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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Bittersweet--Name of the Book and My Feelings About the Caliber of the Writing

Bittersweet: A China Bayles MysteryBittersweet: A China Bayles Mystery by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wow, the 23rd installment of this series and I've read them all so far. There are several reasons why :
1. I love the information about herbs and their historical as well as current usage.
2. Although I haven't made any of the recipes given at the back of the book for food served in the current story, they all look delicious and use the herb that stars in that story.
3. We have traveled extensively along the Farm roads all over Texas, including the area around Kerrville, San Marcos, Austin etc and so it is easy to envision the settings as I read
4. Albert's recurring characters have become as familiar as neighbors or family and their lives have evolved and grown as people do in real life.
5. Her characters incidental to the normal cast of characters are interesting and the mysterious circumstances of the story are engrossing.
Why, then, when I've given most of her books a 4 or 5 star rating did I only give this one a 3? All of the five points above are as true for this book as the 22 that preceded it. However, though the mystery is nicely set up at the beginning, after the first chapter of so, the mystery is virtually ignored for almost the entire book, with only now and then an event that indicates something fishy is going on.
The bulk of the book is repetitive and overwhelmingly preachy. While Sam's illness is definitely problematic and China's worries about her mother's future if he doesn't recover or recover sufficiently to be able to handle his end of the business they are setting up are understandable and not unfamiliar to children of a certain age whose parents are aging and may need them, the constant harping on these facts became boring.
The second theme beaten to death is the truly upsetting problem of genetically altered deer raised on ranches for so called hunts that cost a fortune. I cannot agree with China and Mack, the game warden new to the character list, more ( and, of course, with Susan Wittig Albert , who is very much and environmentalist) but the heavy handedness with which, once more, this point is repeated and driven home seemed nothing more to me after awhile than filler rather than plot development.
Indeed, by the end of the book, when the situation that results in the murder of two interesting characters is finally fleshed out and resolved, I felt as though I'd slogged through an awful lot of pages that had nothing to do with it.
Don't get me wrong, the relationship between Mack and her new guy, the family dynamics of China's life, and the use of drones by law enforcement was all very interesting but didn't create a cozy mystery this time--mystery and solving it being the operable terms.
Also, I missed Ruby and Blackie and Smart Cookie and hate that the Whiz has only been a blink and you'll miss her character.

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