China Bayles #23

By Susan Wittig Albert

ISBN# 9780425255629

Author’s Website:

Brought to you by OBS reviewer Kayt


New from the author of Death Come Quickly and Widow’s Tears
This Thanksgiving, be grateful for China Bayles—who teams up with an old friend to solve a complex case of theft and murder in a South Texas ranching community…

It’s Thanksgiving in Pecan Springs, and China is planning to visit her mother, Leatha, and her mother’s husband, Sam, who are enthusiastically embarking on a new enterprise—turning their former game ranch into a vacation retreat for birders. She’s also looking forward to catching up with her friend, game warden Mackenzie “Mack” Chambers, who was recently transferred to the area. But Leatha calls with bad news: Sam has had a heart attack.

How will Leatha manage if Sam can’t carry his share? She does have a helper, Sue Ellen Krause. But China discovers that Sue Ellen, who is in the process of leaving her marriage to the assistant foreman at a large trophy game ranch, is in some serious trouble. Before Sue Ellen can tell China the full story, her car veers off a deserted road and she is killed.

Meanwhile, when a local veterinarian is shot in what appears to be a burglary at his clinic, Mack Chambers believes his murder could be related to fawns stolen from a nearby ranch. As Mack follows the trail, China begins to wonder if Sue Ellen’s death may not have been an accident, and if there’s a connection to the stolen animals. But their search for the truth may put their own lives in danger…


Bittersweet is the 23rd book in the long running series China Bayles by wonderful author Susan Wittig Albert. It is amazing that this writer is able to keep each book interesting after so many installments. China Bayles runs a wonderful herbal shop in Pecan Springs, Texas. This book however, takes place mainly in Utopia another small town in Texas where her mother and her husband have a ranch. Her mother Leatha and husband Sam are excited about turning their ranch into a retreat for bird watchers. Thanksgiving is near and the whole family is planning a big dinner at the ranch. China gets bad news before she leaves when her mother calls to let her know Sam has had a heart attack.

In the China Bayles book, one of the enjoyable things is that the author writes her books with several characters telling the story. This one includes a first person account from China’s friend Mackenzie “Mack” Chambers. She is a game warden in the small town of Utopia. She is a well written and entertaining character as are all of them in this wonderful series. Mack is dealing with some strange happenings including nonnative deer, an old curmudgeon vet and sneaky ranchers. The storyline is intriguing and fast paced. Touching on the politics and ecological ethics of what is going on in Texas, Bittersweet is a truly well written, exciting mystery.

As with all of the China Bayles books, Susan Wittig Albert intersperses information concerning herbs and their uses. Bittersweet comes in two varieties and one is invasive, like the axis deer people are bringing into Utopia illegally. This book is entertaining and informative as well. The writing is fun, fast paced, entertaining and descriptive. There really are no dull or slow parts. Each character is fully developed and the setting is tempting. I always picture Texas as a big dry area, however reading about it through the eyes of China and Mack, I was transported to a lush, green area with wonderful views.

I would recommend Bittersweet to anyone that enjoys a delightful mystery with engaging characters. I do not think a reader needs to read the twenty two earlier books in this series to enjoy it. The author does a great job of getting the reader up to speed without boring those that have read the entire series. I actually find the wrap up of past books helpful even when I have read all of the others. Susan Wittig Albert is an amazing author whose writing style and characters brings the readers on a fabulous ride of fun, entertainment and mystery. I highly recommend Bittersweet!

*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review as part of their ongoing blog tour*