Genre: paranormal cozy mystery
Cover: fits the series
Herbalist and ex-lawyer China Bayles is "in a class with lady sleuths V. I. Warshawski and Stephanie Plum."* In Widow's Tears, a haunted house may hold the key to solving the murder of one of China's friends...
After losing her husband, five children, housekeeper, and beautiful home in the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, Rachel Blackwood rebuilt her home, and later died there, having been driven mad with grief.
In present-day Texas, Claire, the grand niece of Rachel's caretaker, has inherited the house and wants to turn it into a bed and breakfast. But she is concerned that it's haunted, so she calls in her friend Ruby - who has the gift of extrasensory perception - to check it out.
While Ruby is ghost-hunting, China Bayles walks into a storm of trouble in nearby Pecan Springs. A half hour before she is to make her nightly deposit, the Pecan Springs bank is robbed and a teller is shot and killed.
Before she can discover the identity of the killers, China follows Ruby to the Blackwood house to discuss urgent business. As she is drawn into the mystery of the haunted house, China opens the door on some very real danger...
This book was certainly different from the rest of the series. It was focused on the destruction of Galveston in the Great Galveston Hurricane, on September 8, 1900. It tells the story of Rachel Blackwood, and how she sees the storm coming, and how she looses her husband, all her children, her housekeeper and her beloved house. No one believed a Hurricane could be this deadly and reach Galveston, but it sure did. The story is based on eye-witness reports, though Rachel Blackwood is a fictional character created by the author.
Rachel went kind of mad with grief, and had the house her husband designed for Galveston, rebuild in Texas. But she had only her memories to work with, so it sure looked frightening and just wrong with strange angels and corners on the outside. She lived there to a very old age with only a housekeeper to keep her company, and her memories of her children and husband. Even the decorations inside are just as they were back then, in happier times.
The new owner of the house is Claire, a childhood friend of Ruby’s and the one present when Ruby saw her own ghosts, when visiting the house Claire’s grandmother was living in. And now Claire has called for her help, and although Ruby never wants to visit the Blackwood Estate again, she cannot refuse her friend’s desperate plea for help. And so she sets out for a journey to the Blackwood Estate. Perhaps she can use the time away to sort out her own too busy life and make some decisions about what she wants to do. Her sister has offered to buy out her share in the business Ruby has going with China and Cass, and she is very tempted, but she also knows that Ramona and China will never get along.
Having arrived at the estate, Ruby soon gets a taste of the ghost hanging around and making itself known. But how she can help her friend, Ruby has no idea just yet.
Meanwhile, in Pecan Springs China has problems of herself, when Ramona seeks her out. Ramona presents her offer to Ruby as a done deal, acting like she and China are the best of friends and working together already, with of course Ramona calling the shots. But China was not a lawyer for nothing, Ruby cannot sell her share to Ramona without offering it to China first, and she will never ever let that happen. She will buy the business herself, no matter how or where she will get the money for it. But working for Ramona, who is so very pushy and convinced of being right all the time, no way. But China also cannot just wait until Ruby gets back to get the real story out of her. And as there is not cellphone reception where Ruby is, China will just drive over and ask her herself.
But another nasty storm is brewing, and soon China finds herself stranded with Ruby and Claire, finding out that ghosts are real, no matter who unable she is to believe in them. The connection between the ghost Rachel, Claire and Ruby is grieve. Claire lost her husband, and Ruby her boyfriend, and she is still grieving over Colin.
There is a subplot about a couple of bankrobbers, which I guessed from the start, although the ending is not a very good one for them, and kind of horrifying. The story of the ghost and what happened in Galveston back then, is the main story in this book, with Ruby and China more as witnesses after the fact. It absolutely kept me reading, I wanted more and I just had to find out what would go wrong next. Of course the present day storm added to the atmosphere a lot.
To read what has happened is frightening, and portrayed very realistically. I am again very glad we have none of these kind of lethal storms here in Holland, that our weather is much more moderate. Sure we have very nasty storms, like in 1953, but we certainly hope we are prepared now against water that high and strong. Most of Holland is below sealevel (luckily not my city though!).
There is only a mention of the usual cast of characters in this book, China’s husband and their children, and Ruby’s extended family.
I did like this story a lot, but I do hope to get back to modern day mysteries and murder for China to solve, in the next books. And as usual, there is a description of a herb in the start of each chapter, and there are some recipes in the back as well, from food served in their tearoom.
© 2014 Reviews by Aurian