most of all, I love the business owner/attorney duality of China Bayles' character. This series has gotten me through some hard times, as well as joyous times. So, in essence, I’m pretty tied and committed. Nothing but excitement comes out of reading a new title in this series.
Yet, here I am reading through the 27th latest entry into the series darn near sleep. A Plain Vanilla Murder was a complete and total bore! There's no way around it. I halfway want to believe Albert was trying to get back into plotting a light murder mystery. Because in the previous two books she veered away from doing so. But man, oh man. She veered Vanilla over a ravine and into a compose heap. Straight-up boredom. Still, let me get into what I found aggravating and boring about A Plain Vanilla Murder.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Hey, Hey, HEY! New Susan Wittig Albert Novella Release

"From NYT bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert comes the first novella in the mesmerizing Crystal Cave series.Ruby has a rare gift for seeing things that others can’t...
Ruby Wilcox (owner of the Crystal Cave, Pecan Springs’ only New Age shop) has always tried to downplay her psychic gift—until she experiences a horrifying nightmare that just won’t stop. Again and again, she dreams that a woman is abducted on the hike-and-bike trail and knows that the victim is in deadly danger. 
Prodded by her friend and partner, China Bayles, Ruby goes to the police—only to find that her dream has already become far too real. Police chief Sheila Dawson puts Detective Ethan Connors in charge of this no-body case. But Connors is a skeptic who is convinced that all psychics are frauds. And Ruby herself still has plenty of doubts. What will she have to do to prove to Detective Connors—and to herself—that her gift can be trusted?  
Ruby Wilcox has always known that she has a rare gift for seeing things that others can’t. But how can she learn to use it when she’s haunted by the memory of loss, and by all the possible consequences?"
Well, guess this'll hold all the China Bayles Herbal Mysteries lovers over until the 27th Bayle's book's June release.  Especially given we normally get a Bayles book around this time each year.  Sooooooo... novella it is.  Here's to Susan Wittig Albert's NoBODY: A Novella (Crystal Cave Series Book 1).  At least Ruby Wilcox fans will be happy.  Bhah.  That includes me! 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

More 2019 Cover Reveals My Body is Ready For

SEPTEMBER 3, 2019 is for Vendetta in Death by J. D. Robb

"She calls herself Lady Justice. And once she has chosen a man as her target, she turns herself into a tall blonde or a curvaceous redhead, makes herself as alluring and seductive as possible to them. Once they are in her grasp, they are powerless. 
The first victim is wealthy businessman Nigel McEnroy. His company’s human resources department has already paid out settlements to a couple of his young victims―but they don’t know that his crimes go far beyond workplace harassment. Lady Justice knows. And in one shocking night of brutality, she makes him pay a much steeper price. 
Now Eve Dallas and her husband, Roarke, are combing through the evidence of McEnroy’s secret life. His compulsive need to record his misdeeds provides them with a wide range of suspects, but the true identity of Lady Justice remains elusive. It’s a challenging case, made even more difficult by McEnroy’s widow, who reacts to the investigation with fury, denial, and threats. Meanwhile, Lady Justice’s criminal crusade is escalating rapidly, and if Eve can’t stop this vigilante, there’s no telling how much blood may be spilled…"
October 1, 2019 is for The Shape of Night by Tess Gerritsen (Stand-Alone) 

"Ava Collette is punishing herself for an unspeakable tragedy. So she flees Boston and rents an old home named Brodie's Watch on a remote coastal peninsula of Maine, hoping to work on a cookbook inspired by New England cuisine that she's been trying to finish for months. She immediately feels at peace in the isolated house--until she starts to hear strange noises. 
Rumor has it that a sea captain named Brodie has haunted the house for decades. Then, one night, Ava is awakened to find herself face to face with an apparition who looks--and feels--all too real. Meanwhile, there's been a series of accidental deaths nearby that don't add up. And as Ava starts to check into the previous renter's mysterious disappearance, she starts to realize that there's a disturbing secret some in town are desperate to keep hidden. 
Soon all of Ava's waking hours are consumed by her investigation, and her nights are ignited by Captain Brodie's ghostly visits. But even as she questions her own sanity, she knows she must uncover the truth before a killer strikes again."

June 4, 2019 is for A Plain Vanilla Murder (China Bayles #27) by Susan Wittig Albert

"China and Ruby Wilcox are presenting their annual ''Not Just Plain Vanilla Workshop,'' always a huge hit with customers at Thyme & Seasons Herb Shop. But someone involved with the workshop is driven by a deadly motive, and China soon finds herself teaming up with the very pregnant Pecan Springs police chief Sheila Dawson to solve a vanilla-flavored murder.  
Sheila, happy to get out from behind the chief's desk, is investigating the death of a botany professor, a prominent researcher specializing in vanilla orchids. China is trying to help a longtime friend: the dead professor's ex-wife and a prime suspect in his murder.  
However, there's no shortage of other suspects: a betrayed lover, a disgruntled graduate student, jealous colleagues, and a gang of orchid smugglers. But the lethal roots of this mystery reach back into the dark tropical jungles of Mexico, where the vanilla vine was first cultivated. At stake: a lucrative plant patent, an orchid that is extinct in the wild, and the life of an innocent little girl.  
Plain Vanilla Murder is a flavorful blend of mystery and herb lore, present sins and past secrets, and characters who are as real as your next-door neighbors—stirred together in an absorbing novel that only Susan Wittig Albert could create."

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Book Issues: Taking Character's Advice Ever Happen to You?

This picture is what happens when you read 15 Susan Wittig Albert herbal mystery books in one month. You start to listen to the characters. Particularly that of the series heroine (and herb shop owner), China Bayles, as book after book she expresses her love of lavender oil. Why? Well, folk medicine aside, supposedly the scent of lavender eases anxiety and insomnia. Not that I suffer from either of the two (well, from a marginal standpoint I would say I do). Nonetheless, the scent is for relaxing oneself. And, hell, anybody can do with that.

So I went out and bought some.

The effects concerning myself? Not really sure yet, as it may work best with a diffuser. Or to dilute it with water in a spray bottle. By itself the oil can be overpowering, which leads to a sinus headache if you apply too much. Very much the opposite of its purpose. LOL.

All the same, sometimes we get so rooted and invested in book series/fictional characters that we sometimes find ourselves taking their advice on certain things. Out of curiosity? Maybe. For a true solution to our personal concerns? Most likely. In either case, it's our way of building rapport with whatever beloved character we enjoy spending quiet evenings with. And my time in January with China Bayles certain became an example of the case.

So has this ever happened to you? Your favorite fictional character inspired you to, well, take their advice about something?

(SIDEBAR: Once while reading the Kinsey Millhone series back to back, I started to take on Kinsey’s hungry for Quarter Pounders with Cheese. I would stop reading to go grab one. And I don’t even like them.)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Book Buying Bargaining ~ With No Self-Control

Got rid of a lot, and brought plenty back in.  Oh course, through store credits and bargain-area shopping.  Kind of a strange mix–but not really.  The Susan Wittig Albert books were simple enough to pick up.  Toni Braxton memoir I found tucked in a low shelf in a bookstore bargain section for $5.  I went ahead and grabbed Laurell K Hamilton's A Shiver of Light, because I'm compulsive when it comes to completing series.  Even those I've grown to dislike.  And, because I want more fantasy in my life, I decided to go back to my initiation into fantasy via a T. A Barron novel.

Apprentice in Death came out on September 6th.  I moved heavy and earth to get to it.  (Currently reading it.  This is only the dust-jacket.)  Salvage the Bones and Speaking from Among the Bones I got for $2.50 apiece.  Both easily crossed off that Amazon wishlist.
Now.  Will this book craving stop?
Hell, no.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Library Reserves Came Through. Too Soon, Though?

So what do you do when you’ve put together this amazing monthly TBR (video and all) to keep you reading, while you wait on your library reserves to come in?  And what do you do when the catch is that the waiting time was shorter than you anticipated?  Talk about my inexperience with the whole reserving books thing.  

I just happened to stop by the library to get some blog posts drafts done, when I realized the books I placed on reserve Tuesday were in (didn’t exactly receive that email notification I, ahem, signed for).  What’s a guy to do?  Stick to the TBR and take breaks between planned reading?
Anyway, per my recent rash of Anna Pigeon obsessed posts, I finally got a copy of Barr’s latest Pigeon book, Boar Island (Anna Pigeon #19).  After this, I’ll be done with Anna Pigeon for another two years.  At least I believe Barr's next book is due in 2018.  Anyway, not exactly impressed with the turn out of Pigeon’s 18th adventure, Destroyer Angel, I have to admit that I’m kind of ready to finish this up and go on hiatus.  The last few books in the series were hit-or-miss.  And the worse yet was book #16, Burn.  I haven’t been hearing a lot of good reviews on Boar Island; some reviewers citing there is less Anna and too much returning characters from her previous adventure.  One reviewer even suggested readers skip to the last 50 pages and call it a day.  We’ll see.  Knowing this book will involve a few characters from the previous book, I have to say I’m not exactly excited to revisit them either.  You know how it is, when the star of the show isn’t present.
And finally another China Bayles book.  Haven’t read her since mid-May, when I finished book #6 in the series, Love Lies Bleeding.  Literally been waiting around for a copy of book #7, Chile Death.  And now it’s in my hands.  Rented, but present.  Looks like China will be attending an annual chili cook-off in her home of Pecan Springs, Texas.  Evidently a cook-off judge dies from an allergic reaction to peanuts.  But who puts peanuts in a pot of chili?  Somebody who knew exactly what he or she were doing.  That’s who!
Anyway, here’s to more fun summer reads.

Do you reserve library books often?  And when they come in, do you drop what you're reading to get into your reserves?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wittig's Witches!

Okay.  So in China’s second investigation, Witches' Bane, rumors of witches and devil worshipers have taken over the small town of Pecan Springs, Texas.  These rumors are exacerbated by the suicide of a local teenager and homeless individual.  So the townsfolk are on edge and, most sincerely, this includes a local religious group led by Reverend Billy Lee Harbuck.  Harbuck has taken it upon himself to put an end to the madness, beginning with rounding up his followers to picket the local metaphysical gift shop propertied by China Bayles’ best friend, Ruby Wilcox.  The hitch is that the gift shop and China’s herb shop are connected.  Thus, of course, infecting both Ruby and China's businesses.  The situation and local stirrings get worse when a wealthy socialite named Sybil Rand is found murdered in her home.  The catch, one of Ruby’s athame blades are stuck in her body.  Further investigation uncovers the Death tarot card and a voodoo doll in Sybil’s possession.  With the walls closing in on Ruby, China, alongside her ex-cop boyfriend Mike McQuaid, set out to prove Ruby’s innocence.  Particularly before the whole town loses its damned mind!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Why I'm SUDDENLY in Love with China, Herbs, Wittig Albert...

So listen (err, read) to this: I’m addicted to Susan Wittig Albert’s China Bayles cozy mystery series.  (Say that three times fast.)  Such revelations shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, though.  Those who frequent this blog has seen me profusing this through a few past posts, since picking up the second book in Albert's series for #MarchMysteryMadness.  

Nonetheless, my infatuation happened kind of incidentally.  I just happened to pick up China's first case, Thyme of Death, at a used bookstore.  The purchase was a recourse to another on-going series I was reading.  But I was missing an entry, and it wasn't available in store.  However, seeing Albert’s sleuth is a herbalist/ex-lawyer located in the syrupy Southern town of the fictional Pecan Spring, Texas; I really wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into as I stood there reading the blurb, after the book caught my attention a stack high from where I stood.  

Approaching middle-aged woman with an interesting name.  "China Bayles" has a kick-ass ring to it.  Ex-lawyer now herbalist.  Hmm, I sniff some interesting parallels.  No children.  Little family to call upon.  Dating.  

Rubbing my chin and deep in thought, I asked myself: Was China going to give me cool lady tease?  Will she serve me candor and dry wit with an "over it all" attitude about life (my spirit was calling for this, by the way)?  Or was she going to be a stuffy planter?  Someone stuck in a straw hat while carrying a basket as she pooh-pooh'ed around keeping her hands marginally clean while solving murders (I need a girl who's willing to break glass to get into an office)?  In either case–given the series' herbalist hook–I kind of suspected finding a body in somebody's kitchen garden would eventually ramp up the fun.  So I took the bait and went to McDonald's for some fries.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Backroom Susan Too

Snoopy me was listening to a volunteer library worker sighing in the backroom of their used bookstore.  She had the door parted, and I glanced up and saw these two puppies sitting high on a shelf.  As the other two workers–men who held in their sighs with the recently trucked six boxes of donated books–cleared out of the stockroom to stock shelves, I stage whispered to the agitated woman could I step inside.  (Hell, I almost wished she asked me to help so I could peek through what was in the back.)  However, it wasn’t until the fourth, raised hissed that I got her attention.  I asked could I step inside and take a look at what was in back stock, but immediately went to these hardback Susan Wittig Albert books; as a part of Albert’s China Bayle series.
I'd already did my routine search around what was out front and found nothing.  But why, oh why do they always keep the good stuff in the backrooms?
Anyway, Bloodroot is China Bayles #10.  In this entry China goes back to Mississippi to confront, or uproot (heh), pieces of her past.  I’m almost certain her recovering alcoholic mother, Leatha, will be in the mix.
A Dilly of a Death is Bayles #12.  While there’s much more to the synopsis, this has the queen of a pickle festival (remember, these books take place in Texas) disappearing.  Rumor has it she sold her business and dashed.  Other rumors point to her missing boyfriend.
I just want to read the damn book and see.
I got a lot of ground to cover before I get to these entries.  Still I felt for a $1.50 apiece, I could hold them in stock for myself instead.
Problem solved.  And now they have a little more back stock room.  (Lowkey: not really.  That room was a mess!)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Putting the Public Library to Use this Weekend

The book/series collector in me says, “no, no, no.”  The hungry reader says, “yes, yes, yes.”
A.     My ordered copy of Liberty Falling is slated for a June 14th delivery, instead of the May 27th that was originally tracked and posted.  This, effectively, cut me out of ever ordering books from this particular marketplace seller.  May 23: SHIPPED.  June 14: DELIVERED.  Do the math.  Or maybe I’m just tripping.  But I mean, really?  I have to wait until June 14 to get my hands on Pigeon #7?  Hell, no!  
Waiter!  I want my check!  PLEASE!  
Backstory stuck in the middle. Going about my Saturday morning (after a post office and Dollar General trip), a light bulb lit up in my brain.  Why not go to the public library and check out a copy of Liberty Falling until your personal one comes in.  Bing.  Bing.  Bing.  And take your laptop along to also get some blog post drafts together, Mr. Lazy. 
B.      As for Susan Wittig Albert’s Rueful Death, I tittered around until I decided to take it.  It’s book #5 in Albert’s China Bayles series.  I’m currently less than 90 pages away from the end of book #4, Rosemary Remembered.  And, just in case I get impatient and don’t want to order and wait for a personal copy, I grouchily took Rueful Death.  Will catch up on ordering a personal copy later.  In the meantime, China Bayles is too charming to not take home.
Oh, check it out!  I also found out I have a $3 outstanding balance at the public library.  Now where did that come from?  And when did I last use my card?  Oh…wait….  I didn’t use my card for myself last time.  I let...


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

#MarchMysteryMadness: The Preparation Book Haul

I’ve been a Barnes and Noble member for years and recently found the benefit of using the member card online.  FREE SHIPPING!  Where have I been?  (Oh, I’ve been on Amazon where they upped their free shipping price margin.)  Nonetheless, with #MarchMysteryMadness coming up, I needed to stock books to fulfill the upcoming mystery reading challenges.  So those, and some books I've collected from a couple of used bookstores, are featured in this haul post.  Many are from familiar series I plan on tackling #MarchMysteryMadness with–furthering my excitement for the challenges next month.

1.       Finally got a copy of Burn Marks.  It's book six in Sara Paresky’s V. I. Warshawski private-eye, hard-boiled series.  Now I’ve passed this particular 3rd edition hardback many times at the used bookstore.  Until now.  It’s right where I’m at with the series, so I went ahead and grabbed it.  The book is in great condition.  For a 1990’s release, the pages are super clean and crisp.  All that aside, this one has got to be a winning chapter in the Warshawski series.  You see, another one of Warshawski’s distant relatives is coming back in the picture.  And she's all set to hire her niece to solve a murder.  (For more on my Sara Paretsky reviews, see the LABELS at the bottom of the post.)
The other three books will feature on my #MarchMysteryMadness TBR video...
4.      Blanche Among the Talented Tenth by Barbara Neely.  Blanche is back!  I've had the third book since forever, but since I have to read a series in order, it has sat on my shelf awaiting book two.  Until now!  A black, domestic housekeeper solving murders makes a boy's dreams come true! (Visit Barbara Neely LABEL below for my thoughts on the first book in the series.)
5.       I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, book four in Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series.  YAY! It's finally in my hands!  Bookstore after bookstore I’ve searched, after reading The Red Herring Without Mustard [book three].  Actually, I would have to drive over the mountain to another Barnes & Noble in the valley to get a copy of this book.  Though I couldn’t see myself attempting so with a recently replaced crankshaft, and a cracked axle boot.  I feared my car wouldn’t pull the hill.  So I’ve ordered the book instead and can’t wait to continue with Flavia and her murder-solving mischief.  (For those unsure of what I’m even talking about, click the Alan Bradley LABEL below for all things de Luce.)

6.      The Goldfinch by Donna Tart.  Always, always wanted to give this book a go.  With all the acclaim and praise, it slammed onto my reading radar.  I was curious, and finally found this crisp copy for $4 at my public library’s bookstore.  With it in hand, I drew the attention of a staff member who stopped to gloat her love/hate relationship with the book.  This, naturally, fueled my excitement.
7.      No Rest for the Wiccan.  Another “I been to bookstore after bookstore” book.  Book four in Madelyn Alt’s Bewitching Mystery series required an online order as well.  I have a soft spot for this cozy mystery series about a witch solving local murders.  But I’ll digress for now.  (Click the Madelyn Alt LABEL for my thoughts on the previous book.)
8.      Two copies of Susan Wittig Albert’s China Bayles cozies.  That’s entry two [Witches’ Bane] and three [Hangman’s Root].  I’ve craved these hard-to-finds after discovering the first book while browsing the used bookstore.  And loved it.  (For my thoughts on the first book, click the Susan Wittig Albert LABEL below.)
Well, that’s it guys.  I’ve been hauling the hell out of books so far this year–and can’t wait to get into them all.  I have a copy of Buffy Season 10: Old Demons on the way also.  And in an attempt to use my Kindle more, I ordered/downloaded Marcia Muller’s Ask the Cards a Question.  It's book two in Muller’s Sharon McCone series.
So basically I’m back in my reading playground.  Cozies.  Female sleuths.  And murders.  With a splash of literature on the side.  Anyway, happy reading and all that jazz!

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Charming Thyme | Susan Wittig Albert

“Susan Wittig Albert's novels featuring ex-lawyer and herb-shop proprietor China Bayles have won acclaim for their rich characterization and witty, suspenseful stories of crime and passion in small-town Texas. Now, when China's friend Jo dies of an apparent suicide, China looks behind the quaint facade of Pecan Springs. Though she finds a lot of friendly faces, China is sure that one of them hides the heart of a killer.”
~ Thyme of Death | Goodreads
Thyme of Death took a little adjusting to the character of China Bayles.  As well as her small-town Texas environment's structure.  Eventually I got it.  And by the book’s end–I loved it.  As the first book in Albert's series, I found myself dedicated soon after the last page.  

Nevertheless, the book features China’s first-person voice and perspective.  And having her strum through her range as ex-lawyer to herb shop owner was unique and effective for her situation.  So I loved her blend of pragmatic sense (lawyer voice) with her knowledge of herbs and their effects.  Those two elements worked well for my investment in her character–and of course the plot.  Equally, I appreciated her character and backstory on her extreme change in occupations.  There was something there and present to her character.  Something I found authentic and magnetic.  And there was just enough personality and open-end developmental avenues available to her.  Especially concerning her rocky love life.  On top of that, she was witty and straightforward.  Just the way I love my female sleuths.
As for the actual mystery I’m going to say this: cozy, charming, and ridiculous.
The tone of the book fit smoothly into the cozy mystery genre.  It read like a dribbling, syrupy small-town mystery.  There were lots of “sit down” talks with drinks.  Lazy strolls through neighborhoods.  Conversations with eccentric locals with eccentric hobbies.  And even the dusty detective viewing murder with his cigarette ashes sweeping over the scene.  (You could consider such a character in a cozy mystery a cliche.)  So much of each was present for the book's tone, a tone in which I would analogize to sipping tea in low country.  However, despite the book’s languid resonance, I have to admit the determination and assiduous China and friends stole my attention.  So I was never bothered or bored with the actual mystery's unfolding.  In fact, I found myself absorbed and guessing the solution comfortably along the way.
All went out the window at the end of the book, though.  It seemed like Albert spent time serving languid small-town murder that she felt the end needed to switch into overdrive.  I won’t give away the details; but I’ll let it be clear how I felt the ending seemed rushed, ridiculous and out of place.  Oh, and unbelievably coincidental.
Yet.  I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.  
On top of my love of China Bayles’ voice, and the book's wiggling abrupt shift in tone; I really enjoyed several of the themes Albert toyed with.  Secret lovers and new age concerns are only a few.  And the last piece of highlight: China–herself–pays reference to Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone.
A win.
"I rolled my sherry glass between my hands.  With any luck, tonight would get me the proof Meredith was asking for.  But if I told her what I was up to, she'd want in on it.  As wired as she was, she'd blow the whole thing.  She'd get herself or Ruby hurt.  She'd get me hurt."
"I didn't doubt that show business was no business in which to find true love and happiness.  It was probably a lot like the legal business–full of arrogant, greedy people glad to take their bite ad then some.  And it wasn't any fun to keep looking over your shoulder, wondering who was going to slip it to you next.  If that was why Roz had turned down the contract, I could certainly sympathize.  I might even applaud.  But I didn't particularly want to listen to her chorus of complaints.  So I just gave a non-committal 'hmmm.'  Luckily, we were almost at Meredith's, and there wasn't time for any more confidences."
"I dropped my arms with a sigh.  I knew the signals.  I could forget about sex for the moment."
"The door opened and I followed the cat into the semi-darkened living room, which smelled of furniture polish, dusty drapes, and stale cooking odors.  Violett stood clutching a navy cardigan around her.  I could see why Constance had sent her home.  She had the look of someone teetering on the edge.  Her hair was in strings, her eyes deeply shadowed; lines etched her mouth.  There was a tic at the corner of her right eye." 

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