In this exciting mystery from New York Times bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert, China Bayles fears for her husband’s life as an escaped convict targets him...
Max Mantel, the killer McQuaid put away years ago, has busted out of the Huntsville prison and appears to be headed for Pecan Springs. McQuaid knows there’s only one way to stop the vengeful convict—set a trap with himself as bait.
China 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.
When China and her best friend arrive at the ranch, she learns the owner, Maddie Haskell, has her own troubles. She inherited the ranch and olive oil business from the late matriarch, Eliza Butler, but Eliza’s nephew is contesting the will.
While China throws herself into helping Maddie, McQuaid’s plan backfires when Mantel executes a countermove he never saw coming. Now McQuaid’s life is not the only one at stake—and this time may really be his last chance...
At the start of Albert's absorbing 25th China Bayles mystery (after 2016's Blood Orange), an early morning phone call alerts herbalist and former lawyer China and her husband, PI Mike McQuaid, that Max Mantel, who was convicted of murdering two teenage girls years ago, has escaped from the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville. Mantel has vowed to kill everyone connected with his incarceration, including Mike, who was a Houston homicide cop at the time. China and her friend and business partner, Ruby Wilcox, have already agreed to do a seminar on herbalism for the Last Chance Olive Ranch, an hour's drive west of Pecan Spring, Tex., their home town. Mike insists that they fulfill their obligation, feeling that China will be safer there. Once at the ranch, China and Ruby tumble into a mystery adventure of their own. The book alternates between Mike's tense cat-and-mouse game with Mantel and China's brush with a murderer. Lore and tips about olive oil production and use lend interest, and the book closes with an enticing collection of recipes.
25th book in series!
The Last Chance Olive Ranch by Susan Wittig Albert is the twenty-fifth book in The China Bayles Mystery series. Mike McQuaid and China Bayles are awakened early by the phone ringing. The call is for McQuaid to let him know that Max Mantel, a convict he put away in prison, has broken out of Huntsville prison. Mantel has already killed Paul Watkins, the prosecutor at his trial. McQuaid is glad that China is going out of town for the weekend to teach a conference. China, though, would rather stay in town and make sure that McQuaid is safe. McQuaid is not going to risk China’s life, so he ensures that she is off with Ruby. China agreed to teach a workshop at Maddie Haskell’s Last Chance Olive Ranch. After teaching on Saturday, they will have the rest of the weekend to relax. It turns out that Maddie has a little problem. She inherited the ranch from Eliza Butler and Eliza’s nephew, Billy Butler is less than thrilled. Billy is contesting the will and has the probate judge in his pocket. The weekend is not going to be as restful as China was hoping nor as safe as McQuaid was expecting. Meanwhile, McQuaid is setting a trap to capture escaped Max Mantel. The plan goes awry when Sally, McQuaid’s crazy ex-wife shows up in town. Sally ends up getting kidnapped by Mantel who believes he has China. Mantel wants McQuaid to turn himself over in exchange for Sally. McQuaid sets out to capture Mantel and reluctantly save Sally (she is one nutty lady). China and McQuaid are in for a rough weekend.
The Last Chance Olive Ranch is nicely written and has some interesting information about olives and olive oil. I did not know olives could grow in the United States. I found the pace to be a little slow at times especially during the McQuaid sections (it did help me fall asleep one night). The story is told from two different perspectives: China and McQuaid. I would have preferred third person to make the story more cohesive and logical (instead of switching back and forth every other chapter). Personally, I wish the author had only done one storyline. The McQuaid sections are not the type normally included in cozy mysteries. I keep hoping the author will find a way for McQuaid and China to solve cases together (cozy mystery cases). Actually, I was a little bored with no mystery to solve. The revelation regarding Maddie was no surprise. I am sure that the majority of readers will figure it out long before the secret is revealed. I give The Last Chance Olive Ranch 3 out of 5 stars. I did not find this novel to have any suspense (and it was supposed to). The writing is descriptive (overly so), and I never was able to get into the story. This is one of those books that I just read. I love it when a book fully engages my attention and draws me in. While reading the McQuaid storyline, I kept hoping that McQuaid would capture Max and Sally would get hit by a stray bullet (and then bite the bullet if you get my meaning). I found Sally to be a very unlikeable character and an unwelcome addition to the book (I do not understand why she is not in a mental health facility). While The Last Chance Olive Ranch is the twenty-fifth book in the series, it can be read alone. The author provides all the necessary background details on China, McQuaid and the family (including Sally). I preferred the early books in The China Bayles Mystery series. I did appreciate the ending of The Last Chance Olive Ranch. It is sweet and nicely wraps up the storylines.