Bloodroot (China Bayles Series #10)

Bloodroot (China Bayles Series #10)

by Susan Wittig Albert

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Lawyer-turned-herbalist China Bayles returns to the Deep South, where her family’s legacy of silence is at last broken—and the past finally, unforgettably, speaks the truth…


A frantic phone call from her mother brings China back to her family’s Mississippi plantation—a place she’d forsaken long ago. But the late-spring air is thick with fear—and from the moment of her arrival, China knows that something has gone desperately wrong at Jordan’s Crossing. An ancient property deed has surfaced—and the man who uncovered it has mysteriously vanished. And as the fates and fortunes of two very different families collide in frightening, unpredictable ways, China must face disturbing new questions about her family’s past—and her own future…


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425188149
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/07/2003
Series: China Bayles Series , #10
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 259,416
Product dimensions: 6.70(w) x 10.90(h) x 0.86(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Susan Wittig Albert grew up on a farm in Illinois and earned her Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley. A former professor of English and a university administrator and vice president, she is the author of the China Bayles Mysteries, the Darling Dahlias Mysteries, and the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter. Some of her recent titles include Widow’s Tears, Cat’s Claw, The Darling Dahlias and the Confederate Rose, and The Tale of Castle Cottage. She and her husband, Bill, coauthor a series of Victorian-Edwardian mysteries under the name Robin Paige, which includes such titles as Death at Glamis Castle and Death at Whitechapel.

Date of Birth:


Place of Birth:

Danville, Illinois


Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley

Read an Excerpt


Many wild flowers which we have transplanted to our gardens are full of magic and charm, while others are full of mystery. In childhood I absolutely abhorred Bloodroot; it seemed to me a fearsome thing. I remember well my dismay, it was so pure, so sleek, so innocent of face, yet bleeding at a touch, like a murdered man in the Blood Ordeal.
--Alice Morse Earle
Old Time Gardens, 1901

For a long time, it has seemed to me that every chapter in my life's story has held a meaning I'm meant to understand, a lesson I'm meant to learn-and this one is no different. Before I went to Jordan's Crossing, I believed it was possible to cut myself off from a past I had rejected, to disinherit myself from my family and renounce its unhappy legacy. But the past, as someone has said, is always present, no matter how completely you reject its mysteries or pretend that they don't exist. I think now that everything that happened during those difficult days at Jordan's Crossing was meant to make me come to terms with what is in my blood, to force me (if you'll pardon the metaphor) to dig out my roots. But perhaps the lesson was even more specific than that: I was meant to rediscover the legacy I inherited from the women who bore me-as my friend Ruby Wilcox would say, from the motherline.

Whatever the reasons, I had a lot to learn during the days I spent with my mother at the place where she grew up, at Jordan's Crossing. Now, it seems to me that we were able to resolve only a very few of the mysteries. Yes, we found out who killed Wiley Beauchamp, and why. We discovered an unsuspected branch of the family tree. And we learned far more than it is comfortable toknow of the ugly truths wrapped in the bloody history of the Mississippi plantation where as a child I spent the hot, still summers, rich in the resinous scent of pine trees and the moist green smells of the swamp. But the deeper shadows in that house, the darker enigmas, the most puzzling mysteries-these ghosts haunted my childhood, and haunt me still.

I think they always will.


"Hello, Mother," I said into the phone, as lightly as I could. "What's up?"

"I need you, China." Her voice was taut and urgent, and low, as if she were afraid of being overheard. "I want you to come right away. Come today."

I cleared my throat. "How's Aunt Tullie? Is she-"

"Some days are better than others. But that's not why."

"Well, then, what is it? I told you last night: Unless it's really important, I can't just drop everything and-"

"I wouldn't ask if it wasn't important," she said, and I thought that the longer she stayed at Jordan's Crossing, the more Southern she sounded: I wudn't ask if it wa'n't impawt'nt. "There's trouble here, China, and there's nobody to talk to. Nobody I can trust, anyway. And you're a lawyer. You can help."

Uh-oh. That kind of trouble. "Mother," I said carefully, "you know I don't practice now. And I've never done wills and estates, if that's what this is about." I used to be a criminal defense lawyer before I cashed in my retirement fund, moved from Houston to Pecan Springs, and bought Thyme and Seasons. I keep my bar membership current, just in case, but the old life has no appeal for me, and I hate it when people ask legal questions. "If you and Aunt Tullie need property advice or help with her will or whatever," I added, "you should find somebody local. Anyway, you must have a family lawyer. Can't he-"

"China," Leatha snapped, "this has nothin' whatsoever to do with your great-aunt's will, and the fam'ly lawyer is part of the problem. And if you keep on ditherin' back and forth and draggin' your feet, Aunt Tullie could be in jail by the time you get here. Is that important enough for you?"

I sucked in my breath. "In jail?"

"It's a distinct possibility," Leatha replied darkly. "The police haven't been here yet, but," her pause was pregnant with significance. "Well? Can you leave today?"

"I suppose, if Mother McQuaid is available to stay with Brian. McQuaid is going to a conference." I scowled. "What do the police have to do with anything? What the hell is going on there?"

"I can't go into it on the phone," she said evasively. "What time can I look for you?" I glanced at my watch. It was just after nine. "If I leave in a couple of hours, I suppose I could be there by ten or eleven-midnight at the latest."

"Good," Leatha said, and I could hear the relief in her voice. "I'll wait up. Do you remember how to get here? Take Route 61 north from Vicksburg. When you get to Middle Fork, go east to Chicory."

Middle Fork. Chicory. The names brought back images of dusty towns, unpaved streets arched with green trees shimmering in the summer sun, barefoot kids in straw hats, cane fishing poles over their shoulders, heading for the river.

"If I get lost, I'll call," I said.

"Drive safe, dear." The urgency came back. "But please hurry."

I turned off the phone and went into the tearoom. "You were right," I said with a sigh to Ruby, who was checking the menu. Thyme for Tea doesn't open until eleven-thirty, but Janet, our cook, was already in the kitchen, getting things ready for the day.

Ruby glanced at my face. "When are you leaving?"

"As soon as I can arrange it, if it's okay with you. McQuaid will be out of town too, so I've got to call his mother and see if she can come and stay with Brian. I'm sure Laurel can manage the shop by herself, though, now that things have slowed down a little." I looked around at the tearoom, with its original limestone walls and hunter-green wainscoting, green-painted tables cheerful with floral chintz napkins and terra-cotta teapot centerpieces, pots of lush ivy and philodendron hanging from the ceiling. Janet was humming happily in the kitchen, the tables were laid for lunch, and I knew that Ruby could handle anything that came up.

"Of course it's okay," Ruby said. "You don't have to worry about this place. Just be sure to leave a phone number where I can get in touch with you." She gave me an intent look. "Has Aunt Tullie taken a turn for the worse?"

"I don't think that's it," I said. "This is different." Jail? I turned on the phone and punched in the McQuaids' number.

"Well," Ruby said, "if it turns out that Uncle Jed is causing trouble, you can always give me a call. I'm sure I can come up with something that will help, even long distance."

"Thanks," I told her, tapping my fingers impatiently. "But I'm sure I'll be able to manage."

Yeah, right. If I'd have known how the trip was going to turn out, I would have insisted that Ruby get in the car and go with me. She's the only one I know who's qualified to handle the weird things that happened in Mississippi.

--From Bloodroot by Susan Wittig Albert, (c) October 2001, Prime Crime, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc., used by permission.

Table of Contents

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“A wonderful reading experience.”—Midwest Book Review
“A unique series.”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“Albert has created captivating new characters and a setting dripping with atmosphere.”—Publishers Weekly


Customer Reviews

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Bloodroot (China Bayles Series #10) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
sopranoIN More than 1 year ago
As usual, I loved this book because I love the characters. It was easy to read; very enjoyable and yet I always learn something. If you read the ebook there are a lot of typos in this book...some are words run together, some are punctuation problems that make the meaning of the sentence or the flow of it stop you for a moment. I know this is going to happen with digital books but boy this one was really full of what I will call spacing typos.
OdysseusUlysses More than 1 year ago
Set in modern day, the family plantation located in Bloodroot, an imaginary location near the "real origins of the Choctaw and Chickasaw in the delta country" of the Jordan Mississippi. China hates her connection to the Old South and its injustices, her memories of childhood summers there still haunt her, so she hasn't been back in years. She wouldn't have agreed to go now, except her mother told her that her legal expertise was needed to keep Great Aunt Tullie out of jail. Tullie Coldwell is a difficult old woman at best, due to a hereditary progressive, ultimately fatal neurological disease. China must determine if her Great Aunt Tullie is guilty of homicide. The plantation manager has been found dead after receiving a blow to the head from Tullie's cane, the investigation leads to disappearances, deaths, family secrets, and property disputes.both present and past. A mystery written by a woman for women to read, I say this because of peppered recipes, and majority of characters are women with only a few evil men to hate. Each chapter begins with a recipe or quotation from herbalist note of a local plant and it history.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is certainly a different book in this series. For one thing there is no Ruby Wilcox, and I for one really missed her, as well as other eccentric citizens of Pecan Springs. It was interesting to look back at China's early life, and the mysitical theme was actually quite well done. This wasn't a mystery though in the true sense of the word. It's more a search for the past in China's mother's family. I still enjoyed the book, but I do want to get back to the main storyline in the next book in the series. We also see China getting softer and more feminine in each book. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I hope she doesn't get too soft since her toughness is part of the appeal of this series.
Twincrk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not my favorite, takes place in her deep South home town
madamejeanie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
China is summoned by her mother to the home of her great-aunt Tullie at Jordan's Crossing, the plantation that had been in her mother's family for generations. Her mother's phone call had not been a simple invitation but a demand. There was a mysterious disappearance of a man only hours after Aunt Tullie had whacked him in the head with her cane. The more questions China asks, the more confusing and detailed the story becomes, until she finds herself discovering answers to secrets long buried by her ancestors. Nothing is as it seems in her mother's family, and some questions are never meant to be answered.My mother always said you shouldn't shake your family tree too much because a monkey might fall out of it. That is a warning that China should have taken to heart in this tale. This book was completely different from others in this series, different setting, different feel to the characters, but I have to say it was one of the best ones I've read so far. I had the whole thing figured out way before China did and there were several times with I wanted to reach out and shake her and tell her to get back to her room and READ, but I still enjoyed this tale. It gets a 4 from me.
pschristmas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This China Bayles novel is very different from the others in the series. It has a bit of a darker feel to it. China travels with her mother to the Louisiana home of an elderly great-aunt and uncovers the answers to a number of questions about her family's troubled past. A very good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
~Lodgepole Grove
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Guest More than 1 year ago
In this book China Bayles has to deal with her family that she disowned many years before. She deals not only with the living family, but she also has to unravel some family secrets and possibly deal with their ghosts. Her mother Leatha calls and asks her to come to come to Jordan¿s Crossing, the old family plantation in Mississippi. She will only tell her that Aunt Tullie might end up in jail if she doesn¿t come to help. China is no longer a practicing lawyer, but she gets Ruby to look after her herbal store Thyme and Seasons. She says goodbye to her husband McQuaid and his son Brian. Then takes off for Jordan¿s Crossing. When she arrives, she finds that not only has Aunt Tullie aged in the years since China has seen here, but she is also not well. Sometimes she is fairly lucid, but not always. Her mother tells her that Wiley showed up with what he claimed to be a deed to a portion of their land. No one seemed to be aware of this and Aunt Tullie got quite upset. Wiley hasn¿t been seen since. There are extenuating circumstances and then the Deputy gets involved in the search for Wiley. China renews an old friendship with Darlene, who is now the cook at Jordan¿s Crossing. They start looking into things and find that there is more going on than just a deed. China starts reading Great-Grandmother Pearl¿s diary hoping to unlock some of the secrets. China finds herself in many interesting situations and dealing with many feelings regarding her family and heritage. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more China Bayles mysteries. This book was very well written and the plot was masterfully crafted. I highly recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
China Bayles stands alone. This book is different in that by returning to her mother's familial home in Mississippi, the family and friends of Pecan Springs, Texas, who have been so integral to the development of China and the China Bayles series, are left behind. This truly could be a stand alone mystery. To me, as a reader who has read all the previous China Bayles mysteries, this China cannot be separated from the China who I have gotten to know. The characters and the setting are not as vivid in this book as in previous ones of the series. But then, the change from a kind of cosy to a gothic mystery requires change to make it work. Refreshing in it's change, it's still comfortable to avid mystery readers and those who know China.
harstan More than 1 year ago
China Bayles is a self made independent woman who turned her back on her mother¿s Mississippi family because she refused to conform to the old South¿s vision of how a woman should behave. She lives in Pecan Springs, Texas with her husband and stepson. She proudly owns the Thyme and Sears herb shop and is co-owner of Thyme for Tea teashop. She has no plans to return to the family plantation of Jordan¿s Crossing until her mother calls her because she needs her help.

When China arrives at the old homestead, she learns that her great-aunt Tullie, a victim of Huntington¿s Disease, has struck down the plantation manager in a pique of anger. China¿s mother argues with her daughter that the irate manager walked out of the house enraged, but he has since disappeared. The police want to question Tullie about the spat. As China struggles to balance family loyalty with her legal responsibilities, she unearths secrets that should stay buried in the land that created them.

This is a different China Bayles unlike the one readers have come to know and love. The audience sees her as a true daughter of the south, fully cognizant of the rules, expectations and ties that bind her to a place she no longer can call home but has a hold on her loyalties. There are mysteries aplenty in BLOODROOT, some of them of the otherworldly kind. The author allows us to see, through the fist person narrative, how a Southern woman copes with her environment. This is a wonderful reading experience.

Harriet Klausner