cover image Wormwood


Susan Wittig Albert, . . Berkley Prime Crime, $24.95 (307pp) ISBN 978-0-425-22609-4

Murders past and present with a Shaker link intersect in alarming ways in Albert's engaging 17th China Bayles puzzler (after 2008's Nightshade ). Recent painful events help prompt China, who runs an herb shop and tearoom in Pecan Springs, Tex., to visit her herbalist friend Martha Edmond at Kentucky's Mount Zion Shaker Village, whose board president, Rachel Hart, wants to turn the quaint Shaker museum center into an upscale spa, contrary to the spirit of the original believers. Martha asks China to investigate recent disturbing events, including vandalism, the suicide of a thieving gift shop manager and, according to financial director Allie Chatham, Rachel's embezzlement of funds. When Allie's later found dead in Zion's pool, where a Shaker woman drowned in 1912, Martha and China suspect murder. Shaker-inspired recipes, excerpts from a fictional Shaker journal, insights into the Shaker religion and plenty of herbal lore enhance another winner from this dependable veteran. Author tour. (Apr.)