cover image DEAD MAN'S BONES


Susan Wittig Albert, . . Berkley Prime Crime, $23.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-425-20017-9

In Albert's assured 14th outing for China Bayles (after 2004's A Dilly of a Death ), the herbalist and ex-lawyer is worried about the effect of the poor tourist trade on her Pecan Springs, Tex., herb shop, tea room and New Age store owned jointly with her best friend, Ruby Wilcox, when her 14-year-old stepson, Brian, announces a disturbing discovery: while on an archeological dig in a cave, he found a skeleton with its skull bashed in. Analysis later shows that the bones are about 30 years old. After a leading citizen shoots dead an apparent intruder in self-defense, China begins to suspect there's a link between this incident and the past murder. In her own quiet way, China pursues the truth. China's warmth and sensitivity toward Ruby's new boyfriend, the new professor at the local university and others will endear her to readers, while her investigative skills make her a leader among female sleuths. Fascinating information about herbs and tempting recipes round out this leisurely cozy with a Southwestern flair. (Apr. 5)

FYI: Albert is also the author with her husband, Bill Albert, of Death in Hyde Park (Forecasts, Feb. 9, 2004) and other titles in her Edwardian historical series, under the pseudonym Robin Paige.