Occasionally, an author chooses to write a series wrapped around a specific topic. One such series is the China Bayles mysteries written by Susan Wittig Albert using herbs as a theme.
Her books highlight the life of former lawyer China Bayles, who moved to Pecan Springs, Texas to get away from the pressures of Houston. China opened an herb shop in an old Victorian-style building just blocks from the courthouse. She became good friends with Ruby who rented space from China and ran the only New Age shop in Pecan Springs.
Along the way, China fell in love with retired Houston homicide detective Mike McQuaid who taught in the Criminal Justice Department at Central Texas State University.
Another recurring character is Sheila Dawson, Pecan Springs first female police chief. Sheila becomes close friends with China and Ruby, and often gets involved in solving a crime.
Albert has created characters that are likeable and relatable to the rest of us. China seems like a real person, someone we would love to get to know. The town of Pecan Springs appears so real that readers have tried to locate the herb shop.
The China Bayles series includes herbal lore and recipes with each murder mystery highlighting a particular herb. Authors who write a successful topic series can easily build a loyal readership base, as Susan Albert has done.
Due to a familiar cast of characters and a story line that moves forward, as does the relationship between China and Mike, readers avidly look forward to the next installment. Albert has also wisely included further information on her website, MysteryPartners.com, with discussion questions for reader groups, as well as the option to signup for an herbal-related weekly e-letter called All About Thyme.
Susan Albert has branched out with other China Bayles-themed books such as the Untimely Death Anthology in 2003 and the China Bayles’ Book of Days in 2006. The Book of Days contains 365 entries celebrating “the mystery, myth, and magic of herbs from the world of Pecan Springs” according to the subtitle. Throughout the year, this delightful book treats the reader to recipes, crafts, garden tips, remedies, and much more.
There are currently sixteen China Bayles mystery books available, with a seventeenth, Wormwood, scheduled for release in 2009. The first book is Thyme of Death.
As with all theme books, Albert’s successful series could continue indefinitely, if the author desires, and as long as she provides fresh and interesting stories. As the most recent releases attest, this series will not end anytime soon.
You can buy Thyme of Death at Amazon.com
You can visit Susan's website here: MysteryPartners.com