Fans of cozy mysteries can’t go wrong with ‘Holly Blues’

Anytime Susan Wittig Albert wants to put out a “China Bayles Mystery” is all right with me. Her latest book, “Holly Blues,” finds amateur sleuth/herb shop owner China Bayles and her friends getting ready for the Christmas season.

Christmas? Isn’t it springtime?

Let’s just say the folks in Pecan Springs, Texas, are forward-looking folks!

China’s shop, Thyme and Seasons, her friend Ruby’s New Age emporium The Crystal Cave, and the adjoining tearoom they share, Thyme For Tea, are all a’bustle with the sounds, smells and tastes of the season as everyone prepares for what should be a memorable holiday.

Life is on a pretty even keel for China — with her husband Mike McQuaid’s private investigation business chugging along, she and Mike are content raising his son, Brian, and China’s niece Caitlyn who has come to live with them. It’s peaceful in Pecan Springs, that is, until McQuaid’s ex-wife, Sally Strahorn, blows into town, bringing a duffel bag full of trouble with her.

Life is always full of drama with Sally. Her dissociative identity disorder results in an alter-ego personality named Juanita who appears from time to time to raise Cain in Sally’s life, and everyone’s life around her. To say China was pleased to see Sally would be stretching the truth a mile wide, but when Sally begs to be allowed to spend the holidays with her son, good-hearted China agrees despite a nagging doubt.

China’s intuition serves her well when trouble comes knocking. It seems Sally has a stalker on her heels, a man from her hometown past who might be connected with the long-ago murder of her parents. When Sally’s sister turns up dead, and a childhood friend of hers goes missing, it’s soon up to China to figure out what is going on, or this Christmas is not going to be a very happy one for anybody.

Once again, Albert delivers a fast-paced novel full of intrigue, suspense and a cast of characters that are dear to her fans. “Holly Blues” is the 18th book in the “China Bayles” series, and each one is consistently a treat to read. Albert includes interesting facts about the theme herb, holly, that is featured as well as delicious recipes that are used in the story. With her talent for mesmerizing storytelling, fans of cozy mysteries just can’t go wrong with a book from Susan Wittig Albert.

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