Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pop Lit: Susan Wittig Albert, Jean Plaidy, Luke Devenish

At the Big Book Sale I could not find a complete set of Susan Wittig Albert's mysteries.  I could not find even one.  I could not find them at Book Mooch.  The dream of the bargain is gone.  People must be hanging onto them, or the professional booksellers abscond with them the moment they're for sale.

I started with Lavender Lies, the eighth in the China Bayles series.  Alberts' heroine, China Bayles, owns an herb shop in Pecan Springs, Texas.  She is a former lawyer who, according to the first novel in the series, Thyme of Death, got tired of working for "a law firm that specialized in protecting the constitutional rights of bad guys--mostly big bad guys who had the wherewithal to pick up the tab for an expensive defense."  And, like the charming shop owner-detectives in many cozy mysteries--owners of tea shops, coffee shops, quilt shops, restaurants, wedding planner businesses, and scrapbooking shops--China has a genius for ferreting out criminals.

The newest in the series.
China runs Thyme and Seasons Herb Company with panache.  In Lavender Lies, she prepares to expand her business by opening a tea shop with her friend, Ruby, the owner of a New Age shop.  She also has last-minute wedding jitters due to last-minute complications: the cake baker quits, it might rain on her garden wedding, and, most important, if she doesn't help her fiance, McQuaid, a criminal justice professor and temporary police chief, find the murderer of a real estate shark, the honeymoon is canceled.  When Edgar Coleman's body is found in his garage, no one has a good word for him.  Edgar blackmailed the City Council members and is suspected of abusing his wife.

I like Wittig's voice, the originality and down-to-earth intelligence of China, the details about the shop, and the fact that we never really feel we're in danger.  These are great fun to read, and I enjoy reading about herbs--the theme is lavender in this one, and there are recipes in the back for Lavender Bath Tea, Lavender Madeleines, Lavender Sachet, etc.

THE JEAN PLAIDY OBSESSION. I considered buying a complete set of Jean Plaidy.  Her 31 novels in print by Three Rivers Press would cost roughly $465.  I  gazed at this number as though it had no meaning.  I very much enjoyed Murder Most Royal, her novel about Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. I read an excerpt of her novel about Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Courts of Love, and though I have not yet bought it, it is a matter of time.  Plaidy (who is also Victoria Holt) wrote SO MUCH.  There is the Norman series, the Tudor series, the Queens of England series, the Plantaganet series, the Mary Stuart series, and much, much more. 

There is a terrific Jean Plaidy page here.    
EMPRESS OF ROME SERIES.   Luke Devenish's new series of Roman historical novels, Empress of Rome, has a cult following in Australia.  The first novel, Den of Wolves, was published by Bantam last year.  I love Roman historical novels.  Occasionally I indulge myself with a Robert Graves, or Lindsey Davis, and have contemplated Collen McCullough's Masters of Rome series.  I just received my copy of Den of Wolves and am enjoying it very much.  I know this period of history very well--early imperial Rome--and have always been fascinated by Livia, Augustus's murderous wife, one of the main characters. Is she as bad as everyone said?  The novel is narrated by a slave, Iphicles.  I've just begun it.


Ellen said...

We went to a huge book sale in our Northern Virginia area on Thursday and I came home with haul, including Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl and Christa Wolf's Parting from Phantoms. Ellen

Frisbee said...

Sales are great; you never know what you'll find. I like Philippa Gregory and have never heard of this Christa Wolf novel.