The China Bayles Herbal Mysteries

Thyme of Death (#1)

China's herb shop in Pecan Springs TX is a long way from her career as a criminal attorney in Houston. But the sweet life turns sour when a friend is found dead (suicide? murder?) and China uncovers a stash of torrid love letters. Her investigation is aided and abetted by flamboyant redhead Ruby Wilcox (who owns the only New Age shop in Pecan Springs) and ex-cop boyfriend Mike McQuaid. Nominated for both an Agatha and an Anthony for Best First Mystery.

Discussion questions for Thyme of Death
Warning! Contains spoilers (plot hints).

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

  • "Such a instant friend." —Carolyn G. Hart
  • "Witty, sharp, and entirely her own woman." —Susan Dunlap
  • "A marvelous addition to the ranks of amateur detectives." —Linda Grant

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Thyme is commonly found both in the kitchen and the medicine cabinet. It has been used for centuries to preserve and season food and as a cough remedy, a digestive aid, and an antiseptic. In the Middle Ages, the herb was thought to be an antidote against fear. Seventeenth-century herbalist Nicolas Culpeper believed it to be a "certain remedy for that troublesome complaint, the nightmare." It served as a battlefield antibiotic during World War I, and in World War II, when the Russians could not obtain other antibiotics, they substituted thyme as "Russian penicillin."

Thymely Cream of Carrot Soup
In Pecan Springs, Texas, soup always seems to taste better in the winter—but this thymely soup is good hot or chilled. Serve it to 4-6.
  • 2 pounds carrots, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 tblsp butter or margarine
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • a bouquet garni made with 6 parsley sprigs, 3 thyme sprigs, and a sprig of marjoram tied together with string
  • 1 cup half/half (no-fat is fine)
  • salt and pepper
  • nutmeg
  • 2 tblsp chopped parsley leaves
  • 1 tblsp chopped thyme leaves

    Over low heat, saute the carrots and onion in the butter or margarine in a covered soup pot until soft, about 15 minutes. Add the stock and heat to a simmer. Add the bouquet garni and simmer 20 minutes. Take out the bouqet garni and puree the soup in two or three batches. Add half and half and reheat. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and serve, garnished with chopped thyme and parsley. To serve cold, chill for several hours and garnish with a dollop of yogurt and the chopped herbs.

Second book in the series: Witches' Bane