Susan Wittig Albert
Berkley, Apr 5 2011, $25.95
China Bayles lives in Pecan Springs, a small town in the Texas Hill Country. She resides with her “husband”, step-son and her niece as well as a horde of pets; she also owns several local businesses.
One night on her way home, she sees a trailer on fire and hears a woman cry for help. China cannot get passed the flames. An explosion occurs leaving the woman dead and China slightly injured. The corpse is burned beyond recognition while the fire investigator rules it a homicide and arson as the inferno was to cover up the bullets shot into the victim. Intern reporter Jessica Nelson covers the story concealing from her editor that this crime is personal. When Jessica disappears, the police have no reason foul play is involved so fail to investigate. China takes over following the trail the tyro journalist pursued.
Although having an amateur sleuth find a body is not new (see Dorothy Howell’s Shoulder Bags and Shootings), the latest China Bayles’ whodunit is a fresh investigative thriller due to the heroine and a horde of suspects. In her forties, China remains spunky and active providing the same energy to investigating the missing reporter as she did when she was a younger hotshot Houston attorney. With the return of the cast like her extended family enhancing the enjoyable story line, sub-genre fans will feel we are visiting China’s emporium in Pecan Springs.