Monday, April 4, 2011

Review: Mourning Gloria

Summary: While Pecan Springs bustles back to life in the warmth of spring, one woman's life is tragically brought to an end. China Bayles happens upon a burning house trailer and hears a woman screaming for help. The evidence leaves no doubt that it's arson homicide.

Jessica Nelson, an intern-reporter at the local paper, is assigned to cover the story. But she's gotten herself too deeply involved. When Jessica disappears, China is determined to find her, before she becomes headlines herself. -- Berkley Prime Crime

As part of my personal challenge to read more mystery books (and hence my creation of Mystery Mondays), I decided to read MOURNING GLORIA by Susan Wittig Albert. I used to be a big fan of the China Bayles mysteries, but for whatever reason, I haven't read any of them since I started blogging. It's very unfortunate because I used to love this series and its characters. Picking up MOURNING GLORIA a few days ago reminded me how much I enjoyed these books -- it was like visiting with an old friend.

For those of you not familiar with the China Bayles mysteries, MOURNING GLORIA is the 19th book in this cozy series. China Bayles is a wife and step mother, and also an herbalist who runs a small shop. However in her spare time, she acts as an amateur sleuth and helps to solve gruesome murders. The books take place in a Texas town called Pecan Springs -- that has more than its fair share of crimes, and I think the author does a great job of bringing this small town to life.

I mentioned earlier that this book is the 19th in this bestselling series and that's a pretty long (and successful) run by anyone's standards. I had read quite a few of the earlier books so I knew most of the characters and their backgrounds, but I haven't followed China's escapades for a few years. I was able to pick up right where I left off. You definitely don't have to read this series in order to enjoy the books -- the author does a very good job of filling in all of the past details. Yes, some of the details could be considered spoilers, but that's just something I've come to accept when I read a series out of order. Despite my best intentions, I seriously doubt I'm going to be able to go back and catch up on all of the books I've missed.

One fun thing about these books in this series is that they "teach" me a great deal about herbs and natural remedies since China is the town expert on all things herbal! In the case of MOURNING GLORIA, the book also featured the Pecan Springs' Farmers Market and stressed the importance of CSAs -- Community Supported Agriculture. And an extra little treat in this book was that it included some delicious sounding recipes. I was thrilled to see detailed recipes for many of the foods that the characters ate during the story including China's Carrot Cupcakes and Caitlin's Lemon Icebox Cookies. I also loved that there were instructions to make cosmetic vinegar and a calming fragrance blend.

Despite loving all of the recipes, the real reason I wanted to read MOURNING GLORIA was because of  the mystery And I'm happy to say that it was a good one. I found the mystery in this novel to be very interesting as well as intriguing, and I loved the many twists and turns -- there were definitely a few characters that could have "dunnit." I don't know if I'd say I was blown away by the book's conclusion, but I admit that I didn't spend much time trying to figure out the culprit. I just read the story and was very much entertained by it.

I have read a few cozies in my life, and if I'm being totally honest, I think this series is one of my favorites. I love China and her family and friends, and I really like seeing how their lives have changed through the years. In addition, I love all the references to herbs and nature, and the recipes included in the back of the book don't hurt either! And finally, I think Ms. Albert does a terrific job with creating the mystery and suspense. In summary, I just think MOURNING GLORIA epitomized what a good cozy should be.

Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a "somewhat" regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


bermudaonion said...

I'm always in awe of authors who can keep a series going that long and do it well. This one sounds so good!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Two days in a row now for you with clever pun title books!

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

Yay! I love Mystery Mondays and this one sounds great!

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

This sounds like a fun series - I am always impressed when an author can hold the interest of the reader in the long running ones :)

SuziQoregon said...

What a coincidence! I'm featuring this series for Moonlighting for Murder week this week. Fun to see another reader who enjoys them. I started the series a few years ago and it's become one of my go to series for when I need a nice enjoyable pleasant book. The tidbits about herbs and lore are usually interesting and the recipes always sound so tempting.

Cozy in Texas said...

I haven't read any of these books for a while either. I'll check this one out. Thanks for the review.
Cozy In Texas

Beth F said...

Between you and SuziQ I must get to reading this series. I've always wanted to but just haven't jumped in.

I read books. said...

Oooh, you know, I was never a series person and not a mystery person by a long shot, until Maisie Dobbs. Now, suddenly, I'm finding that they're on my radar a lot more. I'll have to check this series out, for sure!

ruthhill74 said...

I always loved mysteries--I grew up on Erle Stanley Gardner and Agatha Christie. However, I have not read a mystery as of late that has really captured my attention like those did. I tried to read a very "successful" series--"The Cat Who..." series, and I just didn't get into it. This one sounds like it may be more promising. I hope so! It's on my TBR list.