Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Blood Orange by Susan Wittig Albert
For our September Mystery Book Club, we read "cozies in the kitchen" - mysteries that are cozies with a food theme, background etc. and that feature recipes.
I choose my go to cozy series featuring China Bayles, written by Susan Wittig Albert. This is #24 in the series.
"It's mid-April in Pecan Springs, and China is renting her guest cottage to Kelly Kaufman, who needs a temporary place to live as she contends with a very acrimonious divorce from her husband Rich. One nasty point of dispute is her part ownership of the Comanche Creek Brewing Company, which she is refusing to sell.
At the same time, as a nurse employed by a local hospice, Kelly has discovered instances of suspicious practices. Even more disturbing, she suspects that a patient was murdered. Kelly's knowledge could be dangerous, and she wants to get guidance from China on what to do. But on her way to China's house, Kelly is forced off the road and critically injured, putting her in a medically induced coma. Now it's up to China to determine who wanted her out of the picture. Was it her soon-to-be ex? His new lover—who happens to be the sister of China's friend Ruby? Or someone connected with the corruption at the hospice? China owes it to her friend to uncover the truth—but she may be putting her own life at risk... "
A little background: China has left her career as an attorney and moved to the small central Texas town of Pecan Springs. She has an herb shop named Thyme and Seasons. She shares space with her friend Ruby, who has a shop called The Cave. China sells all things herbs; books, herbs, things made with herbs and even does classes. Ruby sells incense, rune stones, tarot cards etc. They also have a Tea Room and a catering business. Whew! China is married to McQuaid, a former homicide detective, now a private investigator and on the faculty at the local University.
What is great about this series, is that you don't have to start at the beginning of the series if you don't want to. You can pick up any book in the series and read it. The author does a quick background for you at the beginning of each book.
Each book is the name of a plant or herb and they are related to something about the story. Each chapter starts with a history of an herb; some are really interesting excerpts from books from the 1650's for example, some current day. Blood Orange has to do with the color of paint found on the car that Kelly is in, when she is forced off the road.
Since Kelly is targeted on her way to China's, China is compelled to find out what is going on; what did Kelly want to tell her, who was Kelly hiding from and why. As if that isn't enough, McQuaid is supposedly out on a PI assignment in El Paso. He calls one night and tells China she probably won't hear from him for a few days as there won't be cell phone coverage. China begins to think he is having affair, but then several people in town mention to her about the assignment McQuaid is on with Blackie, ex sheriff, going into Mexico to track down a ring that is stealing oil field equipment. What? Why is he hiding this from her? This sound dangerous. Oh, and Ruby, the one with the store with tarot cards etc.? As the books have gone on, Ruby has developed or recently shared, that she has a gift of premonition. She tells China not to go through the door - but she doesn't know what door, or when "the door" will present itself. This premonition gives the reader the chance to say "No China! Don't do it. Don't you remember what Ruby said?"
So besides the main mystery, there is always some side stories or development of the characters, that keeps the series interesting. The author typically brings in current events that are a thread in the story. We have craft brewerys, hospice/fraud, illegal sales of drugs to name a few mentioned in this book.
Last but not least, the author always gives us several recipes at the end of the book that are actual recipes you can make easily and taste good. I know I have made some in the past. In this book there are three that look especially good: Orange Rosemary Muffins, Blood Orange Avocado, Grape and Spinach Salad, and Tortellini with Lemon Basil Butter Sauce. I think I will put those on my home menu this month.