China Bayles lover, former homicide detective Mike McQuaid, has been paralyzed by a bullet. Although the prognosis for recovery is excellent, his recuperation is slow, and he is becoming very bored in the confines of a combination convalescent and nursing home.

China knows that boredom can be as bad for him as the aftermath of the bullet, so she does two things for him. She finally agrees to marry him, and she signs him up to be a judge at a local men-only chili cook-off. Mike reluctantly agrees to judge, but he then speeds up his physical therapy in the hope that he can recover quickly, and walk rather than wheel himself down the aisle.

Judging the cookoff provides more stimulation than he anticipated. Obnoxious judge Jerry Jeff Cody eats some chili and drops dead. An investigation shows this was no accident, so McQuaid decides to investigate.

In the meantime, China uncovers evidence that patients are being mistreated at the convalescent home. She is also coping with her own ever-changing feelings about her engagement, as well as her love/hate relationship with her mother.

CHILE DEATH is an intriguing mystery, peppered with intriguing characters, fascinating plot twists, and interesting lore about chiles and herbs. Rounding out the story is Alberts expert handling of the emotional roller coaster that China is on. As a bonus, there are lots of chile recipes. Read, eat, and enjoy! (Nov., 306 pp., $21.95)

Reviewed by: 
Toby Bromberg