A prominent animal researcher is found hanged in the midst of angry protests against his experiments. Suspicion falls on Dottie Riddle, the Cat Lady of Pecan Springs — a local biology professor whose sympathy for stray cats just might make her capable of murder.
But China doesn’t think so. She hires a lawyer for Dottie (old law school friend, Justine Wyzinski, aka The Whiz) and starts looking around for clues. That’s when she and Ruby discover that digging up old evil is a dirty and dangerous business.
Hangman’s root is more commonly known as catnip. It can be brewed as a tea to relieve coughs and upset stomachs, or to relax before bedtime. According to Colonial American folklore, the root could cause anger and aggression, so it was brewed as a tea and served to hangmen before they went out to do their dirty work.
Praise for The China Bayles Herbal Mysteries
“Albert’s characters are as real and quirky as your next-door neighbor.”
–Raleigh News and Observer
“Albert writes with fine observation and sly humor.”
—Wilson Library Journal
“A spicy thriller that makes us hungry for more.”
Reading Group Guides: Hangman’s Root – Book 3
Discussion questions for Hangman’s Root
Warning! Contains spoilers (plot hints).
- Thyme of Death introduces the central characters in what has become a long-running series: China Bayles, Ruby Wilcox, and Mike McQuaid. Describe these characters as you see them. What are their major issues? How does this play out in their relationships in this book?
- This book is set in a small Texas town, halfway between Austin and San Antonio, on the edge of the Texas Hill Country. Does the town seem real to you? When you read a book, how important is the setting to your enjoyment of the story?
- The mystery in Thyme of Death has to do with a relationship that ended bitterly some time before. How does this old relationship poison the present? Do you know of real-life instances where a former relationship has caused problems?
- As an herbalist, gardener, and shopkeeper, China is unique among amateur sleuths. (Rather, she was, when this series began in 1992. Similar characters have appeared in the years since, perhaps because of China’s popularity.) Does China’s interest in herbs add to your interest in the book? Why or why not?
- China is a former criminal lawyer. How does this shape her character and the way she exeriences the events of this story?
- This book (and the entire series) is written in the first person, from China’s point of view. What advantages and disadvantages do you see in this? How would this book have been different if the story had been told from another character’s point of view?
Your reading group might enjoy refreshments made from some of Susan’s recipe collection. Or you can serve little cups of this smooth, flavorful soup, with muffins or herb bread.
Thymely Cream of Carrot Soup
In Pecan Springs, Texas, soup always seems to taste better in the winter—but this thymely soup is good hot or chilled. Serve it to 4-6.
- 2 pounds carrots, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 tblsp butter or margarine
- 6 cups chicken stock
- a bouquet garni made with 6 parsley sprigs, 3 thyme sprigs, and a sprig of marjoram tied together with string
- 1 cup half/half (no-fat is fine)
- salt and pepper
- 2 tblsp chopped parsley leaves
- 1 tblsp chopped thyme leaves
Over low heat, saute the carrots and onion in the butter or margarine in a covered soup pot until soft, about 15 minutes. Add the stock and heat to a simmer. Add the bouquet garni and simmer 20 minutes. Take out the bouqet garni and puree the soup in two or three batches. Add half and half and reheat. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and serve, garnished with chopped thyme and parsley. To serve cold, chill for several hours and garnish with a dollop of yogurt and the chopped herbs.