The Last Chance Olive Ranch (China Bayles)
by Susan Wittig Albert
Cover Artist: Joe Burleson
Review by Gayle Surrette
Berkley Hardcover / eBook ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425280034
Date: 04 April 2017
China Bayles and Ruby Wilcox are set to do a workshop at Last Chance Olive Ranch. It's something they'd wanted to do for a while and finally the schedules meshed. Ruby was friends with the current owner of the ranch, Maddie Haskell, and in fact had been visiting the ranch nearly yearly since she was a young girl. Ruby suspects that Maddie is in trouble and wants China's opinion and perhaps her advice.
On the day they are to set out for the ranch, McQuaid and China are woken up astonishingly early by a phone call from a Jessie Branson to let him know that Max Mantel, a criminal that McQuaid had helped put away, had escaped from Huntsville maximum-security prison. Mantel is out for revenge and Paul Watkins, who had been the assistant district attorney at the time, was now dead. The original team was being warned to be careful.
China knows her husband and wants to stay with him so he doesn't do something foolish like play as bait to pull in Mantel. McQuaid, on the other hand, plans to be bait and, with the help of his cop friends, recapture Mantel. So he wants China to go to the ranch where she'll be safe. In the end, China and Ruby head to the ranch and McQuaid begins to plan to capture Mantel.
This is all set up very early in the book. Once China is on the road and McQuaid begins to check in with his old team, the chapters mostly swap between the two of them. We finally get to be in McQuaid's thoughts as well as China’s. Luckily for the reader, this means that we have two exciting adventures going on and, as much as I wanted to know what was going to happen next in the China plotline, I hated to leave the McQuaid plotline and vice versa.
China's vacation and workshop trip to Last Chance Olive Ranch should have been restful and informative as she'd hoped to learn a lot more about olives and the making of olive oil. However, Ruby was correct there was something really troubling going on at the ranch.
McQuaid had a great plan to pull in Mantel, but things do not work out as planned – when do they ever in real life or in books? Instead the complications multiply and a few wild cards added to the mix could mean he could lose more than he ever wanted to risk.
The Last Chance Olive Ranch moves the bar up a notch for put on your seatbelt action and excitement. It also is filled with great information about olives, how to grow them, the various classification of the oil, how the oil is made, and what to watch out for when buying oil, not to mention some great recipes using olive oil. I truly enjoy the mysteries and the characters but I also love the chance to learn more about herbs and plants. You can't miss with a tightly written dual mysteries that put characters you care about in precarious situations and also educates the reader on a specific area of herb lore, use, and cultivation.