A visit to China Bayles' herb shop is always delightful. Not only do readers get to reconnect with familiar faces to unravel a mystery, they also pick up tips on handling herbs and craft and recipe ideas. Albert's heroine just gets better defined as the books evolve. As usual, the mystery is filled with false trails and intriguing twists.
China Bayles isn't happy when her husband's ex-wife shows up on the steps of her herb shop. Sally claims to be homeless, broke and with nowhere else to turn. (Too bad she didn't mention the little matter of a renegade ex-lover who apparently wants her dead.) China asks Sally to stay with them over the Christmas holidays, despite her husband's objections, and at first, all seems well. Then China starts receiving menacing calls from Sally's ex, who may or may not be connected to the murder of her parents 10 years ago. It's up to China to find out who's chasing Sally, and why. (BERKLEY PRIME CRIME, Apr., 320 pp., $24.95)