Christmas with herbalist China Bayles and a visitor who spells trouble.
Although traffic has been slow at her shops, China and her family—her husband Mike McQuaid, private eye and part-time college professor, his son Brian, and China’s niece Caitlin—are making do. When Mike’s former wife, Brian’s mom Sally Strahorn, turns up begging for a place to stay, China, a tough former trial lawyer, feels sorry for Sally, who has multiple-personality disorder and claims to be broke. Things change when China starts getting phone calls from a polite but somehow menacing stranger who wants to see Sally and claims to have the car Sally says was repossessed. Though a case takes Mike to Omaha and leaves China on her own, she can always count on her business partner Ruby and her friends, who include the chief of police and the county sheriff. Sally vanishes just before the police chief comes looking for her as a person of interest in her sister’s murder. She pops up just long enough to phone China and beg her to get Mike to go to her hometown in Kansas, where the librarian claims to know who murdered Sally’s parents and perhaps lit the fuse to all her current problems. For the sake of Brian, China and Mike struggle to find the truth.
Albert’s Texas Hill Country mysteries (Wormwood, 2009, etc.) are always a good value for both the mystery and the horticultural insights.