The China Bayles Herbal Mysteries

Hangman's Root (#3)

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 prof whose sympathy for stray cats just might make her capable of murder. But China doesn't think so. She hires a lawyer for Dottie and starts looking around for clues. But she and Ruby quickly discover that digging up old evil is a dirty and dangerous business!

Discussion questions for Hangman's Root
Warning! Contains spoilers (plot hints).

Here's what reviewers have to say about the China Bayles mysteries!

  • "Albert writes with fine observation and sly humor." —Wilson Library Journal
  • "A spicy thriller that makes us hungry for more." —Herb Companion

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Catnip plant

Hangman's root is known more commonly 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.

In the last chapter of Hangman's Root, China, Ruby, Smart Cookie, and the Whiz gather around the kitchen table to speculate about the future of Dotty and her rescued guinea pigs. As they talk, they munch on pieces of castagnaccio, a flat, crusty cake that comes from Tuscany. The traditional recipe calls for chestnut flour, but China uses ground pecans instead. This recipe makes two cakes, the surface of which will be cracked and strange-looking. Be brave. It tastes good.
  • ¼ c raisins
  • 1 lb nut flour
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1 tblsp rosemary leaves, chopped fine
  • 2 tblsp olive oil
  • 2 tblsp honey
  • 1/3 c chopped nuts (pecans or almonds)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tblsp rosemary leaves, whole

Heat your oven to 375°. Generously oil two glass or ceramic pie pans with half the olive oil. Soak the raisins in warm water for 10 minutes, drain and press out the water. Put the nut flour into a large bowl and add the cold water, a cup at a time. Add drained raisins, chopped rosemary, half the olive oil, honey, nuts, and salt. Mix well. Batter will be thin, like a crepe batter. Pour half the batter into each of the pie pans. Sprinkle each cake with the whole rosemary leaves. Bake for 75 minutes, until the top is crispy.

Second book in the series: Witches' Bane

Fourth book in the series: Rosemary Remembered