Friday, February 13, 2009

Wormwood-Susan Wittig Albert

Susan Wittig Albert
Berkley, Apr 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780425226094

In Pecan Springs, Texas, herbalist and entrepreneur China Bayles is emotionally exhausted after discovering she had a half-brother Miles who wanted to get to know her; only, Miles was murdered leaving behind an orphaned daughter Caitlin to be raised by her Aunts Marcia and China. They want to make the tweener comfortable as China plans to be the best guardian she can be.

China and her friend Martha Edmond go on vacation to the Mt Zion Shaker village, a tourist attraction in Kentucky. Martha tells China about a series of “accidents” in the village culminating with an arson fire that left several horses dead. She asks China to investigate, which the sleuth does. They learn from the accounting officer Allie that some stocks are missing form the endowment trust. Soon afterward the two women find Allie murdered. They know that someone will kill especially meddling investigators to keep the truth concealed.

This is the usual great Bayles whodunit, but enhanced with a strong look at the history of the Shaker movement as Martha’s grandmother lived in Mt Zion; her story rotates with the modern day mystery. Obviously Susan Wittig Albert has done a lot of meticulous research into the Shaker culture especially the belief system as the lifestyle comes across as if the audience is visiting a late nineteenth century village. Fans will enjoy China’s latest tale as ironically, the crimes of the present mirror that of the past.

Harriet Klausner