Blood Orange

Written by Susan Wittig Albert

AMATEUR SLEUTH. China Bayles doesn’t like her best friend Ruby’s sister Ramona—she privately refers to her as Ruby’s evil twin. But China’s herb shop Thyme and Seasons is right next door to Ruby’s new age store The Crystal Cave, and the two women share a tea room and a catering business. Like her or not, Ramona is in China’s life. Recently divorced with a big settlement burning a hole in her pocket, Ramona has a new relationship—with the not yet divorced owner of a local artisanal brewery.

Meanwhile, Kelly, an old acquaintance of China’s. has moved into the small guest cottage at the back edge of the tea room property while she “figures things out.” Preoccupied with her family and businesses China doesn’t pay much attention until Kelly turns up missing. After a tense day, Kelly telephones China saying her life is in danger. And then China finds out that the still married man Ramona is dating is Kelly’s husband.

China describes herself as a “sneakers and jeans kind of gal.” She is a former corporate lawyer and can be very no nonsense, the complete opposite of the flamboyant Ruby whose visions and dreams have a disconcerting way of foretelling the future Yet, the two women have many things in common, hard-working shop owners, committed to their families as well as their work. And whatever happens, they always have each other’s backs.

The series is a mix of mysteries, relationships, and the herbal lore that begins each chapter—which in Blood Orange is so interesting that when I had finished the mystery I went back, reread them, and made a few notes. Recipes at the back of a book are one of those things I usually dislike, but I make an exception for Albert (and Katherine Hall Page). In this book one of China’s many activities is preparing to teach a class in making liquors and drinks, and you’ll find the recipes here including one for homemade ginger-ale that is completely worth the time and trouble it takes to grate all that ginger. In case you’re wondering, a chef friend says you don’t have to peel the ginger. Scrub it and grate away. That makes the recipe a lot more tempting.

Blood Orange
316 pages
April 5, 2016
Note: A complete list of China Bayles book is available in Magpie Recommends page.

Sandra Jordan