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Rueful Death (China Bayles Mystery) Mass Market Paperback – August 1, 1997

33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Early in this intelligent addition to herbalist China Bayles's adventures (Thyme of Death; Rosemary Remembered), one character laments that she has given up reading about women detectives because they are all "Raymond Chandler in drag.... Lotta guts, no soul." Wittig takes up the challenge, showing how to do it right with quiet humor and only an occasional overload of introspection. Exhausted by the Christmas season and her new roommates, love interest Mike McQuaid and his 12-year-old son, China takes off for a retreat at St. Theresa's Monastery in Texas's remote and wild Yucca River country with friend Maggie Garrett, a former nun. In spite of its tranquil appearance, the religious order is in a state of turmoil. Having received a legacy worth millions, St. Theresa's has merged with another order which wants to use the money to open a high-powered retreat center. The two sides are hopelessly deadlocked when the Reverend Mother, the tie-breaking vote, dies mysteriously. China agrees to look into the death. Her investigation quickly takes on urgency when threatening events ensue: someone shoots at her, some small fires are set and she finds the deadly herb rue growing in the garden. Even when the stakes seem too high or unlikely for ordinary life, Wittig manages to make them mostly believable, mainly because China's character is credible (when she makes a mistake, she gets embarrassed). Albert gives readers a page-turner and soul to spare.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Delightful series sleuth China Bayles, owner of a small-town herb shop, is vexed by troubles at a Texas convent where the mother superior has just died. More quality diversion from the author of Thyme of Death (LJ 10/1/92).
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --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 5)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; Reprint edition (August 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425159418
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425159415
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #467,872 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

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sharon Knutson on July 6, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
China has survived the Christmas rush at her herb shop but is sadly in need of some private time. So off she goes to a nunnery! Together with her friend Maggie, she heads off to a remote nunnery where the sisters grow amazing garlic. Instead of the peace and quiet she longs for, China finds herself embroiled in a contentious power struggle between two groups of nuns working to combine two disparate orders into one. As the sister's jockey for position, fires break out and several mysterious deaths occur. If that wasn't enough, China runs into an old beau and the heat is still there. As she works to solve the nunnery mystery she is making major life choices for herself. Once again, I enjoyed the ride and learned more about herbs and gardening.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mamalinde on April 3, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Another remarkably resourceful Texas cozy mystery, featuring China Bayles, former lawyer turned herb shop owner. China is on a post-Christmas overload, needing some soothing winding down time to consider whether to accept an offer to sell the herb shop, and whether to stick around Pecan Springs with McQuaid and son. She heads for some solitude at a quiet monastery where the sisters raise garlic. Full of garlic tidbits and trivia, the plotting is excellent and the characterization clever. Not only does China immediately find herself involved investigating some odd happenings, she also finds an old flame has moved into the vicinity.
Ms. Albert sketches the setting so well, I feel as if I had a brief respite. And there is an exceptionally fun website for China (and friends) at mysterypartners.com, where you can visit between books.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 20, 1996
Format: Hardcover
Rueful Death by Susan Wittig Albert takes place in a community of nuns. China Bayles, herb store proprietor, feeling hemmed in and increasingly entangled in domesticity, decides to go with her friend, former nun Maggie Garrett, to St. Theresa's Monastery for a retreat. But the monastery has undergone changes since Maggie was there, with nuns from an urban community forceably joined with those who chose this isolated rural environment. Resentment, power struggles, jealousy all grow from this mix. They produce arson and anonymous accusatory letters to some of the nuns. The menace and venom cascade from this novel. This is a mystery, but it is also a serious, thoughtful study of beliefs. The role of women within the Catholic Church is at the center of this novel along with the role of the Church and whether it should be contemplative or active. Two groups of nuns with exactly opposite ideas about such vital questions produce a foreboding and portentous atmosphere in which acts such as arson and threatening letters seem almost normal. This is a crackling good story, with entertaining people, intriguing problems and a surprising solution
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S. Warfield on August 6, 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
In the fifth book in Susan Wittig Albert's China Bayles Mystery series, "Rueful Death", China has gone through a hectic Christmas season with her herb shop, Thyme and Seasons, and feels the need to take a break to rest and sort out her life in a place of quietness and peace. She arranges to go to St. Theresa's monastery where she will spend some time with the Sisters of the Holy Heart. When China arrives, she finds anything but peace and quiet because someone has been setting fires at St.Theresa's and sending frightening letters to some of the nuns with instructions for doing penance. China is asked to help solve the mysteries of the fires and the letters since they are causing fear among the women.

Sisters from St. Agatha's have recently moved to St. Theresa's and there is rivalry between the two over who will be elected as the new abbess of St. Theresa's. The St. Agatha's nuns were used to being near an airport and seeing more people than St. Theresa's sisters since the monastery lay off to itself in the quietness of the Texas hill country, and their means of raising money was growing garlic, and other herbs and vegetables were also grown.

As China starts to investigate the fires and letters, she has to interview most of the nuns. Some are more cooperative than others and some have their own ideas as to what is going on. A good portion of the book is dedicated to the questioning of the sisters and there is a death that occurs that China thinks is suspicious, but she has to have proof of that one as well as proof of what happened to another nun who died before she arrived for her retreat. China's retreat turned into daily work that she wasn't expecting.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Karen Potts on August 17, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Herb-shop owner China Bayles is worn out after the Christmas season, and living with her boyfriend McQuaid and his son Brian has caused its own stress in her life. Because of this China eagerly agrees to accompany her ex-nun friend Maggie on a retreat to the monastary where Maggie used to be. She anticipates two weeks of quiet, solitude, and the opportunity to meditate on the course she wants her life to take. When she arrives, she finds things to be very different than she had pictured. The monastary had been heavily endowed by the wealthy woman who donated the land and she intended for it to be used to house the nuns and to grow a special kind of garlic. Recently the old convent had been merged with another group of nuns and the new group wants to build a large meeting center with all the amenities. The sisters are deadlocked over this issue and it is causing strife between the two factions. Soon, disturbing letters are being sent to the nuns and some fires wreak havoc in the convent. Also some items begin to disappear and two elderly nuns die mysteriously. If this isn't enough, China encounters an old boyfriend from the days when she was an attorney in Houston. She is sorely tempted to resume her relationship with him, despite her attachment to McQuaid. All of these things cause a tangled web of intrigue which China unravels, after a few false starts. In a long-running series like this, it's always refreshing to have the books move to another setting from time to time. This is another good read from Susan Wittig Albert.
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