cover image Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding Hearts

Susan Wittig Albert, . . Berkley Prime Crime, $23.95 (298pp) ISBN 978-0-425-20799-4

In Albert's engrossing 15th mystery to star China Bayles, herbalist, erstwhile lawyer and occasional gumshoe (after 2005's Dead Man's Bones ), everyone in China's charming hometown of Pecan Springs, Tex., is stunned when the high school football coach, Tim Duffy, is murdered. The good coach, it turns out, had a nasty habit of getting sexually involved with teenage girls, and that criminal predilection led to his death. One of Duffy's victims had died recently, too, supposedly a suicide. Her case is reopened after the coach's predatory ways are discovered. Meanwhile, China stumbles onto a packet of letters written by her father years before, letters that reveal more about his past than she really wants to know. Albert's characterization is strong—China delights as ever, as does her wacky friend, Ruby Wilcox. Descriptions of delectable dishes (recipes included, of course) and tips about herbs add to the fun, but beware the prefatory author's note, which gives too much away. (Apr.)