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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 is the author of the China Bayles Mysteries, the Darling Dahlias Mysteries, and the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter. Some of her recent titles include Widow's Tears, Cat's Claw, The Darling Dahlias and the Confederate Rose, and The Tale of Castle Cottage. She and her husband, Bill, coauthor a series of Victorian-Edwardian mysteries under the name Robin Paige, which includes such titles as Death at Glamis Castle and Death at Whitechapel.
Murder and suspicion of witchcraft in a small Texas town draw attorney-turned-herbalist China Bayles into her second case (after Thyme of Death ). Rumors of devil worship are rampant in Pecan Springs following the probable suicide of a teenager and the unexpected deaths of a transient and a nursing home resident. The turmoil increases when the Reverend Billy Lee Harbuck begins picketing the Crystal Cave, a New Age shop, claiming that the owner, China's friend Ruby Wilcox, and her customers are practicing witchcraft. Wealthy Sybil Rand, notorious for maintaining a garden of poisonous plants, is found murdered with Ruby's knife after a feminist Halloween party attended by assorted goddess worshippers. Ruby becomes the prime suspect. Other candidates for the murderer's role are Ruby's newest love interest, Andrew Drake, who has a mysterious past and may have been Sybil's lover, and, despite his excellent alibi, the widower, C. W. Rand, managing partner of a nearby resort and sometime ladies' man. As China and her lover, criminal justice professor and ex-cop Mike McQuaid, delve into the case, China must cope with her feelings for an alcoholic mother who is finally taking control of her own life. Albert's lively mystery captures the flavor of a modern small-town being reshaped by big-city refugees. Mystery Guild alternate. (Oct.)
A former fast-lane lawyer, now an herb-shop proprietress, China Bayles has both the expertise and the time to help her friends when they get into trouble. After police accuse best friend Ruby's new boyfriend of a cultlike murder, China charges to the rescue. A local anti-Satan, anti-witchcraft, anti-anything-different preacher with a grudge against the two women becomes the prime suspect. This novel has a nicely constructed plot and captivating characters and dialog. Even better than Thyme of Death ( LJ 11/1/92).