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Holly Blues (China Bayles Mystery) Mass Market Paperback – April 5, 2011

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4 Stars and Up Feature: Kitchens of the Great Midwest
"Foodies and those who love contemporary literature will devour this novel that is being compared to Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge. A standout." --Library Journal Learn more
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The arrival in Pecan Springs, Tex., of Sally Strahorn, the insecure ex-wife of China Bayles's husband, PI Mike McQuaid, leads to trouble in Albert's sprightly 18th China Bayles mystery (after 2009's Wormwood). Against her better judgment, herbalist and tea-shop owner China takes pity on Sally, who's just lost her home and suffers from split personality disorder, and offers her a place to stay. Soon enough, a stalker targeting Sally makes threatening calls to China, and the police suspect Sally of involvement in a murder. With Mike away on business, China again turns sleuth to determine what connection the stalker might have to the deaths of Sally's parents almost 10 years earlier—and to prevent any harm to herself or her children. More than once China and her best friend, Ruby, dress up as Sesame Street characters to disarm suspicion. Series fans will enjoy catching up with old friends, though newcomers are likely to find the soap-operish family relationships of less interest. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: China Bayles Mystery (Book 18)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; Reprint edition (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425240614
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425240618
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 0.8 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #705,713 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I live in the Hill Country of Central Texas, on 31 acres, where I write, garden for food (passionately), raise chickens, and practice the fiber arts. I am concerned about issues of global warming, energy depletion, and food production. You can find out more about my life in my memoirs: Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place; and An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days.

I'm traditionally published as a mystery author with Berkley Prime Crime. I have two continuing series: the China Bayles Herbal Mysteries and The Darling Dahlias, about a Southern garden club in the 1930s. You might also enjoy my eight-book series, the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, and the series that my husband Bill Albert and I coauthored under the pseudonym of Robin Paige.

I'm also an author-publisher. A WILDER ROSE is a novel about the mother-daughter team that produced the Little House books, based on the diaries and journals of Rose Wilder Lane and the letters of her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder. (There's an extensive READER'S COMPANION for this book, available at www.aWilderRoseTheNovel.com.) The book is now available from Lake Union Publishing.




Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By J. Almquist on May 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I own every single one of the China Bayles mysteries, most of them in hard cover. This may be the last one I buy. Why? Because I'm halfway through the book and I have put it aside to read something else. Three China Bayles mysteries ago, I would have read it in one sitting and then been disappointed that there was no more to read.

I thought that Wormwood was a disappointment, but every author is entitled to a miss instead of a hit once in a while. It's not that the mystery in Holly Blues is so lame, or that I object to the different points of view in the novel. I do object to sloppiness. Where did Sally really park her car? In the First Congregational Church parking lot? In the Methodist Church parking lot? Both are mentioned as the location of the missing car, and on the same page, no less. Then there was McQuaid's revelation that when he met China Bayles and she said she was about to give up the law to open an herb shop in Pecan Springs, he immediately decided he would move there. Why then did the previous books usually mention China butting heads with McQuaid when she was a Houston criminal lawyer and he a Houston homicide officer?

The burning question in my mind is, who really wrote this book? It is not up to Susan Albert's standards. Or is the author spreading herself too thin with China, the now-defunct Robin Paige series, the Beatrix Potter series, and the new Darling Dahlias? Is this why China now has an herb shop, a tea room, a catering service, gourmet meal service, and a hard and fast rule that her family all sit down to a home cooked dinner together every evening? (What evening would you be available, China?)
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Joni L. Branscome on April 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
All Susan Wittig Alberts' books are well-written, funny, can't put down experiences. I love nothing better than to pile up in bed on a rainy afternoon and read a book by her.

Her characters are down-to-earth people with all the emotions we all face, with distinct personalities. You are drawn into Pecan Springs and become a member of the community, part of China's family. I would feel very comfortable sitting down at the table with China, McQuaid, Brian and the dog Howard Cosell at my feet, slipping him little bites of dinner when no one was looking.

I love that China is a strong woman who is tough, opinionated, loving and intelligent. She has grown as a person over the years and has developed opinions on politics, the world in general and her family. Just like all of us, she deals with other people and, as a result, we have opinions on things based on the knowledge we have at the time. Oh, to be as intelligent as China! She has taught me many things.

I was talking to a friend the other day and we got into a conversation about herbs and I was able to talk knowledgeably and give her really good advice. Aha! While I was enjoying a fabulous read, I learned a good bit about herbalism!

I highly recommend any and every Susan Wittig Albert book. Books are my thing, always have been. I have over 8000 books in my house and I need many, many more. But the China Bayles mysteries are at the top of my favs list! Love, love, love them!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Carol Sorgen on June 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I have read all the China Bayles books and always looked forward to them, but the past several have been disappointments, none more so than the latest, Holly Blues. As several other reviewers have noted, it reads as if someone else is doing the writing, and there is certainly a lack of decent editing. Too many inconsistencies, too many stream-of-consciousness thoughts that have nothing to do with the plot, the character development (or lack thereof), or anything relevant or interesting to the reader. There was no mystery...I kept reading to see if there were going to be something unexpected, but there wasn't. And China's ramblings--or inner thought processes--were both repetitive and, quite frankly, inane. I really hate when a previously favorite series goes astray, but I'm afraid that's what has happened here. I may not be visiting Pecan Springs again.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ari on May 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Of the several China Bayles mysteries I have read, this is by far the weakest. The narrative is wordy, slow-moving and tediously repetitive, and there is little suspense in the story because the perpetrator of the crime, Jess Myers, is pretty obvious from the start. He becomes more and more so with every chapter, making it look like the classic device of mystery fiction--to deflect the reader's attention from the real villain who is 'unveiled' at the end. But there are no other suspects of interest; McQuaid's flaky ex-wife Sally just doesn't fit the bill, so the ending is quite predictable.
Susan Albert will have to work a lot harder next time if she wants to produce a mystery up to her earlier standards.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S. Schwartz on May 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
But not the best in the series. I still enjoyed it. It is a book set around Christmas and I'm reading it in May so that was a little different. I think this would be a pretty good holiday mystery and I may have enjoyed it more if I read it in December. The book isn't much of a mystery but there is quite a bit going on with the arrival of McQuade's ex-wife in Pecan Springs. She has come to ask to stay at China and Mike's house in order to visit her son, but she appears to have secrets that China finds out are pretty deadly. Her arrival brings up the question of a cold case which involved the death of Sally's parents some ten years earlier. China and Ruby set out to find out what happened and to stop a killer. All my beloved characters are here and that is why I love this series so much. Even the inimitable Basset Hound - Howard Cosell plays a big role in the book. I always love another visit to Pecan Springs with China and her gang.
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