Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lavender Lies, by Susan Wittig Albert (2000)

Lavender Lies by Susan Wittig Albert:
We settled ourselves in the wicker chairs, and I glanced around. The porch might have been a set for a 1930s movie, with an old oak icebox standing against one wall and a bench with a white enameled bucket and wash basin on the other, an embroidered hopsacking towel hanging above it. The painted floor was covered with a worn braid rug, on which lay several napping cats, like orange and white and gray dust mops.
Synopsis: Herbalist/sleuth China Bayles has six days to get her wedding to MacQuaid organized, and the dead real estate agent really isn't helping things.

So inconsiderate.

Man, I am just never going to read these in anything resembling the right order.

Unlike the Travis McGee stories (still hunting that Quick Red Fox and he's damn quick, let me tell you) and the Agent Pendergast books, which I maintain a religious zeal for reading in order, I keep stumbling across these China Bayles mysteries and going hey, that cover looks awesome, gimme. This one's butter-yellow with lavender blossoms on, one of my favorite color combos ever.

Shallow browser, thy name is oddmonster.

This book actually follows the last one I read, Chile Death, like directly, and once I figured that out it was kind of surprising and a little disjointed, like I had to remember the events of the book she was talking about. I think I like my way better.

Anyway, usually I hate wedding stories. Hate them with a passion (yes, I basically had to be kidnapped to attend my own wedding)(although I did get a boat ride out of it) but this one's kind of awesome. Basically, China's not a huge fan of getting hitched but you know, she's willing, and then bam! murder.

It's kind of awesome. Her best friend and matron of honor, Ruby, decides they should solve the murder themselves while organizing the last of the wedding. As you do.

The real charm of these stories lies in the sheer amount of detail Albert puts into describing Pecan Springs, TX, in all its glory. And it is glorious. At one point, she pauses after Bayles has just found body #2 to do a one-page digression on Texas geology. Which is fabulous. I learned something!

Now, there was one drawback to the book.


The solution to the mystery ultimately lies in the discovery of a custodial kidnapping, ie a case where one partner kidnaps their own child against court orders. And the way this is laid out is that the mother who has been diligently searching for her daughter for ten years quietly comes into the nursery and quietly lays out her cards, that her daughter is in town and she now needs to approach the custodian and his wife without undue trauma to her child, etc, and China then turns around and basically calls a town conference to announce OMG MELISSA IS A KIDNAP VICTIM AND HER DAD'S THE KIDNAPPER HOLY BACON IF THIS IS TRUE!

Um, as far as I can tell, that's basically the last thing you want someone to do when you're trying to approach a kidnapper who's been sprinting paranoically from city to city to keep your daughter away. So I did sort of feel China needed a slap there. Or better yet, I just wish the concept had been addressed in the text, as in describing the fallout of China's actions, or even the potential fallout so that the book could present the situation in a way that would be educational or god forbid, helpful.

I know! I want helpful with my fiction, even when it gallops merrily past the Bechdel Test with flying colors. I'm incorrigible.

Overall, a good read with some a minor annoyance near the end. I'll definitely keep reading this series. I think there's one with a blue cover over on the shelves somewhere.

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