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The China Bayles Herbal Mysteries

Reading Group Guides: Dead Man's Bones (#13)


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  1. China begins this book with some thoughts on "hidden things, things that are enclosed, interior, inner, concealed." What are some of the hidden things in this book?

  2. Brian's discovery of the bones begins a plot thread that braids itself into the story of Alana Montoya and into Ruby's story. How does this work? Trace out the plot events in the story of Brian's bones that "intersect" with the other plots in this book.

  3. Alana is a forensic anthropologist. In a way, her job is digging up long-buried secrets. What is the skeleton in her closet? How is this related to Blackie Blackwell's story? To McQuaid's story?

  4. Max Baumeister is only a supporting actor in the play, but he remembers something essential to finding out the real story of the bones in the cave. Who else remembers a part of the story? Take a look at Chapters 14-17 to see how China fits all these story pieces together. What narrative techniques is Susan using here?

  5. Cassandra Wilde is introduced in this book. What sort of person is she? What does she add to the ensemble of characters in this series? If China and Ruby take her into their "team," what kind of player do you think she'll be?

  6. What is "Dead Man's Bones" (Stellaria holostea)? This herb isn't very well known, although you probably have its cousin, Stellaria media, or chickweed, growing in your yard. Susan says that she was fascinated by the name of this herb and thought it would make a good book title. She started to play "what if" games with "Dead Man's Bones," and let the story grow out of the name. Can you see how she might have done that?

Your reading group might enjoy refreshments made from some of Susan's recipe collection.