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Chile Death: A China Bayles Mystery (original 1998; edition 1999)

by Susan Wittig Albert

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463822,413 (3.82)7
Member:catmeyoo
Title:Chile Death: A China Bayles Mystery
Authors:Susan Wittig Albert
Info:Berkley (1999), Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:detective and mystery stories, herb mystery, Texas, China Bayles mystery, cozy

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Chile Death by Susan Wittig Albert (1998)

Recently added bysmbseb01, private library, lisan., Icarpenter, Judiex, booksniff, H.B.Oberman.Library
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CHILE DEATH, published in 1998, is the seventh of the China Bayles series. While it makes references to events in previous books, it can stand alone and new readers will not feel like they have arrived in the middle of a play they can’t understand because they missed act 1.
The previous book ended with China finally agreeing to marry Mike McQuaid. They have been together for a several years and China feels like she is his son, Brian’s mother. Suddenly everything changes when McQuaid is hit by a bullet and becomes paralyzed. His recovery is uncertain. China’s mother, with whom she has a very distant relationship, moves in unexpectedly and uninvited, to help, much to China’s annoyance.
Further complicating the story is her best friend Ruby winning a $2 million lottery and deciding she wants to invest in a tearoom, attached to China’s herb shop.
China has to face her issues with commitment in this story. McQuaid doesn’t want to get married and become a burden. China doesn’t want to go partners with Ruby in an uncertain business. And her mother begins to interfere with China’s routine and relationships.
The title of the book relates to the annual chile contest. All the contestants are men and making the hottest chile is one of their main objectives. A half hour after the judging begins, one of the judges suddenly jumps up and clutches his throat. At first, those around him think he is just pretending to be overcome by the hot chile. When they realize it is not an act, they call for medical assistance, but it doesn’t help. The cause of death is listed as a heart attack. That is soon questioned and an allergy to peanuts becomes the possible cause.
China, Ruby, and Mike, who is living in a rehabilitation center, become involved in figuring out who put the peanuts into the chile and if it was deliberate. There are several suspects, not all obvious. All are involved in the resolution.
Susan Wittig Albert provides a lot of information about chile at the beginning of each chapter as well as some recipes at the end.
The story is well-written and moves at a rapid pace. For those following the series, it adds important information. Most of it makes sense, but I doubt if someone who knows he is allergic to peanuts would ever agree to be a judge in a cooking contest where there can be a lot of secret ingredients. ( )
  Judiex | Sep 22, 2014 |
After the last book in the series this one is a breath of fresh air. China is back to being China the herbalist, entrepreneur, and investigator. Things with McQuaid are finally sorted out and their relationship returns to some semblance of normalcy. I enjoyed the mystery story in this one and it was great to see China handle herself in a perilous situation. ( )
  hazysaffron | Jul 26, 2013 |
3.5 stars

My blog post about this book is at this link. ( )
  SuziQoregon | Mar 31, 2013 |
China Bayles is a former trial lawyer turned herbalist, and this installment in the series finds her investigating the death of an unpopular insurance salesman with a peanut allergy. During a chili cook-off Jeff Cody ingested some chili laced with peanuts, leading to a quick demise. Some think death is an unfortunate accident, but China is convinced otherwise.

During the investigation China is also dealing with her boyfriend's recovery from a gunshot wound. The nursing home where he is recuperating seems suspicious to China, opening another possible mystery. Signs of possible abuse and a very evasive director keep China attuned.

This book is definitely light reading, but it was mostly enjoyable. One of the things I like about this series is that China is a former lawyer, her boyfriend is a cop, and they collectively have more respect for law, police procedure, and due process than one generally finds in a cozy mystery. This is not the sort of book in which a random knitter, barista, antiques seller, or other such character mishandle evidence and take over a murder investigation. That was refreshing. I'm sure I'll read more in the series when I'm looking for light entertainment. ( )
  lahochstetler | Sep 23, 2011 |
At last China and McQuaid decide to get married and set a date but the circumstances leading to the decision have certainly been dire. A murder is committed during a chile cooking competiton - very nearly covered up, but China uncovers much that should have remained hidden, thus putting herself in danger from the murderer, sustaining some serious injuries. ( )
  reeread | Sep 24, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0425171477, Mass Market Paperback)

Chile is the pepper; chili (or sometimes chilli) is the spicy stew made with it. That's the first of many lessons about food, love, and death in Susan Wittig Albert's latest mystery about China Bayles, the Texas Hill Country lawyer turned herbalist and crime solver. Although Albert lives in the Texas Hill Country herself, she swears that China's hometown, Pecan Springs (which must have a higher per capita death rate than anyplace outside of Jessica Fletcher's Maine village), is fictional. So we have to believe that nobody really killed one of the judges of the annual Cedar Choppers Chili Cook-off by adding peanuts to his tasting sample and causing a deadly allergic reaction.

But China and her lover, ex-cop Mike McQuaid, believe it--especially after the dead chili judge, Jerry Jeff Cody, turns out to have a swampful of dirty secrets. So Albert begins a clever dance, keeping Bayles and the bedridden McQuaid (shot while working for the Texas Rangers) in just enough danger to maintain an atmosphere of suspense while also slipping in enough chile lore to outfit a chain of Taco Bells. The format may be familiar, but Albert is one of the best in the business at making it look newly hatched. Other Bayles books include Love Lies Bleeding, Thyme of Death, and Rueful Death. --Dick Adler

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:51 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

China Bayles had finally agreed to marry Mike McQuaid - and then he'd been paralyzed in the line of duty. Fully committed, she knows she'll tough it out, no matter how long his recovery might take. The annual chili cook-off sounds like a nice respite from the stress, so China gladly accompanies her wheelchair-bound sweetheart to the event. But tragedy strikes when cook-off judge Jerry Jeff Cody dies of a severe allergic reaction - to a peanut. Everyone knows peanuts don't belong in a bowl of Texas chili...and China knows something suspicious is afoot. Now, with rumors flying about foul play at McQuaid's hospital - and whispered stories about Jerry Jeff's womanizing ways - things are heating up all over.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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