Spanish Dagger (China Bayles Mystery) Review

Spanish Dagger (China Bayles Mystery)
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Spanish Dagger (China Bayles Mystery) ReviewThe China Bayles series is alive and well, to the delight of this fan. Susan Wittig Albert always offers the reader a beautifully crafted story along with a wealth of information about plants. The little world of Pecan Springs is a home away from home.
Ms. Albert sets herself a challenge, which she acknowledges in the Note to the Reader at the beginning of SPANISH DAGGER, by interweaving and overlapping the stories in the series. This challenge is compounded by the first person narrative, but nothing could be more effective than the way in which China Bayles fills the reader in on the backstory. This is often a weak area in a series, but beautifully done in SPANISH DAGGER, as in all the China Bayles mysteries. A first-time reader will be effortlessly acquainted with the main characters and the continuing plots.
China's investigative pursuits are woven into the story quite plausibly, another challenge with amateur sleuths. While it's true that the reader has to suspend incredulity at so many murder victims falling at China's feet, Ms. Albert somehow makes it easy. The everyday doings of Pecan Springs form a backdrop to the complex and sometimes hidden relationships that reach from the shop owner next door (Ruby Wilcox) outward to the police chief (Sheila Dawson) and beyond to big-city police and agency corruption. The social issues threaded into the story are clearly there to further the story -- from drug running to a parent's dementia to gossiping townspeople. All part of the package in Pecan Springs!
China Bayles and the other main characters are well-rounded and continue to evolve, with the secondary players also springing to life. Characterization is one of the strong suits of this series. It's hard to go wrong with a few pets, too, and the Rotti Rambo is a worthy companion to the squirrel-chasing basset hound Howard Cosell, and the seventeen-pound Khat on whose clock "it's always five minutes past time to eat."
Anyone familiar with Susan Wittig Albert's work knows that she treats her craft and the reader with great respect. I recommend SPANISH DAGGER as another example of a great read from this versatile author.
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