Bloodroot – Book 10

“The latest in the popular series takes [China Bayles] into completely new territory, both geographically and emotionally. . . [Readers will appreciate]  Albert’s clear love of her subject matter, smooth styling and rich marbling of past and present.”
Publishers Weekly

Jordan’s Crossing….Just the thought of her family’s Mississippi plantation is enough to set China Bayles adrift on a sea of memories. The sweet perfume of magnolia blossoms mixed with the hot, heady smells of the swamp. The house, perched on the banks of the Bloodroot River, a trenchant reminder of the bitterest, bloodiest moments in the country’s history. And the secrets. The shameful, stifling secrets that have kept her away for so long….

Bloodroot takes China to a place where her family’s legacy of silence is broken at last, and the past finally, unforgettably, speaks the truth.

Bloodroot

“Many wild flowers which we have transplanted to our gardens are full of magic and charm, while others are full of mystery. In childhood, I absolutely abhorred Bloodroot; it seemed to me a fearsome thing. I remember well my dismay, it was so pure, so sleek, so innocent of face, yet bleeding at a touch, like a murdered man in the Blood Ordeal.”Alice Morse Earle, Old Time Gardens, 1901

According to Native American Ethnobotany, by Daniel E. Moerman, the Ponca Indians of South Dakota and Nebraska used bloodroot as a love charm, rubbing the juice on the palm of a young bachelor. The Micman Indians (Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick) used the same plant both as an aphrodisiac and as an abortifacient. The Iroquois employed it as ceremonial witchcraft medicine, believing that the smoke from the burning plant could cleanse someone who had seen a ghost.

Praise for The China Bayles Herbal Mysteries

“Packed with an intriguing family legacy, delicious recipes, quirky characters and dynamic dialogue, BLOODROOT may be the first Susan Wittig Albert book I have discovered, but certainly not my last!”
Tracy Farnsworth, The Romance Readers Connection

“A treat for gardeners who like to relax with an absorbing mystery.”
North American Gardener

“One of the best-written and well-plotted mysteries I’ve read in a long time.”
Los Angeles Times

“A wonderful character…smart, real, and totally a woman of the nineties.”
Mostly Murder

Reading Group Guides: Bloodroot – Book 10

Discussion questions for Bloodroot
Warning! Contains spoilers (plot hints).

  1. In this book, China goes to Jordan’s Crossing, the plantation where her mother grew up. What are her feelings about this place? Why? What does it represent in China’s life? Does her relationship to this place change during the course of the novel? Did you enjoy the change of pace from Pecan Springs? Why or why not?
  2. China’s relationship with her mother has undergone some important changes over the course of the series. Can someone in your group summarize those changes? Is a knowledge of this background important for an understanding of what happens in this book? Why or why not? How do you feel about a mystery series in which the books seem to have a definite order?
  3. Several mysteries are woven together in this complex plot. What are they? How are they related to one another?
  4. In this book, China renews her childhood friendship with Darlene. What special kinds of knowledge does Darlene bring to the solution of the mystery that involves Dawn? Do you think China have figured things out without her? What does that suggest to you?
  5. Judith is connected with a chapter of the Southern past that is unfortunately obscured by the later cataclysm of the Civil War. What is that? What does this add to the overall story?
  6. Bloodroot is a native American herb that is full of mystery, as the headnote to Chapter One suggests. How does the herb figure in the book?
  7. This book has many supernatural or paranormal elements. What are some of these? How are they related to the book’s several plots? To its themes? To the characterizations? Did you enjoy this aspect of the book?

Your reading group might enjoy refreshments made from some of Susan’s recipe collection. Or you can try this recipe, which is related to the book’s theme or signature herb:

Queenie’s Rosemary Biscuits

  • 1 tablespoon fresh or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, chopped very fine
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¾ cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Cut the butter into pea-sized lumps in the flour mixture. Add rosemary and milk and mix with a fork to form a soft dough. (Do not overmix.) Roll out dough 1/2-inch thick on lightly floured board. Cut into circles with a biscuit cutter and place close together on a greased and floured baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes. Serve hot. Makes 12.