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Mistletoe Man    by Susan Wittig Albert order for
Mistletoe Man
by Susan Wittig Albert
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2000 (2000)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Pecan Springs is gearing up for a chilly festive season and China is decorating her house with chile for an upcoming Christmas Tour of Homes, when murder strikes one of her suppliers, the Mistletoe Man (this happens so often in Pecan Springs that I wonder why its residents are not long gone to safer climes). Of course, it makes a great opportunity for China (who runs a herb boutique called Thyme and Seasons) to deck the reader with fascinating and arcane lore about the sacred plant.

Reading about Pecan Springs feels like visiting with old friends; a group of women who support each other and the men around them with care and affection. As well as the regulars, fans get to enjoy new and colorful characters each time. In this episode it's Aunt Velda, who's taken a trip around the galaxy, has regular chats with Klingons and feels that the deceased 'deserves to be cleanin' latrines fer as long as them Klingons'll have him.'

As is usual in this series, the murder presents a mild mystery that unfolds almost accidentally alongside the antics of China and her best friend and sidekick Ruby (she runs the New Age Crystal Cave and is China's partner in their tea room Thyme for Tea). In fact the mystery of Ruby's untypically brusque behavior looms much larger in this tale than the violent death, and the reason for it is indeed a serious matter worthy of the book's focus.

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