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China Bayles, #23

Well, we are up to number 23 in this series, and while it's been good for the most part, the past couple of installments have only been fair.

Living in Texas, I can tell you hunting is a big deal for a good portion of the population and so naturally there are people who want to profit as much as possible, which may mean engaging in commercial deer hunting. This practice is what eventually leads to murder when a vet witnesses something that could expose illegal activities.

China gets involved in a roundabout way when she visits her mom for Thanksgiving. Leatha and Sam were planning to turn their ranch into a retreat, but Sam is in very ill health and those plans may have to wait. In the meantime, China, McQuaid, and the game warden, “Mack” Chambers try to figure out who killed the veterinarian and if a tragic car accident was not an accident after all.

For me this series has gotten off course and I had hoped this newest installment would get back onto the right path. However, this story was just as flat as a pancake. There was no mystery at all since the entire case was outlined for me in the prologue and all I had to do was sit back and wait for the authorities to discover what I already knew.

The hot button issue of hunting game and all the emotions this evokes on one side or the other was addressed in as politically correct a manner as possible, but it was obvious what side of the fence the author came down on and at times I thought it got a little “preachy”. I am NOT a fan of author's using beloved characters to push their own agendas. This is not the first time I have encountered this sort of thing of course, and my agreement or disagreement with the author isn’t the issue. I was settled down all nice and comfortable on a wet Saturday afternoon ready to lose myself in a good mystery, but instead got a sermon/lecture.

The most compelling part of the story was China's realization that her mother is about to embark on a new chapter in her life as she deals with the inevitable aspects of aging and how all of this is going to change the relationship they have. I can relate to this area of the story since I myself have aging parents. It's a slippery slope for sure and it will be interesting to see how China handles these changes.

I have read books in this series on and off over the years, certainly not every single one, but I do like touching base with the characters from time, so I am feeling a little concerned about where the series is headed since this is the second time in a row I have been left feeling dissatisfied. However, I have seen long running series get into a rut and then manage to climb back out again. So, here's hoping that the next book in the series will be a little more exciting and include more involvement of the characters we are so fond of.

Book Blurb for Bittersweet

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…

Night Owl Reviews May, 2015 3.00