Pecan Springs (Texas … of course) is the location for most of these mysteries. China Bayles is the sleuth. She left a law practice in Houston to move here and open an herb shop. These mysteries were written by Susan Wittig Albert. If you look at the titles in this mystery series, you will see the connection to herbs – hence China Bayles Herbal Mystery Series. However you will find the title has a lot to do with the mystery – it is not just an herb.
I just finished reading the fifteenth (and latest) book in this series – Spanish Dagger. I am not all that familiar with herbs so I would not have known this was an herb. But having read the previous books in the series, I realize it must be a herb. While reading the book (and the previous ones) I quickly learn what the herb is from our herb shop owner (and sleuth) China Bayles and friends. This is one of the things I like about this series-the theme it is developed around – herbs. Not only do I get a mystery but I learn things about herbs, their uses, and recipes using various herbs.
As I said before, the title also has a lot to do with the mystery as well. The first murder was discovered when China and her guest were collecting supplies for papermaking. They were in the midst of Spanish Daggers and other related yucca plants. (I was not aware until I read this book that some parts of cactus make good paper making materials.) But this does not end the connection with Spanish Dagger – a dagger was used in another murder in the book. And finally, Spanish dagger was the name of a drug sting operation. This drug operation had its connections with the two murders. It was China’s investigation of the first murder and then the second murder that leads to the break in the drug sting.
Another thing I like in the China Bayles mystery series is the way the author develops the character as a “human”. These characters are presented as more than just another character in the book (or later in the series). A good example is China Bayles’ bst friend and business partner – Ruby Wilcox. She is usually a driving or guiding force into solving these mysteries because of the nature of her character. She still plays a part in this one as well. However we see the “human” side of Ruby as she deals with problems with her mother out of town and the murder of one of her friends. She becomes a more “believable” character.
I thoroughly enjoyed this series by Susan Wittig Albert. For those interested, she has a website with her husband (and author Bill Albert) at http://www.mysterypartners.com/ . You can find out some more about her other books and blogs here.