Halm (history, Univ. of Tbingen) attempts here to lessen the reader's confusion about the bewildering events in the Middle East. His work has three parts: the first, "The House of SorrowThe Twelve Imams," recounts the history and doctrine of Shi'a, the "party" of Ali ibn Ali Tahib and his 11 heirs, regarded as the true imams and only legitimate successors to the prophet Muhammed. Part 2, "The Deluge of WeepingFlagellant Procession and Passion Play," describes distinctive Shi'ite rituals that display grief and penitence over the martyrdoms of the successive imams. Most valuable in terms of modern history is the third part, "The Government of the ExpertIslam of the Mullahs," which discusses the forming of the Shi'ite hierarchy of mullahs and ayatollahs and how they came to religious and political power. Two minor criticisms of an otherwise excellent source: the hardcover is rather pricey, and the brief bibliography will not satisfy serious scholars. Recommended for academic libraries.James F. DeRoche, Alexandria, Va.