Thursday, May 26, 2011

SPL Shelf Life [adult]

This review appeared in the Stratford Gazette on May 26, 2011
Written by Robyn Godfrey, Librarian 
Mourning Gloria by Susan Wittig Albert
@SPL: FIC Alber

China Bayles is back again, with plant lore, recipes and another murder to solve. With her hubby McQuaid out of town on business, and her step-son Brian away at a summer job and, you would think China has a lot of time on her hands. However, in the Texas town of Pecan Springs, China runs three businesses – an herb shop called Thyme and Seasons, a tea shop called Thyme for Tea, and a catering business called Party (you guessed it )Thyme, and still manages to become embroiled in the quaint town’s seedy undergrowth. Those already familiar with the China Bayles series will know that each novel is loosely based around a family of plants and this story revolves around those herbs that pack more than a slight punch – psychotropic herbs and plants. No fear, the recipes in the back of the novel do not include “how to” guides for illegal use of them, but there is plenty of lore about these legal (tobacco, caffeine) and not-so-legal (morning glory, coca) mood-altering plants. It seems Pecan Springs is not very far from the Mexican border, and drug cartels are becoming a new concern in the area. Two young women get involved – one is murdered, and the other disappears while following the trail of her killer. China finds herself tracking the girl who disappeared, but still manages to keep her readers up-to-date on the town’s residents – Blackie the sheriff; his engagement to Smart Cookie, the police chief; China’s best friend Ruby, and Ruby’s granddaughter Grace; and of course the newest member of the Bayles-McQuaid family, China’s niece Caitie, who is not only finally recovering from the deaths of her parents, but is showing great promise as a violinist. All of this keeps the pace of Mourning Gloria going at a good clip, with lots of chummy asides to readers inviting them to visit Pecan Springs and drop in on the many residents and shops (you can’t, they are all fictional). Locavores take note – this novel highlights the “locally grown” movement as well, and there are also as many hints to be had about running a small business as there are about the proper care and feeding of herbs. Mourning Gloria is a great addition to the China Bayles series, which can be read in sequence or as a stand-alone novel, and do try making the Lemon Icebox Cookies – they’re delicious!  Find Mourning Gloria at under the tag “Shelf Life Reviewed”.

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