Susan Wittig Albert grew up on a farm in Illinois and earned her Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley. A former professor of English and a university administrator and vice president, she is the author of the China Bayles Mysteries, the Darling Dahlias Mysteries, and the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter. Some of her recent titles include Widow's Tears, Cat's Claw, The Darling Dahlias and the Confederate Rose, and The Tale of Castle Cottage. She and her husband, Bill, coauthor a series of Victorian-Edwardian mysteries under the name Robin Paige, which includes such titles as Death at Glamis Castle and Death at Whitechapel.
Welcome back in her third appearance (following Thyme of Death and Witches' Bane) is China Bayles, the prickly and independent former lawyer who swerved out of the Houston fast lane to open an herb shop in Pecan Springs, Tex. Miles Harwick, an unpopular biology professor whose mild appearance belies a vindictive nature, is found drugged and hanged in his office even as animal rights activists are in the quad protesting his research and the new lab he wanted to build. When China's friend, the cat-loving and plain-talking Dottie Riddle, Harwick's neighbor and colleague opposed to his plans, becomes the main suspect, the herb-shop proprietor reluctantly realizes that her lawyer's instincts can't be left behind as easily as big-city life and activates the old-girl network to come to Dottie's defense. Despite a slow start and little herbal lore, the plot unfolds briskly and with sly humor as China and friends, some of the savviest women to inhabit mysteries since Harriet Vane, investigate crimes and motives. (Oct.)