Bleeding Hearts

October 20, 2007 - Bleeding Hearts (Susan Wittig Albert). We return to the small town of Pecan Springs, Texas for this entry in the China Bayles mystery series from Susan Wittig Albert. This story features several plots and sub-plots but none really comes to a satisfying conclusion.

The main plot centers on allegations that the town's high school football coach may have engaged in some inappropriate behavior - namely, an affair with a student - at his previous school. Based on the behavior of some characters, it appears that the coach may be up to his old tricks in the new town. The Pecan Springs superintendent asks China to investigate. She discovers that the student in question came to college in Pecan Springs and recently died from an apparent suicide.

We also have the case of the missing quilt. It was stolen from an exhibit. China's friend, Ruby, who organized the local quilters' club, is looking into the matter by consulting her homemade Ouija board.

China is worried about Ruby for another reason, though. Ruby's boyfriend is, if not shady, at least opaque. China is not sure he is who he says he is. In the past, he dated the woman who is now the police chief in Pecan Springs.

China also discovers that she has a half-brother, sired by her father with his long-time mistress. Based on photographic evidence, it appears that China's father gave the bastard a lot more affection than he ever gave her.

Here's the wrap-up: The coach is murdered while trying to put the moves on a new girl. A digital photograph reveals the killer to be the mother of his previous victim, so there's no mystery there. Before the woman can be arrested, she kills herself. No drama there. The "suicide" of the previous victim turns out to be a murder. This should have been figured out by the police in the first place, but the investigation was less than competent. Once the mistakes were realized, it took about two minutes to peg the coach's wife as the killer. The quilt turns up in the freezer of another woman in town with no explanation of why she took it.

Still to be resolved is the situation with Ruby's boyfriend. The police chief spills to China that he's a former cop who did prison time for tipping off a drug dealer or something. So far, China has not told Ruby. And, it seems that in the months before his car went off a bridge, China's father feared for his life. Does she now have his murder to solve???

So, not the best entry in the series, but it does open some interesting avenues.