Description: While helping Ruby Wilcox clean up the loft above their shops, China comes upon a box of antique handcrafted lace and old photographs. Following the discovery, she hears a woman humming an old Scottish ballad and smells the delicate scent of lavender....
Soon, strange happenings start to occur in Thyme and Seasons: misplaced items, a ringing bell, and the appearance of lavender sprigs in odd places. When a customer mentions seeing a mysterious woman picking flowers nearby and then suddenly disappearing, China must finally admit what Ruby has always known--their building is haunted. But by whom?
As China investigates, the tragic story of a woman in one of the old photographs unfolds. Annie Laurie was a young widow who'd lost both her husband and her child in the same day. She manages to survive through her lace-making business and finds happiness again only to have a suspicious death overshadow her new life.
China delves into Annie's century-old mystery and realizes that solving it could have unimaginable repercussions in the here and now.
Genre: Mystery - Cozy
Why I Picked This Book: There was no way I could resist that blurb!
My Impression: I can see why this series has 26 books and still appears to be going strong. The author has created a world full of characters that are well developed, an interesting setting, and a strong mystery. I was really surprised by the depth of emotion that was developed in the story - particularly in Annie Laurie's thread. That's something that I don't always expect from a cozy.
This was a somewhat dual timeline story with half of the story taking place in 1885 in the home of the Douglas family - the very same house that 125 years later will become China Bayles' herb shop and the rest taking place in modern day in the same building. I loved the ghostly mentions and the discovery of the trunk filled with lace and clues. I was really fascinated by the details of lace making and it gave me a whole new appreciation for just what hand made lace is. My heart broke for Annie Laurie as well to have her dream turn on it's head so quickly was so unbelievably tragic as her struggle to survive afterwards was so incredibly difficult.
I enjoyed how the mystery came together as China and her friends sorted through clues from the past. I enjoyed this part so much that I did get a little frustrated when the focus shifted to town life. This might have been better if I was a long time reader of the series and was more invested in these characters' lives. However, since I'm fairly new to China Bayles' world I found this frustrating and I was always eager to get back to the actual mystery solving.
This was a well written and well paced mystery and while there were many things I really enjoyed I think I would have gotten more out of it if I had been reading the series from the beginning and was more invested in the lives of China and her friends.
Would I Read More of this Series/Author? I would but I'd probably start from the beginning.
Would I Recommend this Book? If you're a long time reader of the series I think you'll really enjoy it but otherwise I'd recommend you start at the beginning - or at least closer to the beginning.