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Indigo Dying: 06/12/21
Indigo Dying by Susan Wittig Albert is the eleventh book in the China Bayles mystery series. The series is now up to volume 28, Hemlock which releases in the fall. I hope to catch up to the series sooner rather than later but I've been slowly (glacially) reading this series since 2004. That means I've now caught up to where I was when I started.
The book opens with a violent death. A man opens a door and receives a face full of buckshot. An entire towns worth of people and some out of town media rush over to him. It's a great and memorable scene. Unfortunately it then takes the mystery until page 106 to get back to that spot in the narrative.
China Bayles the protagonist and first person narrator is a chatty character. Eleven books in and she still wants me to know where she lives, who her friends are, what her friends do for a living, and the news of her life for at least the last couple years. What this means for reading one of these mysteries: the first fifty page or so can honestly be skimmed (or sometimes even outright skipped) if you can remember the previous books.
The set up for this mystery is the backdrop of a failing town being encroached upon by a massive strip mining operation. In Texas mineral rights and land ownership are two separate and segregated things. You might own your land but someone else might own the crap in it and you might get pushed out when those rights are sold.
The man who dies violently owned all the mineral rights to the properties in Indigo. The upcoming Monday he had plans (which he'd loudly announced) to sign over the rights to the mining operation some two or so miles away. With him dead the town is saved. The big question is, who killed him?
I really wanted the solution to be something in the vein of The Trouble with Harry since so many people had a stake in wanting him dead. Sadly it's not. The whole mining operation thing is atmospheric but it's not the point of the book.
Tucked into one hundred and fifty pages of flashbacks, Texas mining information, red herrings, and lessons on natural dyes and the history of indigo vs woad as dyes, is about fifty pages of genuine mystery.
The twelfth book is A Dilly of a Death (2004).