The Last Chance Olive Ranch

November 3, 2019 - The Last Chance Olive Ranch (Susan Wittig Albert). Plans for a quiet weekend at an olive ranch go awry when family drama puts Texas herb shop owner China Bayles – and her private investigator husband – in danger.

The action here takes place over a 48-hour period. It starts early on a Friday morning when a phone call alerts China's husband, Mike McQuaid, to a prison break. A death row inmate has escaped, and it appears that he is using his freedom to kill the people who helped put him behind bars. One of those people is McQuaid, who was a cop at the time and who now regrets not killing the man when he had the chance.

While McQuaid cooks up a plan to lure the fugitive to Pecan Springs and capture him, he insists that China stick to her plan for the weekend and head out of town to the Last Chance Olive Ranch. China and her friend, Ruby, were invited to give a seminar there. On the way, Ruby educates China about the history of the ranch. She explains that the land is now the center of a legal battle between Maddie, who runs the ranch, and Boyd, the handsome but financially-strapped grandson of the original owner. It's a battle that ends up having potentially deadly consequences for several people, including China.

McQuaid, however, knows nothing about the unexpectedly dangerous adventure that China's weekend has turned into. He's focused on catching the escaped fugitive. Complicating matters is his ex-wife, Sally. Seems someone is after her and she needs someplace to hide for a while. McQuaid's house in Pecan Springs seems like a good spot. Until it's not.

Author Susan Wittig Albert tells the story in chapters told alternately from the points of view of China and McQuaid. In one chapter, we're at the ranch with China. In the next, we're with McQuaid as he tracks the escaped prisoner. It's easy to keep track of who's doing what and when and where. It's also pretty easy to see where each story is headed. The ending(s) come as no surprise, but Albert's easy style makes it enjoyable to watch the characters get there.