cover image Chile Death

Chile Death

Susan Wittig Albert, Susan Wittig Albert. Berkley Publishing Group, $21.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-425-16539-3

China Bayles, the only ex-lawyer/herbalist/sleuth in Pecan Springs, Texas--and perhaps anywhere else--offers an appealing measure of hot chili lore to go with the abundance of hot water in which she finds herself in her seventh outing (after Love Lies Bleeding, 1997). Life changes are coming at China fast and furiously. Boyfriend Mike McQuaid is still at the Manor, a rehabilitation center and nursing home, struggling to recover from a paralyzing gunshot wound. Best friend Ruby is pressing her to partner a new business venture, and China is trying her hand at writing for the local newspaper. The action heats up at the annual Cedar Choppers Chili Cookoff when local cooks (including some who have never lifted a pot before) compete to see who can rustle up the best and hottest chili. Cookoff judge Jerry Jeff Cody dies of a severe allergic reaction, but China and McQuaid doubt that it was an accident since Cody, a slick insurance salesman, had given many folks motive for murder--including his divorce-seeking wife, Roxanne; his current flame, Felicia Travis; his angry business partner, Pokey Clendennen; and various jealous husbands. Adding some thefts and possible abuses of patients at the Manor, Albert offers a satisfying plot, not too spicy, just right. (Nov.)