Halloween is supposed to be scary -- but the holiday hijinks in Pecan Springs are hardly your everyday kids' pranks. The all-round creepiness culminates in the brutal murder of a woman who collects poisonous herbs. and China's friend Ruby becomes a prime suspect when a mud-slinging minister accuses her of New-Age witchcraft.
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.
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
1/2 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.