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The China Bayles Herbal Mysteries

Reading Group Guides: Witches' Bane (#2)


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  1. 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?

  2. What herb does the title refer to? How is it used in the story?

  3. 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?

  4. 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?

  5. We meet some of Ruby's friends at a Samhain celebration. What do these characters add to the story, in your view?

  6. 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. You can check out the recipes at the back of most of the books, at Thyme for Tea or in one of the monthly Tea Parties. Or you can try this recipe, which is related to the book's theme or signature herb:

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.