Mourning Gloria (China Bayles - Book 19) by Susan Wittig Albert
Publication Date: April 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: Hardcover, 320pp
(Received for review from Berkley/Obsidian)
Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound
Susan Wittig Albert on the WEB: Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter
China Bayles Website
Excerpt from Mourning Gloria
Synopsis (Book Jacket):
Susan Wittig Albert, "who consistently turns out some of the best-plotted mysteries on the market." *delivers the charm and suspense in her latest herbal treat, Mourning Gloria. Now ex-lawyer and current herbalist China Bayles must stop a killer whose evil is burning through Texas...
China is relishing the scents, produce, and even the showers of spring. She's also busy manning her booth at the Pecan Springs Farmer's Market. It brings additional customers to her herb shop, Thyme and Seasons, and residents find rare ingredients they wouldn't otherwise find in the supermarket. Everybody wins.
But as the town bustles back to life in the warmth of the season, one woman's life is tragically brought to an end. China happens upon a burning house trailer and hears a woman screaming for help. The evidence leaves no doubt that it's an arson-homicide - but who would commit such a ghastly crime?
Jessica Nelson, an intern-reporter at the local paper, is assigned to cover the story. Drawn to the case by its similarity to own tragic loss - Jessica's family died in a fire - she soon finds herself deeply involved and in danger. And when Jessica disappears, China becomes determined to help find her before she becomes a headline herself...
Once again Susan Wittig Albert intrigues fans and gets them looking for those all important clues. The 19th book in the China Bayles series, Mourning Gloria takes readers back to Pecan Springs, Texas and the Thyme and Seasons herb shop. Long time fans will enjoy reading new adventures of their favorite characters, while new readers will fall in love with China and the eclectic residents of Pecan Springs.
Ex-lawyer and herbalist, China Bayles has her hands full with the spring season kicking into high gear. Between her herb shop, her farmer's market booth, and her ever increasing family, she is finding it difficult to find time for everything, including planning a seminar on psychoactive herbs for the garden club. When she drives by an abandoned house trailer in flames, she stops to call 911 and realizes that someone is inside. When she tries to help the woman she hears screaming for help, an explosion erupts. It's obvious to China and the police that this was an arson-homicide. The woman had been tied up and shot before she was left in the burning trailer. Jessica Nelson a new intern at the local paper starts to investigate the case, which hits close to home, since her entire family was killed in a fire. When Jessica gets too close to the killer and disappears, China knows it's up to her to find the killer before it's too late.
Susan Wittig Albert has long delighted fans with cozy mysteries that are intriguing, full of suspense, and keep the reader on their toes from start to finish. The nineteenth installment in the China Bayles series certainly falls into the same category. Mourning Gloria, gives long time fans a chance to pick up where they left of with the wonderful residents of Pecan Springs, but it also gives new readers a chance to find a great long-lived series to capture their interest. This book can be read as a stand alone or as a part of the series. The author does a great job of letting new readers know a little about what has come before without making long time fans rehash the entire series over again. Just enough information!
Pecan Springs is such a great little town filled with interesting characters and personalities. In Mourning Gloria there are several story lines that either derive substance from the past or set up new avenues of thought for future books. The story of the romance between police chief, Shelia Dawson and Sheriff, Blackie Blackwell has been brewing for awhile. In this latest book, we find Shelia and Blackie at a crossroads. One of them will have to step down from their job in law enforcement if a wedding is to take place. Fans will enjoy seeing how this plays out in future books.
Also, the story behind the scenes of China's family is also ramping up. In Mourning Gloria, readers get to see China as a mother, as she is raising not only her stepson, Brian but also her niece, Caitlin. I think the author does a spectacular job of making China appear as more than just an amateur sleuth. She's a business woman, a mother, an herbalist. She has a life beyond solving mysteries and I think that makes her more accessible to readers and more believable.
Susan Wittig Albert is a master at weaving a plot. She gives readers a great cast of suspects to choose from and convinces them that it can be more than one, if not all of them that could have committed the crime. With twists and turns that will leave readers scratching their heads. Just when you think you've got it all figured out... you don't! (LOL)
I loved the way that Albert inserts lots of information about herbs and their uses into every chapter. The particular book focuses on psychoactive herbs and I thought that was very interesting. If readers come into this series without any background in herbs and what they are used for, I think they will come away feeling like they have not only been entertained, but educated a little bit as well. Which is a great feat in fiction writing.
As a heroine, China Bayles is such a great character. She is intelligent and insightful and full of ideas. Having been a lawyer, gives her credibility as a sleuth. She knows what kind of evidence is real evidence that can be used to convict someone or just circumstantial stuff that isn't necessary. I think her decision to become an herbalist is fascinating, since it isn't what you would expect from a lawyer. Interesting career choice, that really seems to work for the character. Her interaction with her family is priceless. She becomes a real person to the reader, as she deals with the same kinds of things that they do on a daily basis. Getting the kids to school, parenting issues, family drama all while trying to figure out who the killer is. I give props to Susan Wittig Albert for creating a character that is so three-dimensional.
I recommend this one to Susan Wittig Albert fans as well as new readers who are looking for a great series. The China Bayles series is an excellent example of a cozy mystery series, but it also packs some of the punch of more mainstream mysteries. Mystery fans of all kinds will enjoy this one. With information on herbs in every chapter and some great recipes in the back. This is a great book for herb fans as well.
Mourning Gloria is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
Susan Wittig Albert grew up on a farm in Illinois and earned her Ph.D at the University of California at Berkeley. A former professor of English and a university administrator and vice president, she now lives with her husband, Bill, in the country outside Austin, Texas. In addition to the China Bayles mysteries, she writes the Victorian Mysteries series, along with her husband under the pseudonym Robin Paige.
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