Witches' Bane

Witches' Bane

Book - 1994
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Penguin Putnam
Herb shop owner China Bayles is shocked when Halloween hijinks take a gruesome turn...

In a small Texas town, what starts as a little festive Halloween fun ends in a brutal murder. And lawyer-turned-herbalist China Bayles is even more shocked when her friend Ruby, a New Age expert in tarot and astrology, becomes the prime suspect after a minister accuses her of witchcraft. Now it’s up to China to unmask the real killer...

Baker & Taylor
Texas herb shop owner and part-time private eye China Bayles sets out to catch a Halloween night killer when one of her friends turns up dead at the witching hour and another becomes a prime suspect

& Taylor

When a holiday prank culminates in a brutal murder, China Bayles's friend Ruby becomes a prime suspect after being accused of practicing witchcraft by a mudslinging minister. Reissue.

Publisher: New York : Berkley Prime Crime, [1994]
Edition: Berkley Prime Crime mass-market ed
ISBN: 9780425144060
Branch Call Number: M ALBERT
Characteristics: 255 p. ; 18 cm


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Dec 13, 2017

This is the second novel I've read by Wittig Albert. I was not impressed at all by the first, a novel in her Beatrix Potter mystery series. This one was make or break for me for this author, and I was much more invested in this story and the characters here. China is intelligent and engaging, not annoying, as many cozy mystery protagonists tend to be. Even though this is the second book in the China Bayles series, I was never lost on characters, location, or story. Albert does a nice job of encapsulating her novels so you don't need to read them in order to understand overarching relationships and stories. There's no recipes or tips to clog up the pages, which is also a welcome respite.
As to this particular story, the first 75 pages clipped along nicely, then stagnated until around page 200, where everything picked up quickly and raced to a satisfying finish. This seems to be a pattern in cozy mysteries- they establish the town, the characters, the niche (candy store, pastry shop, quilting shop, etc) then the murder occurs, then things slow down until one particular clue is discovered, and then the protagonist figures it out, and corners the murder- either getting them to confess, or for a fight- to the death or the protagonist's advantage. This one is no different. And while it was easy to figure out one of the murderers here, the other was more difficult to put a finger on. There were plenty of red herrings and I was honestly surprised by the second murder, and the other person responsible.
I'll definitely continue on with this series. You've got my attention, Albert.

Sep 26, 2010

After you mow through all the politically correct preachy-ness, a text book like recitation of herbs and their Latin names, and in depth descriptions of recipes, you find a decent formulaic mystery. It's a good read if you can get past the aforementioned strikes against it.

If you happen to be a progressive, then you'll probably nod your head and agree with it. If you happen to be from Texas, then you'll probably shake your head and sigh repeatedly. While living in Austin gives you some credibility in knowing how Texans live and operate (the author is originally from Illinois), saying you did some research by reading newspapers and visiting an area doesn't truly give you a feel for "small town" Texas. What Mrs. Wittig ended up doing was writing about every preconceived stereotype she's ever had about small town Texas church going types. And while, admittedly there is some truth to those stereotypes (as there is to almost all stereotypes), all it does is make her look as small minded and prejudiced about the people she wrote about.


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