An Unthymely Death and Other Garden Mysteries is a welcome addition to the more serious China Bayles herbal mystery series. This collection of ten short stories allows author Susan Wittig Albert to step outside her normal framework as she provides detailed information about gardening and herbs, recipes, and craft ideas otherwise out of place in the herbal mystery series.
Six of the stories first made their appearance online as a series of gardening mysteries. Four brand new stories join the rewritten original six for an anthology that is a must read for herbal gardening fans.
The anthology includes new characters as well as visits with quite a number of old friends for those who are fans of the original series. Regulars China Bayles, Mike McQuaid, Ruby Wilcox, and Sheila Dawson play their respective roles.
To include this amount of herbal detail in any of the series novels would slow the pace of the mystery, but, in an anthology, Albert has free rein to add new and fresh material of which she takes full advantage. There are numerous food and drink recipes, herbal lore, and detailed directions for making such diverse items as rose potpourri and soap, McQuaid’s Tex-Mex dinner, herbal candles, and China's Dream Pillows.
Each story is a self-contained and clever whodunit. A visit to the neighboring town of Cedar Crossing gets the anthology off to a colorful start, and such recipes as Penne pasta with roasted garden vegetables and herbs, a la Barbara, have us reaching for our grocery list notepad. A trip to a cemetery has us wondering who the thief is in Death of a Rose Rustler.
Food stars in Mustard Madness and A Deadly Chocolate Valentine, and even weeds have their day in the entertaining Ivy’s Wild, Wonderful Weeds. The Pennyroyal Plot includes a history of pennyroyal and a detailed list of the type of herbs one can find in a tea garden or a biblical garden. Even Khat, China’s inordinately large Siamese, stars in his own mystery in The Khat Who Became a Hero.
Although fans of the China Bayles series will enjoy this informative and entertaining collection of mysteries, the stories are also a great introduction for those who have yet to read the original novels.