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Spanish Dagger [Mass Market Paperback]

Susan Wittig Albert
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 9.99 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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Book Description

April 1 2008 China Bayles Mystery (Book 16)
While harvesting yucca plants to make paper, China Bayles finds a body-cause of death: unknown. It seems that the simple lives of many residents of Pecan Springs hide complex and dangerous pasts. And now, while also unraveling secrets that hit close to home, China must set the record straight- and find a killer.


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Spanish Dagger + Dilly of a Death
Price For Both: CDN$ 19.48

  • Dilly of a Death CDN$ 9.49

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Violent crime and long-buried intrigue disrupt the peace of Pecan Springs, Tex., home of herb shop owner China Bayles, in the piquant 16th entry in Albert's southwestern cozy series (after 2006's Bleeding Hearts). China's pleasant routines are first disrupted by the travails of her business partner, Ruby, who's apparently been stood up by her unreliable boyfriend, an ex-narc. Then China's recently discovered half brother, Miles Danforth, an attorney, insists on reopening the ice-cold case of their father's death in a car accident 16 years earlier. Miles has uncovered correspondence that their father feared for his life before he died, and recruits the help of China's husband, Mike McQuaid, a former Houston homicide detective turned PI. But China faces a much warmer corpse when she and her friend Carole discover a bloody body by the railroad tracks where they go to gather yucca. Albert's fans will savor recipes such as Texas tarragon vinegar and lemon-mint tea concentrate, plus botanical trivia. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

China Bayles and her business partner, Ruby, have their hands full in the latest installment in Albert's long-running series. The herb shop, tearoom, and catering business keep them busy enough, but China wants to add papermaking to her skill set, and on top of the that, they're awash in family troubles. Ruby's mother is caught shoplifting, and her ex-boyfriend stands her up again. China's recently discovered half brother is sure that their father did not die accidentally. He wants to investigate, and China's husband, a private investigator in need of a case, goes to work on it. Meanwhile, China sets out to gather yucca plants for the papermaking class and finds a dead body. Pecan Springs, Texas, seems like a peaceful small town, but that's never the case in a cozy mystery, and when China starts snooping, she finds several closets full of the kind of secrets that produce corpses. Albert combines a fast-moving plot with the botanical lore and recipes that her readers have come to expect. Solid entertainment well within cozy fans' comfort zone. Barbara Bibel
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A recommended read from the Texas Hill Country Oct. 14 2007
Format:Hardcover
The China Bayles series is alive and well, to the delight of this fan. Susan Wittig Albert always offers the reader a beautifully crafted story along with a wealth of information about plants. The little world of Pecan Springs is a home away from home.

Ms. Albert sets herself a challenge, which she acknowledges in the Note to the Reader at the beginning of SPANISH DAGGER, by interweaving and overlapping the stories in the series. This challenge is compounded by the first person narrative, but nothing could be more effective than the way in which China Bayles fills the reader in on the backstory. This is often a weak area in a series, but beautifully done in SPANISH DAGGER, as in all the China Bayles mysteries. A first-time reader will be effortlessly acquainted with the main characters and the continuing plots.

China's investigative pursuits are woven into the story quite plausibly, another challenge with amateur sleuths. While it's true that the reader has to suspend incredulity at so many murder victims falling at China's feet, Ms. Albert somehow makes it easy. The everyday doings of Pecan Springs form a backdrop to the complex and sometimes hidden relationships that reach from the shop owner next door (Ruby Wilcox) outward to the police chief (Sheila Dawson) and beyond to big-city police and agency corruption. The social issues threaded into the story are clearly there to further the story -- from drug running to a parent's dementia to gossiping townspeople. All part of the package in Pecan Springs!

China Bayles and the other main characters are well-rounded and continue to evolve, with the secondary players also springing to life. Characterization is one of the strong suits of this series.
Read more ›
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4.0 out of 5 stars WARM AND REWARDING July 17 2007
By Gail Cooke TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
If you like comfortable, home spun mysteries (No, that's not a contradiction in terms), Susan Wittig Albert is the author for you. She laces her China Bayles series with little known facts about plants and herbs as well as recipes. One has such a warm feeling when reading this book that it's easy to forget China has stumbled across a very dead body and a killer is on the loose.

Ms. Albert's fans will remember China leads a busy life - she has an herb shop, a catering business and oversees a weekend paper-making class. What do you need to make paper? Yucca, of course, and it's among those plants that she finds the body.

While this would stun most, China has been around. As she says, "I was a criminal attorney in Houston before I moved to Pecan Springs, single, on the scary cliff of forty and desperately soulweary......" Now that she's married to a retired private investigator and has so many irons in the fire her body is the part of her that's weary.

As Albert's readers know, China will find out who dun it and why. Subplots include her half-brother wanting to revisit the circumstances of their father's death, and best pal Ruby dealing with a difficult, albeit ill, mother.

Descriptions of local vistas and small town goings-on add to the Southwestern flavor of "Spanish Dagger" (which, I've learned, is a folk name for a rather large yucca plant. Actually, I've learned quite a bit more about said plant, but that's Ms. Albert for you!)

Enjoy!

- Gail Cooke
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  42 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A recommended read from the Texas Hill Country Oct. 14 2007
By Linda Bulger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The China Bayles series is alive and well, to the delight of this fan. Susan Wittig Albert always offers the reader a beautifully crafted story along with a wealth of information about plants. The little world of Pecan Springs is a home away from home.

Ms. Albert sets herself a challenge, which she acknowledges in the Note to the Reader at the beginning of SPANISH DAGGER, by interweaving and overlapping the stories in the series. This challenge is compounded by the first person narrative, but nothing could be more effective than the way in which China Bayles fills the reader in on the backstory. This is often a weak area in a series, but beautifully done in SPANISH DAGGER, as in all the China Bayles mysteries. A first-time reader will be effortlessly acquainted with the main characters and the continuing plots.

China's investigative pursuits are woven into the story quite plausibly, another challenge with amateur sleuths. While it's true that the reader has to suspend incredulity at so many murder victims falling at China's feet, Ms. Albert somehow makes it easy. The everyday doings of Pecan Springs form a backdrop to the complex and sometimes hidden relationships that reach from the shop owner next door (Ruby Wilcox) outward to the police chief (Sheila Dawson) and beyond to big-city police and agency corruption. The social issues threaded into the story are clearly there to further the story -- from drug running to a parent's dementia to gossiping townspeople. All part of the package in Pecan Springs!

China Bayles and the other main characters are well-rounded and continue to evolve, with the secondary players also springing to life. Characterization is one of the strong suits of this series. It's hard to go wrong with a few pets, too, and the Rotti Rambo is a worthy companion to the squirrel-chasing basset hound Howard Cosell, and the seventeen-pound Khat on whose clock "it's always five minutes past time to eat."

Anyone familiar with Susan Wittig Albert's work knows that she treats her craft and the reader with great respect. I recommend SPANISH DAGGER as another example of a great read from this versatile author.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-written mystery April 29 2007
By Karen Potts - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
China Bayles is busy running her herb shop and catering business and has arranged for a paper-making class run by Carole who has been recommended by her friend, Ruby. Ruby is having a hard time because she has been stood up by her ex-boyfriend and is trying to deal with her mother who seems to be suffering from dementia. When Carole and China begin to gather supplies for the paper-making class, they make a grim discovery and find a dead body. China carries on her own investigation to find the killer, much to the chagrin of her friend Sheila, who is the Police Chief of Pecan Springs. Another sub-plot deals with China's half-brother who is trying to find the cause of their father's death and the fact that China's husband has decided to take the case as part of his PI business, despite China's objections. This plot is only touched on and is apparently going to be addressed in a later book. This is a well-written mystery and, as is true of the other books in this series, it contains information on interesting herbs and their uses, as well as recipes.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent China Bayles mystery April 5 2007
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Between running her shop Thymes and Seasons, Thyme Cottage, and her partnering with Ruby Wilcox for Thyme for Tea and Party Thyme, China Bayles has no thyme make that time for herself. She is there for her friend Ruby who just broke up with her lover Collin, owner of an environmental friendly store. She doesn't tell Ruby that he's an undercover cop who got busted when he told a two level dealer that he was about to be busted. She is also adjusting to the fact that she has a half-brother, Miles Danforth who believes his and China's father was murdered in what was supposed to be an accidental car crash.

China's husband, now a private investigator, takes the case and heads out of town to do some investigating. When she finally gets a moment to breathe, she and a friend go to railroad tracks to pick yucca leaves but find the knifed body of Collin. Ruby is in Fredericksburg trying to get her senile mother into an assisted loving facility and asks China to investigate. With key in hand China goes into Collin's store where she gets the numbers of Lucita who called Collin on unexplained business. When China goes to the nursery where Lucita works, she finds Lucita's dead body with her throat cut. Something rotten is going on in Pecan Springs, Texas and China vows to stop it with the help of a drug sniffing rottweiler.

Susan Wittig Albert has written another excellent China Bayles mystery that is filled danger, action and intrigue. The mysterious stranger who is in town is either the cause or the one who intends to stop it. However he has never dealt with the heroine or Smart Cookie aka the Chief of Police. Readers will enjoy learning about China's past family life and hope that the answer about her father will be found in the next book in this delightful series.

Harriet Klausner
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, gripping, intelligent Dec 22 2007
By Story Circle Book Reviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
China Bayles is back. This time she is sponsoring a paper-making workshop behind her herb shop. However, while she is gathering wild yucca or Spanish dagger with the workshop teacher, she comes across a body--once again. Susan, a friend of mine, has written her sixteenth China Bayles mystery, all with herb titles and a plethora of information about the featured herb slipped in between page-turning mysteries. I have learned to schedule time to read my once-a-year treat because once I begin, sleep, meals, grandchildren, and other pleasures are neglected.

Spanish Dagger is no exception. Subplots abound, in some instances wrapped up from previous books; in others begun, such as China's complex relationship with her father. Not so much as to annoy the reader, however, because you could pick up any one of the books in the series and be fully satisfied with a complete story. This time, the mother of China's friend and business partner, Ruby, shows signs of Alzheimer's, and Ruby must work with that very serious issue through the book. Ruby's current love plays a major part as well.

China's involvement in the most recent murder begins when she volunteers to feed and water the murder victim's Rottweiler. She just happens to look around the place and discovers a note hidden in one of the potted yuccas. Naturally, she hands the note to her friend Smart Cookie, the police chief, but not before she has read it. The plot thickens!

Albert's writing is gripping, intelligent, and often humorous--not cute and coy humorous as some mysteries are. Her main characters are true-to-life and believable. She has written another entertaining mystery with the occasional pause for deep thought.

by Judith Helburn
for Story Circle Book Reviews
[...]
reviewing books by, for, and about women
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WARM AND REWARDING July 17 2007
By Gail Cooke - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
If you like comfortable, home spun mysteries (No, that's not a contradiction in terms), Susan Wittig Albert is the author for you. She laces her China Bayles series with little known facts about plants and herbs as well as recipes. One has such a warm feeling when reading this book that it's easy to forget China has stumbled across a very dead body and a killer is on the loose.

Ms. Albert's fans will remember China leads a busy life - she has an herb shop, a catering business and oversees a weekend paper-making class. What do you need to make paper? Yucca, of course, and it's among those plants that she finds the body.

While this would stun most, China has been around. As she says, "I was a criminal attorney in Houston before I moved to Pecan Springs, single, on the scary cliff of forty and desperately soulweary......" Now that she's married to a retired private investigator and has so many irons in the fire her body is the part of her that's weary.

As Albert's readers know, China will find out who dun it and why. Subplots include her half-brother wanting to revisit the circumstances of their father's death, and best pal Ruby dealing with a difficult, albeit ill, mother.

Descriptions of local vistas and small town goings-on add to the Southwestern flavor of "Spanish Dagger" (which, I've learned, is a folk name for a rather large yucca plant. Actually, I've learned quite a bit more about said plant, but that's Ms. Albert for you!)

Enjoy!

- Gail Cooke
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