This latest accomplished entry in Albert's detective series featuring defense attorney-cum-herbalist China Bayles is both a smalltown murder mystery and a portrait of a Texas community whose existence is threatened by a dispute over mining rights. Bayles, who was also featured in Albert's Bloodroot and Mistletoe Man, has recently become part-owner of a combination herb shop and tea house called Thyme for Tea in tiny Indigo, Tex. But her new life-and the lifestyle of the bohemian entrepreneurs and elderly Indigo natives in the community-is put in jeopardy when Casey Ford, a reviled but powerful Indigo resident, concocts a plan to sell the coal-mining rights to a national conglomerate, a scheme that would allow him to evict most of the store owners in town once the deal is done. Ford is murdered days before he signs the agreement. Bayles and her husband, another former attorney named Mike McQuaid, find themselves stymied in their investigation of the murder by a town full of suspects who close ranks as they celebrate Ford's sudden death. Albert does a nice job of placing believable red herrings in Bayles's way, and she adds colorful details about herbal medicine and the dye business (another of Bayles's specialties). The heart of the book is the detailed depiction of smalltown life in Indigo, which separates the novel from genre fodder by providing a rich context for the mystery. The satisfying ending is icing on the cake, and Albert's impressions of Indigo are likely to stay in readers' minds long after the murder has faded. 9-city author tour. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Herbalist China Bayles (Bloodroot, 2001, etc.) has launched a series of workshops about dyeing textiles with natural ingredients with her old friend Allie Selby, who raises angora goats and grows dye-producing plants on a farm near a little town called Indigo. (No, really.) China and her sidekick Ruby Wilcox head up to Indigo and Allie’s farm for a Colors To Die For Workshop and the Indigo Arts and Crafts Festival, sponsored by the Historical Indigo Restoration Committee (HIRC), to which Allie and key Indigo business owners belong. As part of the festival, HIRC is also producing a historical play written by Allie’s live-in boyfriend, writer/drifter Derek Cooper. But the festivities suddenly darken when Casey Ford, Allie’s uncle, announces that he’s sold his mining rights to a company that plans to strip-mine Indigo, effectively burying the economic and cultural revival, not to mention the beautiful natural surroundings, including Allie’s farm, under a layer of brown. Members of HIRC see red, and former lawyer China is blue. When Casey is shot dead during a performance of Cooper’s play, Indigo lightens up, but law enforcement isn’t convinced that Casey walked into his own shotgun booby-trap by accident. Color Allie and her cohorts suspicious, so China, with the help of Ruby’s psychic gifts, investigates to find the real culprit. China brews a restful—some might say soporific—cup of herbal tea for her fans, while Albert earnestly shares her research into a rainbow of folklore, herbalist traditions, and strip-mining. Author tour