Thursday, June 11, 2009
Wormwood by Susan Wittig Albert
By Susan Wittig Albert
Berkley Prime Crime; $24.95
Texas author Susan Wittig Albert is a very busy lady. In addition to writing a Victorian mystery series with her husband, Bill Albert, and her own series “The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter,” as well as a couple of non-fiction books, Albert has recently released the seventeenth book in her beloved China Bayles mysteries, and it’s a book of pure delight.
“Wormwood” departs from the usual setting of Pecan Springs, Texas where the heroine of the series, China Bayles, owns an herb shop called Thyme and Seasons, and is known for solving many a mystery in her spare time. This tale follows China as she travels with her friend, Martha, north to Kentucky to help conduct an herbal seminar at a Shaker Community museum.
Once the ladies arrive at the compound, China is amazed at the facility that has been developed for education opportunities as well as tourism for those interested in learning about the Shaker way of life. However, underneath the idyllic depiction of the simple life of long ago lies an undercurrent of trouble that soon erupts in murder and mayhem. China finds herself drawn into a present-day mystery that needs to be solved by first unraveling an equally baffling mystery from the past.
Alternating chapters set in the present with ones that tell the history of the Shaker village and its inhabitants, Albert gives her readers a dose of history along with an edge-of-your-seat mystery. As she delves into the story of the habits and customs of the Shaker folks who once lived what seemed to be a deceptively simple way of life, Albert expertly weaves in the parallels and coincidences that China discovers as she tries to sort out who and what threatens to bring the Shaker Village to ruin.
Lovers of cozy mysteries will find this installment of the China Bayles saga a bit different from the usual antics of the herbalist sleuth, but should find it enjoyable all the same. Those interested in historical background in their mysteries will appreciate the research that went into this novel. Fans of great fiction will love “Wormwood” for its excellent writing.
Albert is currently working on several new books for the future. Watch for this busy lady’s work – you’ll be glad you did.