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Lavender Lies    by Susan Wittig Albert order for
Lavender Lies
by Susan Wittig Albert
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2000 (1999)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Lavender Lies is the seventh in the China Bayles series of herbal mysteries, set in the fictional Texas Hill Country backwater of Pecan Springs, where murder suspects are always, at the very least, acquaintances. After changes of mind (though not of heart) on both sides, China and McQuaid are about to be tie the knot. But murder gets in the way, along with all sorts of amusing mishaps.

As usual in this series, the murder is not the main story, but rather a backdrop to Albert's display of intriguing herbal lore and witty commentary on her imaginary locale. The victim is an unpopular real estate shark who has been busily blackmailing the City Council and suspects abound. With the wedding day looming close, China and her friends start digging since the bride is determined to have the groom's company on their Hawaiian honeymoon.

China has collected a set of strong female cohorts for her investigations over the years and they are with her in full force this time. The most devoted is the flamboyant best friend and partner Ruby, who teaches meditation and is into all things mystical. A more recent recruit to the series is the attractive cop Sheila, aka Smart Cookie. And whenever China needs additional legal assistance she calls on Justine 'the Whiz'.

As always, China pursues various trails of clues to uncover the true murderer and Albert throws in some surprises to entertain the reader along with a wealth of lavender lore (previous plots have revolved around thyme, rue, rosemary, chile and more). The series is based on a familiar formula, but with evolving characters and new ingredients each time, a good recipe for success.

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