Halloween is supposed to be scary—but the holiday hijinks in Pecan Springs are hardly your everyday kids’ pranks.
Rumors of devil worship are rampant in Pecan Springs following the probable suicide of a teenager and the unexpected deaths of a transient and a nursing home resident. The general creepiness increases when the Reverend Billy Lee Harbuck begins picketing the Crystal Cave, claiming that China Bayles’ friend Ruby Wilcox is a practicing witch. And the tension hits its peak when wealthy Sybil Rand, notorious for maintaining a garden of poisonous plants, is found murdered–with Ruby’s knife.
Witches’ Bane (Aconite)
Better known as wolfsbane, monkshood, or old wiveshood, aconite was once believed to be the creation of Hecate, the goddess of the underworld. In various times and places over the centuries, the herb has been used to kill wolves and tigers, poison wells against an advancing army, and execute criminals. Its thick root has occasionally (and fatally) been mistaken for horseradish.
Praise for The China Bayles Herbal Mysteries
“A catchy plot and a refreshing heroine . . . entertaining and engaging.”
“A nicely constructed plot, captivating characters and dialogue.”
“Albert’s lively mystery captures the flavor of a modern small-town being reshaped by big-city refugees.”
Reading Group Guides: Witches’ Bane – Book 2
Discussion questions for Witches’ Bane
Warning! Contains spoilers (plot hints).
- In a mystery series, the reader ought to learn more about the lives of the continuing characters in each book. If you read Thyme of Death, what more did you learn from Witches’ Bane about China, Ruby, and McQuaid? Are any of these relationships changing?
- What herb does the title refer to? How is it used in the story?
- In this book, we meet Leatha, China’s mother. What are China’s feelings about her? Why does she feel this way? Is there a sense in which Leatha has been a “bad witch” in China’s life?
- Small towns are notoriously narrow-minded, and Pecan Springs (delightful as it is) is no exception. What kinds of narrow-mindedness do you see in this book? How do these attitudes poison the community?
- We meet some of Ruby’s friends at a Samhain celebration. What do these characters add to the story, in your view?
- A mystery is supposed to keep you guessing, especially about whodunnit. Were you surprised at the outcome of the mystery? If not, why not? What clues did you spot? Did your “foreknowledge” diminish your pleasure, or add to it?
Your reading group might enjoy refreshments made from some of Susan’s recipe collection. Or you can try this, served with a collection of cookies.
Hot Mulled Cider
At the Halloween party in Witches’ Bane, China and Ruby enjoyed plenty of Witches’ Punch. Here’s the recipe:
- 2 quarts apple cider
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 4 orange slices
- 4 lemon slices
Combine ingredients in a large non-reactive saucepan. Heat almost to boiling. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 1-2 hours. Remove cinnamon sticks and orange and lemon slices. Reheat and serve in mugs with cinnamon stick stirrers. An ideal punch for your favorite Halloween witches, for Christmas carolers, or just for sitting in front of the fire with a bowl of popcorn.