Uncovering – Susan Wittig Albert - Dark Streets
Another author I’ve recently stumbled across is Susan Wittig Albert. Susan has been a full-time novelist since she left her career as a university English professor and administrator in 1985. A New York Times bestselling author, her books include biographical fiction ( A Wilder Rose) and mystery and historical fiction including the bestselling China Bayles and Robin Paige mysteries. Fun Fact: one of Susan’s pen names is Carolyn Keene – sound familiar? Yes, Susan’s even penned a few of the Nancy Drew YA mysteries!
Susan’s China Bayles Herbal Mysteries feature herbalist China Bayles, who abandoned her career as a hot-shot Houston criminal attorney to buy an herb shop in a small town located half-way between Austin and San Antonio, Texas. China went there seeking a quieter life, and instead finds herself constantly drawn to and into mystery. Each mystery features a signature herb that is connected to a major theme, and each is liberally sprinkled with information on growing and using herbs.
Here’s a brief synopsis of last year’s China Bayles mystery, BITTERSWEET:
It's Thanksgiving in Pecan Springs, and China is planning to visit her mother, Leatha, and her mother's husband, Sam, who are enthusiastically embarking on a new enterprise—turning their former game ranch into a vacation retreat for birders. She's also looking forward to catching up with her friend, game warden Mackenzie "Mack" Chambers, who was recently transferred to the area. But Leatha calls with bad news: Sam has had a heart attack.
How will Leatha manage if Sam can't carry his share? She does have a helper, Sue Ellen Krause. But China discovers that Sue Ellen, who is in the process of leaving her marriage to the assistant foreman at a large trophy game ranch, is in some serious trouble. Before Sue Ellen can tell China the full story, her car veers off a deserted road and she is killed.
Meanwhile, when a local veterinarian is shot in what appears to be a burglary at his clinic, Mack Chambers believes his murder could be related to fawns stolen from a nearby ranch. As Mack follows the trail, China begins to wonder if Sue Ellen's death may not have been an accident, and if there's a connection to the stolen animals. But their search for the truth may put their own lives in danger…
Which brings us to this year’s entry…. BLOOD ORANGE
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?
Susan also writes THE DARLING DAHLIAS, a series set in the 1930’s. The ladies have a clubhouse, a flag, a newsletter…and they love to solve mysteries. What could be more perfect? Here’s the synopsis for their first mystery, The Darling Dahlias and the Confederate Rose:
Just in time for the Confederate Day celebration, the Darling Dahlias are ready to plant Confederate roses along the town cemetery. Of course the plant is in fact a hibiscus.
The Confederate rose is not the only thing that is not what it first appears to be. Earle Scroggins, the county treasurer, has got the sheriff thinking that Verna Tidwell is behind a missing $15,000. But Darling Dahlias president Liz Lacy is determined to prove Verna is not a thief.
And club member Miss Rogers has discovered a secret code embroidered under the cover of a pillow that belonged to her grandmother. With missing money, mysterious messages, and the strange behavior of one resident, Darling, Alabama, on the eve of Confederate Day, is anything but a sleepy little town...
The latest Darling Dahlia book , published September 2015, is the Darling Dahlias and the Eleven O’Clock Lady:
The eleven o’clock lady has always been one of garden club president Liz Lacy’s favorite spring wildflowers. The plant is so named because the white blossoms don’t open until the sun shines directly on them and wakes them up.
But another Eleven O’Clock Lady is never going to wake up again. Rona Jean Hancock—a telephone switchboard operator who earned her nickname because her shift ended at eleven, when her nightlife was just beginning—has been found strangled with her own silk stocking in a very unladylike position.
Gossip sprouts like weeds in a small town, and Rona Jean’s somewhat wild reputation is the topic of much speculation regarding who might have killed her. As the Darling Dahlias begin to sort through Rona Jean’s private affairs, it appears there may be a connection to some skullduggery at the local Civilian Conservation Corps camp. Working at the camp, garden club vice president Ophelia Snow digs around to expose the truth…before a killer pulls up stakes and gets away with murder.
I think you’ll agree….these books sound like they’re worth a try. Oh, and don’t’ forget…as with any good cozy, recipes included!
Columnist: Toni LoTempio
Born in New York City, T. C. LoTempio is the national bestselling author of the Nick and Nora Mystery series. She has been a staff reporter at the young adult magazine Susabella Passengers and Friends for more than a decade. When she isn’t reporting or writing novels, she and her cat Rocco fundraise for Nathan Fillion’s charity, Kids Need to Read. Visit her at www.tclotempio.com or at www.catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com