Lots of people think it would be great fun to own your own small business, especially if it involved plants, gardens, and healthy food. Well, lots of people could be right—on the good days, anyway.

I ran away from the law (that is, I left my career as a Houston criminal defense attorney) some years ago and settled in the small Texas town of Pecan Springs, halfway between Austin and San Antonio, where I opened my shop, Thyme & Seasons Herbs. Now, Ruby Wilcox—owner of the Crystal Cave, Pecan Springs’ only New Age shop—and I own and manage Thyme for Tea, a tea room, and Party Thyme, a catering service. Partnered with Cass Wilde, we also own The Thymely Gourmet. If you’re thinking that this sounds like life in a three-ring circus, you’re right. But believe me, it beats life in the courtroom.

On an ordinary day, I’m downstairs at six to get the kids breakfasted and off to the school bus: Brian, in his last year of high school, and Kaitlin, my 12-year-old niece and adopted daughter. Before they leave, Brian feeds our dog (Howard Cosell, an ancient basset hound) and cat (Pumpkin), while Kaitlin tends her chickens (known collectively as The Girls). Next down the stairs is McQuaid, my husband, a former Houston homicide detective and currently a part-time associate professor in the Criminal Justice department at Central Texas State University and a private investigator with his own firm. There’s time for a breakfast taco and coffee with McQuaid before he goes off to teach and/or meet a client and I’m off to the shop.

Ah, the shop. I’ve never stopped loving that wonderful moment when I unlock the door, flick on the lights, and step into my herb shop, which is located in a 125-year-old stone building on a quiet street just a couple of blocks off the town square. The limestone walls, wood-plank floor, and beamed ceiling are a picture-perfect setting for antique hutches and wooden shelves stocked with herbal vinegars, oils, teas, soaps, fragrances, and (naturally) books. A wooden rack displays glass jars of dried culinary and medicinal herbs, along with bottles of extracts and tinctures and aromatherapy products. Look around, and you’ll see that the walls are hung with seasonal wreaths and swags and there are buckets of fragrant potpourri in the corners, as well as stalks of dried sunflowers, bound with cheerful yellow ribbon, and baskets full of artemisia, larkspur, yarrow, and tansy. On most ordinary days, I’ll be in the shop, in the tea room, or working in the herb gardens. Or maybe leading a workshop or (if it’s Saturday) selling herbs in the Farmers Market across the street.

But not all days are ordinary days. That day last week, for example, when Ruby Wilcox’s goofy sister Ramona discovered a dead body in a neighbor’s kitchen. Sadly, the body turned out to be that of my webmaster and computer guru, Larry Kirk. The death was called in as a suicide, but my friend Sheila Dawson, Pecan Springs’ chief of police, thought otherwise—and thought, as well, that Larry’s death might be related to a break-in at his computer shop, for which local VIP George Timms was about to be arrested. I didn’t expect to have a role in the police investigation, but one thing led to another and before I knew it, I was playing Watson to Sheila’s Sherlock. Well, a little more than Watson, maybe, since things got very complicated, very fast, and I had a few unsettling discoveries of my own to make. But I don’t want to serve up any spoilers. You can read the whole thing (with the usual recipes and herb lore) in CAT’S CLAW, Susan Wittig Albert’s latest Pecan Springs mystery.

And yes, it’s true. Not all days are ordinary, not by a long shot.

** Thanks to the Susan, I have one (1) copy of CAT’S CLAW to give away. Contest open to residents of the US only. Contest ends March 23. Leave a valid-email address with your comment. Book will be shipped directly from the author. **

Meet the author
Susan Wittig Albert is the award-winning, best-selling author of over forty adult mysteries, including books in the China Bayles/Pecan Springs series; The Darling Dahlias (featuring a garden club in 1930s Alabama); the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter; and the Robin Paige Victorian/Edwardian series, co-authored with her husband, Bill Albert. Other books include Work of Her Own (1992) and Writing From Life: Telling the Soul’s Story (1997), as well as two memoirs—Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place (2008) and An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days (2010)—and a backlist of sixty-plus young adult books, including books in the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series (1984-1992). Visit Susan’s websites: www.susanalbert.com and www.mysterypartners.com. The three current series have their own websites: www.abouthyme.com; www.darlingdahlias.com; and www.cottagetales.com. Susan blogs at www.susanalbert.typepad.com/lifescapes.

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

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