It looks like a duel to the death between cat-rescuing fanatic Dottle Riddle and her Central Texas State College colleague Miles Harwick, whose latest grant finances the wholesale slaughter of guinea pigs who've endured a long ""weightless"" suspension. Fortified by an animal-rights contingent (including Amy Roth, an unprepossessing young lady who's just full of surprises), Dottle pickets Miles's lab; Miles imprisons one of Dottie's beloved felines and sends her threatening letters; Dottle forges a death threat to herself; but it's Miles who's found dead in his office, strung up like -- well, like a guinea pig. Dottie's friend China Bayles, retired from the Houston rat race to an herbal shop in Pecan Springs (Witches' Bane, 1993, etc.), dusts off her law degree to help clear Dottle and soon learns, with the help of a blackmail letter obligingly left behind in the college's computer files, that Miles was hiding much bigger secrets than cruelty to animals: He'd been involved in child molesting and a complex financial scare -- though none of this stuff, rather improbably, is the real reason for his death. In fact, the circumstances of the murder, from motive to method, defy belief. The good news is that, having largely written herself through the pipe-dream Pecan Springs herbalist cozies and dysfunctional family babble that marked her first two mysteries, Albert goes in for more serious plotting and a more generous distribution of suspicion here. Who knows what's next?