June 14, 2017 - Bittersweet (Susan Wittig Albert). Another adventure in the author's China Bayles mystery series. This 22nd entry in the series exposes China to the dark side of the trophy hunting industry in Texas.

The action takes place around Thanksgiving. China is preparing her herb shop in Pecan Springs for the holidays before driving a couple of hours to the ranch that her mother and stepfather plan to open as a bird watching attraction. China had planned to help her mother prepare the guest rooms, but those plans quickly change when China's stepfather is rushed to the hospital following a heart attack.

The situation is further complicated when Sue Ellen, the young woman who's agreed to help out for a few months, decides to leave her husband. China suspects abuse, but Sue Ellen has an even bigger secret that she worries could eventually land her in jail. China, a former attorney, gives her some advice. But, before Sue Ellen can go to the police, her car is run of the road and over a cliff.

Sue Ellen's death is not the only one to mar the Thanksgiving holiday. A veterinarian is murdered in his office. The local game warden, Mackenzie "Mack" Chambers, suspects the murder has something to do with what the vet told her. He answered a call to a local ranch and noticed something that made him think the owners may be stealing trophy deer from another ranch.

China and Mack put their pieces of the puzzle together, but it takes help from a drone, a hunky deputy, and a big buck to bring the crooks to justice.

I feel it's kind of unfair for me to review this book since it took me a really long time to get through it. Mostly, I wasn't reading it because I was spending time following Twitter and watching news. On the other hand, maybe I just didn't find the subject matter engaging enough to care. For the most part, this is Mack's story, not China's. So much so that it could set up a spinoff series if the author chooses. China spends most of the book fretting about her mother and stepfather. She also offers plenty of almost free legal advice, which puts her in a position to help Mack solve two murders.

Albert has taken China out of Pecan Springs before, but she's never taken her out of a story to this extent. Here's hoping the next book keeps China closer to home and more involved.