China Bayles Books in Order: How to read Susan Wittig Albert’s series?

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Written by American author Susan Wittig Albert, this series is about China Bayles, an ex-big city lawyer who solves murders in a small town in Texas. China Bayles didn’t just move to Texas in order to solve crimes, she opened up a herbal shop and hoped for a quiet life. She didn’t find it. Instead, with her best friend and owner of a New Age shop next door, Ruby Wilcox, she stumbled upon murder mystery after murder mystery.

How to read the China Bayles Series in Order?

Every entry in the China Bayles book series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.

  1. Thyme of Death – Eager to open up an herb shop and get closer to the earth, China Bayles leaves behind her career in corporate law and moves to Pecan Springs, Texas. When China’s friend Jo dies of an apparent suicide, China looks behind the quaint façade of Pecan Springs and takes a suspicious look at everyone. And though she finds lots of friendly faces, China is sure that one of them hides the heart of a killer.
  2. Witches’ Bane – In a small Texas town, what starts as a little festive Halloween fun ends in a brutal murder. And China Bayles is even more shocked when her friend Ruby, a New Age expert in tarot and astrology, becomes the prime suspect after a minister accuses her of witchcraft.
  3. Hangman’s Root – When a prominent animal researcher is found hanged in the midst of angry protests against his experiments, suspicion falls on biology professor Dottie Riddle. Known as the Cat Lady of Pecan Springs, Dottie’s sympathy for strays gives the police reason to think she may be capable of murder. But China Bayles doesn’t think so…
  1. Rosemary Remembered – China Bayles’s herb shop in Pecan Springs wasn’t a big business, but it kept her busy. So she brought her taxes to Rosemary Robbins, an accountant who reminded China a bit of her former self-preoccupied, distracted, maybe a bit overstressed. Driving out to Rosemary’s house on an errand, China discovers her accountant has been murdered.
  2. Rueful Death – In search of respite, China Bayles takes off to St. Theresa’s Monastery with her friend Maggie, a former nun. The goal is a brief, tranquil retreat-but there’s a conflict at the convent. The mother superior has recently died, and a battle over the future of St. Theresa’s suggests that her sudden demise might not have been accidental.
  3. Love Lies Bleeding – China Bayles is investigating the mystery of retired Texas Ranger shot dead with his wife’s gun…and at the same time trying to sort out some mysteries about her own relationship after she overhears a suspicious phone conversation.
  1. Chile Death – China Bayles attends a chili cookoff where a womanizing judge dies of an allergic reaction to peanuts. And since everyone knows peanuts don’t belong in a bowl of Texas chili, China knows something suspicious is afoot…
  2. Lavender Lies – Texas herbalist China Bayles must put her upcoming nuptials on the back burner when a murder investigation entangles her friends and neighbors.
  3. Mistletoe Man – China Bayles is up to her ears in trouble as she tires to support a disturbed friend and reconcile the demands of a new business with affairs of the heart, all the while tracking a killer in small-town Texas.
  1. Bloodroot – A frantic phone call from her mother brings China Bayles back to her family’s Mississippi plantation, where she comes face to face with dangerous family secrets as she discovers that her great-aunt is gravely ill, an ancient property deed has suddenly resurfaced, and the man who found it has mysteriously vanished.
  2. Indigo Dying – China Bayles heads to the tiny town of Indigo, Texas, to teach a Colors to Dye For workshop. But she quickly discovers that Indigo is a town with more than its share of dark secrets – secrets that someone thinks are worth killing to keep.
  3. A Dilly of a Death – When China Bayles’s formerly sensible husband, Mike McQuaid, bored with life as a teacher, takes up the new career of private detective, he and China become involved in the tangled affairs of Phoebe the Pickle Queen, owner of the largest pickle business in Texas, but things take a dangerous turn when Phoebe mysteriously vanishes just before the local Picklefest.
  1. Dead Man’s Bones – China Bayles’ already busy life is further complicated when her teenage son stumbles upon skeletal remains of the victim of a not-so-accidental death during a dig in a cave and a local community gathering is interrupted by murder.
  2. Bleeding Hearts – When local football coach and hero Tim Duffy is accused of improper behavior, China Bayles investigates, following a trail of obsession and murder that may lead to her own doorstep.
  3. Spanish Dagger – While harvesting yucca plants to make paper, China Bayles finds a body-cause of death: unknown. It seems that the simple lives of many residents of Pecan Springs hide complex and dangerous pasts. And now, while also unraveling secrets that hit close to home, China must set the record straight- and find a killer.
  1. Nightshade – With her half-brother Miles and her husband determined to investigate the circumstances surrounding her father’s death, China Bayles reluctantly joins in to uncover the truth, but she and McQuaid soon discover that Miles may be hiding more secrets than he apparently is willing to reveal.
  2. Wormwood – China Bayles needs rest, and a historic Shaker village in Kentucky seems the ideal place for it. There she can learn about the intriguing, dwindling Shaker culture and its medicinal herbs. Unfortunately, the village is plagued with misfortune and strife. China wonders if she can get to the bottom of it. But after a shocking death occurs during her stay, China will plunge into the archives of another time to connect the sins of the past with a modern-day murder.
  3. Holly Blues – China Bayles isn’t happy when a Texas wind blows her husband’s ex-wife, and the mother of China’s stepson, into her herb shop. Sally is known to have a split personality and fall into constant trouble with the law, but she claims she has nowhere else to turn. Now, it’s up to China to weed out whatever it is Sally’s running from before the truth catches up to them all.
  1. Mourning Gloria – 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.
  2. Cat’s Claw – 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.
  3. Widow’s Tears – After losing her family and home in the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, Rachel Blackwood rebuilt her house a hundred miles inland and later died there. In present-day Texas, Claire, the grandniece of Rachel’s caretaker, has inherited the house and wants to turn it into a bed-and-breakfast. But she is concerned that it’s haunted, so she calls in her friend Ruby-who has the gift of extrasensory perception-to check it out.
  1. Death Come Quickly – When China Bayles and Ruby’s friend Karen Prior is mugged in a mall parking lot and dies a few days later, China begins to suspect that it was not a random assault. Karen was a filmmaker supervising a student documentary about the almost fifteen-year-old murder of a woman named Christine Morris and the acquittal of the man accused of the crime. Is it possible that the same person who killed Christine Morris targeted Karen?
  2. Bittersweet – For Thanksgiving, China Bayles is planning to visit her mother, Leatha, and her mother’s husband, Sam. She’s also looking forward to catching up with a friend, game warden Mackenzie “Mack” Chambers. But Leatha calls with bad news: Sam has had a heart attack.
  3. Blood Orange – China Bayles is renting her guest cottage to Kelly Kaufman, who needs a temporary place to live as she contends with an acrimonious divorce. At the same time, as a nurse employed by a local hospice, Kelly has discovered instances of suspicious practices and believes that a patient has been murdered.
  1. The Last Chance Olive Ranch – A killer McQuaid put away years ago has busted out of Huntsville Prison and appears to be headed for Pecan Springs. China Bayles wants to stay by her husband’s side and keep him from harm, but McQuaid insists that she get out of town and go to the Last Chance Olive Ranch, where she’s agreed to teach a workshop on herbs.
  2. Queen Anne’s Lace – While helping Ruby Wilcox clean up the loft above their shops, China Bayles comes upon a box of antique handcrafted lace and old photographs. Following the discovery, she hears a woman humming an old Scottish ballad and smells the delicate scent of lavender… Soon, strange happenings start to occur in Thyme and Seasons.
  3. A Plain Vanilla Murder – China Bayles and Ruby Wilcox are presenting their annual ”Not Just Plain Vanilla Workshop,” always a huge hit with customers at Thyme & Seasons Herb Shop. But someone involved with the workshop is driven by a deadly motive, and China soon finds herself teaming up with the very pregnant Pecan Springs police chief Sheila Dawson to solve a vanilla-flavored murder.
  1. Hemlock – Herbalist China Bayles’ latest adventure takes her to the mountains of North Carolina, where her friend Dorothea Harper serves as the director and curator of the Hemlock House Library, a priceless collection of rare gardening books housed in a haunted mountainside mansion that once belonged to Sunny Carswell, a reclusive heiress. But the most valuable book-A Curious Herbal, created by Elizabeth Blackwell in the 1730s-is missing and Dorothea is under suspicion.
  2. Forget Me Never – Olivia Andrews is locally famous for her blog and podcast, “Forget Me Not: A Crime Victim’s Storyboard,” which is dedicated to telling the stories of victims of crime. Now, she has a stunning story to tell about a decades-old murder mystery involving a prominent citizen of Pecan Springs—someone who isn’t the man everybody thinks he is. But she is killed by a hit-and-run driver while she’s out jogging early one morning. Was it an accident—or something else? Her sister wants to know.

If you like The China Bayles reading order, you may be interested in the Meg Langslow series, the Tea Shop Mysteries, the Aunt Dimity series, or Susan Wittig Albert’s Darling Dahlias series.

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