Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: #9 in the China Bayles series
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Publication Date: 2000
The Short Version:
A best friend acting strangely, a hit and run, and secret keeping sisters and their crazy aunt all make Herb shop owner China Bayles’ holiday season rush even more complicated than normal.
Why I Read It:
Next up in the series and I’m featuring this series for the Moonlighting for Murder theme week.
China Bayles has expanded her business ventures beyond her herb shop and is now partners with her best friend Ruby in a new tea shop as well. Things are going well and China’s biggest concern seems to be deciding on a theme for decorating her home for a Christmas home tour.
Then things start to get complicated. Ruby is acting weird. She’s been a bit distracted lately and now she’s apparently disappeared. No one has heard from her in several days and no one seems to know where she went. On top of that, just when the demand for mistletoe is ready to hit its seasonal peak, the local supplier is killed in an apparent hit and run.
Granted Carl Swenson was a cranky man, but he was a reliable harvester of the quality mistletoe that China needs for her shop at this time of year. Naturally China can’t keep herself from asking questions and looking for answers about Swenson’s death. Is it related to the ongoing property dispute with his neighbors? The Fletcher sisters are nice people, two sisters and their hilariously out of it aunt (who says the Klingons did it), but they seem to be keeping as many secrets as Ruby is these days.
Once again I had an entertaining visit to Pecan Springs in the Hill Country of Texas. I enjoy this series and the regular cast of characters and find it to be a great series to turn to when I need just a quick and pleasant read. The author always includes a lot of history and lore about the title herb or plant in every book as well as recipes.
Ruby’s behavior and the tension this causes China in this installment of the series added its own level of mystery to the death of Carl Swenson mystery. It wasn’t that hard to figure out where the Ruby storyline was headed, but nevertheless it made an interesting secondary plotline and moved the ongoing stories of the regular cast of characters along in the series. I think Ruby is one of my favorites of the regular characters because she’s one of those people who lives life with enthusiasm.
As for the Swenson murder and the suspects and story it brought to the series, it was an entertaining and not entirely predictable mystery. I have to say that Aunt Velda is one of the best characters that have come along yet in this series. Her obsession with aliens and insistence that she was abducted by Klingons and taken on a tour of the galaxy before they returned her home is hilarious.
I’ll admit that I’m a stickler for reading series in order and there are some storylines that continue throughout this series, but you could probably pick up one of these out of sequence and not be confused. They’re just light and enjoyable and the tidbits about herbs that the author drops in throughout the books are very interesting.
This post is part of my participation in the Moonlighting for Murder Theme week