Friday, April 10, 2015

Guest Blog by Susan Wittig Albert, Review and Giveaway of Death Come Quickly - April 10, 2015

Please welcome Susan Wittig Albert to The Qwillery. Bittersweet, China Bayles 23, was published on April 7th and Death Come Quickly, China Bayles 22, was published in Mass Market Paperback on April 7th.

Writing a long-running series is a long-running challenge—an interesting challenge.

I’m sure that there are those of you who already know this and won’t be surprised. But when I began writing Bittersweet, I happened to look at the list of China Bayles mysteries and was shocked to notice that the book was #23 in the series. I mean, I knew that, at some level—after all, I wrote them. But still, twenty-three? Oh my gosh!

Thinking about this has reminded me, all over again, of the biggest challenge involved in creating a long-running series: creating familiar characters but keeping their stories fresh and unfamiliar.

Series mysteries have changed since I wrote China’s first mystery, back in 1991. Then, series characters, like Nancy Drew or Travis McGee, didn’t grow or change, even though the series had been going on for decades (the first Nancy was published in 1930). But by the time I wrote the fifth and sixth China mysteries, I had already decided that the series would have an arc: China would change. She would grow older, get married, gain a family, and rebuild her relationship with her mom. Ruby, China’s best friend and business partner, would change too, meeting a Wild Child daughter she didn’t know, falling in love with a dangerous guy, and becoming more comfortable with her psychic skills.

Now, in Bittersweet, China’s and McQuaid’s son Brian is a freshman in college, their daughter is twelve, and China’s relationship with her recently-remarried mother is secure enough so that she can look forward to a family Thanksgiving. Ruby is babysitting with her granddaughter, Baby Grace, so that her Wild Child daughter can get away for a few days.

But while China’s and Ruby’s relationship arcs help to provide stability, familiarity, and continuity in the series, too much of the same thing can get boring—for the author and (I suspect) for readers, too. To meet that challenge, I like to vary the settings of the books, add new central characters and new conflicts, and explore new themes.

In Bittersweet, China goes with her family to South Texas ranch country, for Turkey Day dinner at her mom’s Uvalde County ranch. There, she runs into an old friend, Mackenzie Chambers, a Texas Parks and Wildlife game warden. Mack is dealing with a new job assignment, an on-the-job mystery (involving a dead veterinarian, deer smuggling, and murder) and an off-duty romance with a hunky fellow lawman.

And, naturally, there’s the signature herb, American bittersweet, which has an evil twin (Oriental bittersweet) and an interesting story all its own. And there are recipes, too, of course.

I know that many series readers enjoy the familiarity of their favorite characters. But at the same time, I hope they’re challenged by the things that challenge me: getting involved in new conflicts, traveling to new and different places, exploring current issues, discovering new things about the plants we live with on this planet of ours. Bittersweet does all of that for me—I hope it will for you, too.

And I hope you’ll join me in looking forward to yet another China Bayles mystery, Blood Orange, in 2016. That will be #24.

Oh, my gosh.

China Bayles 23
Berkley (Prime Crime), April 7, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

New from the author of Death Come Quickly and Widow’s Tears

This Thanksgiving, be grateful for China Bayles—who teams up with an old friend to solve a complex case of theft and murder in a South Texas ranching community…

It’s Thanksgiving in Pecan Springs, and China is planning to visit her mother, Leatha, and her mother’s husband, Sam, who are enthusiastically embarking on a new enterprise—turning their former game ranch into a vacation retreat for birders. She’s also looking forward to catching up with her friend, game warden Mackenzie “Mack” Chambers, who was recently transferred to the area. But Leatha calls with bad news: Sam has had a heart attack.

How will Leatha manage if Sam can’t carry his share? She does have a helper, Sue Ellen Krause. But China discovers that Sue Ellen, who is in the process of leaving her marriage to the assistant foreman at a large trophy game ranch, is in some serious trouble. Before Sue Ellen can tell China the full story, her car veers off a deserted road and she is killed.

Meanwhile, when a local veterinarian is shot in what appears to be a burglary at his clinic, Mack Chambers believes his murder could be related to fawns stolen from a nearby ranch. As Mack follows the trail, China begins to wonder if Sue Ellen’s death may not have been an accident, and if there’s a connection to the stolen animals. But their search for the truth may put their own lives in danger…

Death Come Quickly
Series:  China Bayles 22
Publisher:  Berkley (Prime Crime), April 7, 2015
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780425255322 (print)
Review Copy: Provided by the Publisher
Previous:  Hardcover, April 1, 2014

First Time in Paperback

Herbalist and ex-lawyer China Bayles is back in New York Times bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert’s Death Come Quickly. This time a friend’s murder may be the key to solving a nearly fifteen-year-old cold case…

When China and Ruby’s friend Karen Prior is mugged in a mall parking lot and dies a few days later, China begins to suspect that her friend’s death was not a random assault. Karen was a filmmaker supervising a student documentary about the almost fifteen-year-old murder of a woman named Christine Morris and the acquittal of the man accused of the crime. Is it possible that the same person who killed Christine Morris targeted Karen?

Delving into the cold case, China learns the motive for the first murder may be related to a valuable collection of Mexican art. Enlisting the help of her San Antonio lawyer friend Justine Wyzinski—aka the Whiz—China is determined to track down the murderer. But is she painting herself into a corner from which there’s no escape?

Jennifer's Review

Death Come Quickly is the 22nd installment in the China Bayles Mystery Series, set in the picturesque hill country of Texas. While China is busy juggling home, family and her thriving herb shop and tea room she is devastated to learn of the mugging and death of her friend Karen Prior. China is convinced that Karen’s death is not random, that it has a tie to a 15 year old unsolved murder. To find out the truth, she must dig into the past and weed through the closed world of Mexican art collectors before anyone else can be hurt.

China is simply one of the best amateur sleuths of the cozy mystery world. Over to course of twenty plus books, she has grown and adapted to her ever changing reality. She has gone from an independent business woman, to co-owner of multiple enterprises that now shares her life with not only her amazing private detective husband, McQuaid, but also with her teenage step-son Brian, and adopted daughter and biological niece, 12 year old Caitie, but also a host of reptiles, chickens and cats. The China of the first few books would have run screaming from such a situation, but the China that has developed over the course of the series has embraced this charming chaos and is thriving. As always, China’s best friends are front and center in her world. Ruby, the statuesque red-head with a heart of gold, daring sense of style, and psychic intuition goes along for the ride as China investigates, and Sheila, the diminutive and stunning powerhouse and police chief, is present, although more in a secondary role in this installment. Wittig Albert generally incorporates new characters in each novel to power the story and keep the series fresh. This time around, we meet Gretchen, the older sister of Brian’s long time girlfriend Jake, and Kitt, Gretchen’s filmmaking partner. The documentary the girls have started making for college that looks into the cold case of Christine Morris’ murder becomes very important to China’s search for a killer.

While I personally prefer to start at the beginning of any series so I can really understand the character and recurring storyline development, Wittig Albert always takes a couple of pages in each novel to reintroduce China and her world to readers, making it easier to delve into the series even if they haven’t read the previous novels. The author’s style is smooth and shows her deep passion for the Texas hill country and all things related to herbs. Every chapter is headed with snippets of plant lore that directly ties in with the book’s title and theme. I find these headings to be not only informative, but fun, and feel that they set up each chapter nicely. The scenery is beautifully captured, including scents and sounds and colors and makes me want to head right over to Pecan Springs, the charming but fictional setting of China’s world, to meet her in person and tour her amazing herb shop, Thyme and Seasons. The recipes that are included with each book are well researched and drool-worthy, and the author’s knowledge of plant life is astounding. China’s world is an integral part of the plot, growing more interesting with each story, and blends seamlessly with whatever mystery she is chasing at the time. I’ve come to think of China as an old friend and eagerly look forward to her coming back into my life with each novel.

About Susan Wittig Albert

NYT bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert has written mysteries in four series: the China Bayles series; the Darling Dahlias; the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter; and a series of Victorian-Edwardian mysteries with her husband, Bill Albert, under the pseudonym of Robin Paige. She is the author of A Wilder Rose, the true story of the writing of the Little House books, two memoirs, and other works for adults and young readers. Visit her website:

Twitter @SusanWAlbert

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a Mass Market Paperback copy of Death Come Quickly by Susan Wittig Albert from the publisher. US ONLY

How:  Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on April 18, 2015. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change.*

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. one of my favorite authors, thanks for the chance

  2. Thanks for this fascinating feature and wonderful giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  3. I can't believe that there are over 20 books in this series. I'll have to check to see which ones I've missed. Thanks for the contest.

  4. I love these. What's better than reading a cozy mystery? Not much. Thanks for the giveaway!

  5. I love reading Susan's mystery series. I just didn't know she has 20 books published already.

  6. Wow! Thanks for the chance to win.

  7. I can't believe how many of China's stories there are. Thanks for the chance to win.

  8. I seriously need to start this series!!!
    thank you for the giveaway.........