Review for Dead Man's Bones, by Susan Wittig Albert

China Bayles is at home in Pecan Springs, working with Ruby in their herbal shops. A new playhouse has been erected, and is putting on its first performance, starring Ruby in a play written by the rich donor of the playhouse itself. Meanwhile, China's stepson, Brian, discovers a set of bones in a remote cave near town.

Alas, while the premise of the plot promised awesomeness, the delivery fell flat. Much of the story was given over to daily life details, such as Ruby's mysterious new boyfriend, who seems to have some sort of history with both the police chief and with China's husband McQuaid, but naturally one won't say and the other can't remember. There's also the introduction of Cass as a potential replacement for Janet, the aging help in the shops. A lot of business talk goes on: China and Ruby are expanding their horizons, offering catering now, to make up for slow business in the shops. Cass steps up and says she'd like to work with them. They talk about it. They think about it. They talk some more. Sure, it's somewhat relevant to the protagonist's life, but in that much detail? It just watered down the mystery.

As far as that mystery went, what I saw seemed too transparent to be the actual truth, so I kept looking for other explanations. Alas, there were none: the killer was who I thought, and the bones belonged to who I thought. It seems, from reading just two of Ms. Albert's books, that the villains don't come anywhere near the level of complexity as the protagonist, making the books less interesting to read and the resolution almost boring. Ruby's new lover's past was never explained, so it feels he's a setup for the next book, yet he appeared in this book throughout, diluting this case as well.

2 of 5 stars.

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