Mourning Gloria by Susan Wittig Albert.*
The 19th installment of the China Bayles mystery series, opens with China getting ready for the new farmer's market across the street from her herb shop Thyme and Seasons in the fictional town of Pecan Springs, Texas.
No, that's not quite accurate. The book opens with a prologue, detailing the day of a young woman named Gloria (not one of Pecan Springs regular cast of characters) preparing to go away for the weekend in order to avoid Someone so that she can talk to the police.
It's not until much later in the story that we learn who Gloria is. Before then, China comes upon a mobile home fire as she's driving to her house late one night. She calls 911, but hears a voice calling for help. She's unable to reach the person in time, and ends up with a slight case of smoke inhalation and no eyebrows. Firefighters manage to keep the fire from spreading, but are unable to save the trapped person.
What China doesn't realize at the time, is that the trailer fire will lead her to a huge web of intrigue and illegal activities.
Most of the narrative is first-person, from China's point of view. She charmingly describes Pecan Springs as though it were a real place, extolling its highlights and inviting readers to come and visit. But the best thing (at least to this lover of the botanical) is the way she describes herbs and other plants and explains their uses.
*FTC Full Disclosure: Many thanks to the publisher, who sent me a copy of the book for review purposes.