Bittersweet – Book 23

Albert pulls in disturbing and timely topics—drones and deer breeding—for an engrossing and twisted tale.
Booklist, starred review

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.

Two Bittersweets

There are two bittersweets. One is native, and a beautiful vine. The other is beautiful also, but it is an non-native, invasive plant bully that has been banned from sale in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) is not just a pretty plant. It has a long history of use by Native Americans and by the colonists who copied their medical practices. The root was boiled and pounded into a poultice or made into an ointment to treat burns, skin sores, eruptions, cancers, and rheumatism. A tea was used to treat liver ailments and dysentery. A stronger tea was used to cause uterine contractions during and after childbirth, and as an abortifacient. Bark extracts are thought to be cardioactive, so modern herbalists generally avoid the use of this plant.

Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) has its medicinal uses as well. In its native Asia, it is employed for the treatment of paralysis, circulatory problems, headache, toothache, and snake bites. Ongoing research is exploring its possible anti-tumor activity. But this non-native Oriental bittersweet is an invasive pest. Please hang out the UNWELCOME sign and don’t let it move into your neighborhood!

—China Bayles  “Native Plants for Wildlife Gardens”

Praise for The China Bayles Herbal Mysteries

Bestseller Albert addresses some big social and political problems in her entertaining 23rd mystery [Bittersweet] featuring herbalist China Bayles… one of China’s more memorable adventures.
Publishers Weekly (Top Mystery Pick for Spring 2015)

Albert pulls in disturbing and timely topics—drones and deer breeding—for an engrossing and twisted tale.
Booklist, starred review

A great cliffhanger with seriously nail-biting scenes, this is one China Bayles’ mystery you don’t want to miss.
Suspense Magazine

“Well-drawn secondary characters and lots of herbal lore… For readers who enjoy small-town settings and close-knit communities”

“[The long-running series] continues to provide solid mysteries [and] fascinating herb lore…”

Recipes from Bittersweet

Click above for recipes from the book, including the ones for China’s Cabbage and Sausage Soup and Chai Tea Cookies (perfect for your book club friends). You may print or download the PDF and share it.