Nightshade Hardcover – Apr 1 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Former attorney China Bayles, now the proprietor of a small herb shop in Pecan Springs, Tex., finally gets some answers to her questions about the death of her cold, distant father, who perished in a fiery car accident 16 years earlier, in the satisfying conclusion to a trilogy that began with Bleeding Hearts and Spanish Dagger, the preceding two books within Albert's long-running cozy series. When China's half-brother, Miles, hires China's husband, Mike McQuaid, a former homicide officer struggling to establish himself as a PI, to investigate the fatal crash, China isn't sure this is a good idea. Her reservations prove well founded after the secretive Miles turns out to have his own agenda. Fans will be pleased that by supplementing China's usual first-person narration with McQuaid's third-person perspective, Albert casts fresh light on his character and his relationship with China. Snippets of plant lore, mostly to do with the nightshade family, add spice. (Apr.)
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About the Author
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 of Austin, Texas. In addition to the China Bayles mysteries, she writes a Victorian mystery series, along with her husband, under the pseudonym of Robin Paige.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The China Bayles mysteries are exceedingly well written and, in my opinion, the best of the genre with the amount of research that is involved and the inclusion of Ms Albert's knowledge of herbs and their uses. And the recipes that are included make your mouth water! Who could ask for more? I highly recommend reading all 16 books, preferably in order, because of the character growth and the new characters that appear now and then.
China is not interested in reconnecting with her past to find out if her father was murdered but her husband McQuaid, now a private detective, is very interested for numerous reasons. When Miles thinks he located the car that his father died in, he asks McQuaid to meet him at a designated spot. When he doesn't show up, China and McQuaid learn he was killed in the garage where he parks his car for work. McQuaid is determined to carry on with the investigation and when he goes to the location of where the car is supposed to be the woman who is holding on to it looks like she is dying from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. McQuaid is sure that it was attempted murder and when he pools his information with the info on the tape Laura made that China found, they go to confront someone who might have the answers not knowing that China is in danger of getting shot.
NIGHTSHADE is one of the best books in the China Bayles series. The story is told in the first person POV from the perspectives of China and McQuaid allowing fans for the first time to understand how he thinks. They will love what they learn especially how he sees his wife and his feelings about her that he is too macho to articulate. The mystery is well thought out and the killings in the present have roots in the past. Susan Wittig Albert always delivers a fantastic mystery.
Nightshade completes the story line that began in Albert's book, Bleeding Hearts, and continued in Spanish Dagger about China Bayles' relationship with her deceased father. Although the author reassures the reader that it isn't crucial to the story's enjoyment to have read the other two books, it does provide considerable background and makes the reader aware of the emotion China has allowed herself to feel over the loss of her father. Not wanting to revisit the topic, China keeps her half-brother at arm's length for as long as possible, but is finally forced to deal with Miles Danforth's suspicions about their father's accident.
When Miles hires China's husband, McQuaid, to assist him in his investigation, China takes part reluctantly in the search for her father's missing car, only to discover that Miles may know more than he is telling about the entire situation. In addition, China finds herself interacting with her father's old legal associates, whose current actions provide even more fuel to the investigative fire.
China is also charged with breaking the news to her partner and friend, Ruby, about a substantial inheritance from her recently deceased boyfriend. While it would seem good news, Ruby is overwhelmed with caring for her mother, who is ill with Alzheimer's and still dealing with the loss of her man. China knows she needs to address the situation with care and concern, hallmarks of her character that set these books apart from run-of-the-mill mystery series.
The author provides several chapters told from McQuaid's point of view. This additional voice was a bit odd for me in the beginning, but as the story progressed I looked forward more and more to McQuaid's take on the unfolding events.
Add this one to your summer reading stack and you won't regret it. Better yet, get the three books and invest some quality time getting acquainted with China Bayles.
Armchair Interviews agrees.