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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

China Bayles and Ruby Wilcox Learn About the 1900 Galveston Hurricane From an Unusual Source

Widow's Tears (China Bayles, #21)Widow's Tears by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So glad I've returned to this series. I had gotten kind of tired of it, because the focus on China Bayles and her sleuthing was beginning to be rather repetitive. But in this and the prior book, while China makes several appearances, the story focuses on one of the other main characters of the series. In Widow's Tears, China's partner, Ruby Wilcox takes the lead. Ruby has psychic abilities with which she has dabbled but, having great respect for the potential power of unleashing them, Ruby has always backed away when the pull grows too strong. When she gets an urgent call from a childhood friend to come to visit the site of one of Ruby's earliest experiences she is reluctant, but Claire is a recovering alcoholic and drug abuser who went off the deep end into this life when her husband was unexpectedly killed. Claire has inherited a deserted Victorian mansion from her aunt but the mansion is eerie and Claire needs Ruby to come help her determine if it is haunted. It is in this mansion, that as a child, Ruby saw the image of a Gibson girl type lady on the stairs and was frightened by the experience. Nevertheless, Ruby leaves Pecan Springs for a vacation at Claire's but does not tell China of her past association with the place.

Interspersed with the story of Claire and Ruby are chapters describing the Galveston Hurricane of Sept 8, 1900. There is a reason for this seeming digression but it is better for the reader to work along with Claire and Ruby to discover what connection there is between the tales. I have read one of the references Susan Albert makes to the storm that devastated the city of Galveston, Isaac's Storm: A Man, A Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History by Eric Larson. In the end of Albert's book it would seem that Claire may write a book about the storm--hope she does as well as Larson. I'm so happy I read his book first--it definitely made this one much more striking.

As I've said, China does make several appearances and midway through the book, joins Ruby and Claire at the mansion, having driven from Pecan Springs through a windy, rainy, slippery road storm. Hmmm, the stage is set.

I have only two minor criticisms of this foray into China's series--first, have no idea why the character of the Rawlings were introduced--they did nothing to drive the story. Second, in one scene China says if she knew what was coming she would have thought what had already occurred would be quite mild. That is paraphrasing--but the implication is that there is going to be some heavy duty stuff around the corner--and when it didn't appear, I felt let down. In fairness, I may have expected much more because I'd read the Larson book. Therefore, a reader who had not, might find the climax more climatic than I.

All in all, with a basis in a true historical event, this is one of the best books of the series, so far, in my opinion. It is not necessary at all to read the whole series from beginning as I have, but it is nice to be familiar with the characters--it is like visiting with old friends.

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