Book Critique – Lavender Lies (China Bayles #8)

For review of all books in this series: Go here.

Stars: 3 / 5

My Recommendation: A cute cozy mystery focusing on female power following a plot centering on planning a wedding, but murders get in the way. Albert wrote a tightly packed mystery. 

Lavender Lies is the eighth book in the China Bayles Herbal Mysteries by Susan Wittig Albert and first published in October of 1999. The stories in the series revolve around China Bayles and her fiancée Mike McQuaid in solving crimes around them as well as running a successful herb shop.

Herbalist China Bayles closes her shop as a hot-shot criminal attorney in Houston to pursue her passion in herbs by buying a herb shop named "Thyme and Seasons" in a small town called Pecan Springs between Austin and San Antonio. She craves for a quiet and simple life with people she love surrounding her. However her intelligent brain pushes her back into the investigation crimes around her quiet little nook. Each mystery has a signature herb that connects to the main plot while Bayles also shares herbal and gardening tips and yummy recipes with her friends and us readers. Frequently her fiancée Michael "Mike" McQuaid partners with her investigations. 

China Bayles is preparing for her upcoming wedding with Mike McQuaid, her fiancée and Acting Chief of Pecan Springs. And then Edgar Coleman, the most despised local real estate shark is found murdered in his garage; Bayles and her best friend Ruby take it upon themselves to solve the case in time for the wedding. Only now they are unearthing secrets that should never be put out open in the first place. 

Some of the plots lines from previous books are recalled in this plot such as the seventh book Chile Death where she gets injured; sixth book Love Lies Bleeding where her fiancée Mike McQuaid survives near mortal injuries.

Every chapter begins with quotes and notes from several literary works and history with regards to the central herb in the book, in this case about Lavender. Some of them are - 1998 Lavender by Tessa Evelegh; 1975 Plant Medicine and Folklore by Mildred Fielder; 1989 Lavender, Sweet Lavender by Judyth A. McLeod; 1979 The Meaning of Flowers by Claire Powell; Brother Cadfael Mysteries by Ellis Peters; 1982 Magical Herbalism by Scott Cunningham; 1995 Flora's Dictionary by Kathleen Gips; Dictionary of British Folk-Tales by K. M. Briggs; 1971 Herbcraft: A Compendium Of Myths, Romance And Commonsense by Violet Schafer.

Albert also included some old folk sayings and stanzas from old Devonshire songs. However some of those opening lines are from the fictional books or articles written by our fictional heroine, China Bayles. There is also a variation of "Lavender's Blue" poem in the book that is quite amusing. 

There is a mention of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" in a conversation. I know that the movie of the same name didn’t get made until 2010. The only other reference I could find was a 1995 Christopher Bulis novel of the same name which was based on the long-running British sci-fi TV series Doctor Who. Perhaps author Albert was referring to that book. 

Albert's main character China Bayles is shown to be a huge fan of Alphabet Mystery Series by Sue Grafton, specially of Grafton's character Kinsey Milhone from that series. I have recently started reading her series with two books completed so far and Kinsey Milhone is growing on me.

One of the characters, Bertha, has a favorite expression "and just one more!" which reminded me of Columbo's favorite line "Just One More Thing!". Columbo is one of my fictional detective whose TV movies aired from 1968 to 2003 and starred Peter Falk in the titular role.

It is also funny that one of the characters middle name is "Ayn Rand" who was a famous Russian-American writer and philosopher. Albert also has references to the old time TV show Perry Mason and the famous Murder, She Wrote TV show during the course of the plot. Considering how many books, TV shows, authors and movies Albert refers to in the plot, it felt for me at a point that I was wading through a library and browsing the books they have. 

We get tons of tips on various herbs that can be used for cooking and remedies for common illnesses; several gardening tips; and some interesting recipes along the way in the story. Although Albert seems to go off on tangential musings occasionally when describing Texas landscapes or a background of a character or tourist locations in and around Pecan Springs. 

Albert also gives us an appendix filled with resources and references that she had used for regarding everything surrounding Lavender. She also adds some more lavender craft and cookery in the appendix such as Traditional Lavender Wands; Lavender Madeleines; Ruby's Lavender & Mint Tea Party Punch; Lavender Bath Tea; Soothing Lavender Bath Oil; Lavender Bubble Bath.

She also includes recipes and secrets by another of her fictional character Kate Ardleigh, heroine of her series Robin Paige Victorian mysteries written by both Susan and Bill Albert under the pseudonym Robin Paige. Interestingly she ties her series in the appendix. 

A cute cozy mystery focusing on female power following a plot centering on planning a wedding, but murders get in the way. Albert wrote a tightly packed mystery. My first book from Albert turned out pretty entertaining. Although I may not add her to my library, I will definitely not pass up the chance to read other books in this series if I come across them in future. 

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Plot Reveals:

a. Some of the recipes we get to see in this book are: Traditional Bride's Cookies; Lina Jenning's Greater Garlic Mashed Potatoes; Ruby's Lemonade with Rosemary and Lavender

b. Ruby and China plan to open a tea room called Thyme for Tea, co-owning the venture.

c. Hark Hibler and Ruby are currently dating; while Sheila Dawson and Sheriff Blackwell are thinking of wedding bells. Sheila decides to run for Chief of Police while McQuaid decides to go back to his teaching job at the end of the book. 

d. China and McQuaid get married at the end of the book. 

e. People living in Pecan Springs: Hark Hibler, managing editor of the Enterprise; Alene Seidensticker, owner of the Enterprise; Arnold, Alene's father; Letty Coleman; Pauline Perkins, mayor, & her husband Darryl who owns Do-Right Used Car Dealership; Charlie Lipman, attorney; Dr. Carl Jackson, town dentist, his second wife Jennie, and daughter Melissa (Brian's girlfriend); Fannie Couch; Phyllis Garza, runs a day-care center, and her husband Jorge, a social worker; Bob Goodwin, owner of Bean's Bar & Grill, and his girlfriend Maria Sanchez, chef; Darla McDaniels, owns Bluebonnet Books; Winnie Hatcher; Wanda Rathbottom, owns Wanda's Wonderful Acres nursery; Ken Bowman; Billie Jean Jones, works at the House of Beauty owned by Bobby Rae; Johnnie, undertaker at Pauley's Funeral Home; Iris Powell, Coleman's secretary; Bertha, Betsy; Marge, Darla's office staff, and her husband Charlie; Adele Toomes, owns Sweets for the Sweet; Rena Burnett; Vera Hooper, town docent; Melva Joy Stryker; Lila Jennings and Docia, owner of Nueces Street Diner; Quentin Carven, Wanda's manager; Linda Davis, manager of Pack Saddle Inn; 

f. Law Enforcement and supporting agencies: Sheriff Blackie Blackwell; Dorrie Hull, receptionist and day-shift dispatcher; MaeBelle Battersby, meter maid; Marvin Wallace, a Texas Ranger; Viney Spry, evening dispatcher; 

2. Sub-Plots: 

a. China Bayles friends: Ruby, owner of Crystal Cave the New Age shop; Justine Ayn Rand "The Whiz" Wyzinski, hotshot attorney in San Antonio; Sheila "Smart Cookie" Dawson, Chief of Security at Central Texas University; Laurel Wiley, works for China; 

b. China Bayles family: Howard Cosell, the dog; Mike McQuaid, her fiancee and Acting Police Chief of Pecan Springs; Brian, McQuaid's son from his previous marriage; Leatha, mother & her second husband, Sam; Khat, a Siamese cat; 

3. Grammatical / Character / Plot / Geographical / Historical / Mythological Errors:

a. On Pg. 9, Line 3 from bottom, it should be "…fresh flowers from their…"

b. On Pg. 91, Line 5, shouldn’t it be "…had another thing coming…"

c. On Pg. 114, Line 6 from bottom, it should be "…would be breakfast, too…"

d. On Pg. 155, China asks Rena Burnett about the car that Rena saw from her kitchen window. No where in that entire scene it shows that China also had seen that car. But on Pg. 187, Albert has China telling Ruby that she had seen a blue car. When did China see a blue car near the Coleman's home?

e. On Pg. 196, Line 8, there is an additional "the" in the line. 

f. On Pg. 274, Line 10, missing opening quote in the line after "I said".

g. On Pg. 285, Line 4 from bottom, missing closing quote in the line before "He gave me…"


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