The China Bayles Herbal Mysteries

Cat's Claw (#20)
A Pecan Springs Mystery
Featuring Sheila Dawson with China Bayles

Police Chief Sheila Dawson believes the death of Pecan Spring's computer guru, Larry Kirk, to be a suicide, perhaps triggered by his painful divorce. Further investigation reveals that Kirk's death wasn't self-inflicted. And the truth is reinforced by her friend China Bayles' news-Larry recently asked her for legal advice in regards to a stalker.

As a police chief in a male-dominated force, Sheila meets many challenges, especially when her theories rock the boat in high profile cases like that of George Timms. He was caught breaking into Larry's computer shop to steal his own computer back because of incriminating personal information it contained. Now that Larry is dead, she's sure it's connected to the burglary. And she's also sure she'll get plenty of resistance on her assessment...

Timms's time to turn himself in to the police comes and goes, and he's nowhere to be found. In her investigation, Sheila uncovers secrets that would drive anyone to kill. So who then? It's up to Sheila to prove she's got what it takes to hunt down the predator that's loose on the streets of Pecan Springs. But of course, she's glad to have a little help from her friend China Bayles, who's very good at solving mysteries.

Here's what reviewers have to say about the China Bayles mysteries!

  • Albert's books are the kind you read over and over, for pleasure and enjoyment. And don't forget the herbal background (cat's claw, an herb with "hooks, designed to clutch and hold on to anyone or anything that comes near") and the recipes, which in this volume include such culinary tidbits as McQuaid's Favorite Breakfast Burritos and China Bayles' Curry and Cardamom Cookies. Whether you try the recipes or read the book (or both), you will find Cat's Claw a delicious delight. —Curled up with a Good Book

  • Cat's Claw is exactly what Susan Wittig Albert's fans look for in her books. —Cozy Library

  • Readers will enjoy the small-town atmosphere, the herbal lore and recipes, and the well-crafted puzzle in this mystery featuring two strong women. —Booklist

  • "Albert handles the dual voices smoothly as the combined talents of China [Bayles] and Sheila [Dawson] blend to reveal multiple crimes hidden beneath the peaceful façade of Pecan Springs." —Publisher's Weekly

  • "Quirky, enlightening and surprisingly profound, Albert's China Bayles mysteries are an absolute delight to read: head and shoulders above most other amateur whodunits." —Ransom Notes

  • "Well-drawn secondary characters and lots of herbal lore... For readers who enjoy small-town settings and close-knit communities" —Booklist

  • "[The long-running series] continues to provide solid mysteries [and] fascinating herb lore..." —Kirkus

  • "China's followers will delight in the complicated relationships, recipes and historical flower information." —Kirkus Reviews

  • "A diabolically clever sleuth...China and Ruby make Batman and Robin look like amateurs." —Harriet Klausner

  • "A visit to China Bayles' herb shop is always delightful...Albert's heroine just gets better defined as the books evolve." —Romantic Times


Read the first chapter of Cat's Claw

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Herbs That Can Reach Out and Grab You

cat's claw acacia Some herbs have hooks, designed to clutch and hold on to anyone or anything that comes near. One of the most interesting is cat's claw acacia (Acacia greggii, also called devil's claw and wait-a-minute bush), which grows on alkaline soils in semiarid grasslands and chaparral from Central Texas westward into California and south into Mexico. It is a perennial shrub or small tree that produces numerous slender, spreading branches studded with stout, quarter-inch, recurved thorns. In spring, creamy-yellow flowers (much loved by bees and butterflies) bloom in two-inch spikes, producing gray-brown beans that may be as much as five inches long.

Cat's claw has been used by Native Americans as food, medicine, and fiber. But it is always the thorns that attract attention. They are sharp, strong, and clawlike, holding fast and refusing to let go. Writing about it in Arizona Flora, naturalists Thomas H. Kearney and Robert H. Peebles remark that the cat's claw acacia is probably the most hated plant in the region, "the sharp, strong prickles tearing the clothes and lacerating the flesh."

—China Bayles, "Herbs That Hold Fast," Pecan Springs Enterprise

Nineteenth book in the series: Mourning Gloria

Twenty-first book in the series: Widow's Tears