Forced to leave his family farm to make a career for himself, our narrator Tom Ward becomes the apprentice of a witch- and ghast-fightin' madman, the Spook. The Spook tests Tom right away, forcing him to spend the night inside a haunted mansion... and we don't mean the Disney attraction. Tom survives the night and lives to travel to the Spook's home in Chipenden.
The Spook gives Tom a tour of his property. Like, here's the kitchen where an invisible boggart cooks meals. And oh, here's the garden where evil witches are buried alive. Real estate agents would attempt to sell this place as "full of old-world charm," but we think it's downright spooky.
Then the Spook assigns Tom one of his first glamorous apprenticeship duties: grocery shopping. While hauling groceries back from town, Tom meets a witchy-looking girl in pointy shoes. Alice is her name, and deceit is her game. She scares away some boys who are harassing Tom in exchange for a favor, to be redeemed whenever she pleases.
When the Spook leaves on an errand, Alice calls Tom with the Spook's bell. She wants to cash in her favor: Tom needs to deliver three cakes to Mother Malkin, one of the live witches on the Spook's property.
Tom gives Mother Malkin two cakes before he realizes that they're giving her the strength to break free. What would Mother Malkin do for a Klondike Bar—er, a cake that turns out to be made of human flesh and blood? She would break out of her prison and try to eat children. That's what. They won't be showing that in a commercial any time soon.
In a feat of great courage, Tom manages to kill Mother Malkin. Unfortunately, the Spook returns and tells Tom that Mother Malkin is still dangerous dead. Now her spirit can possess someone.
Next, Tom is almost killed by Alice's aunt, Bony Lizzie. Allegedly, it was Bony who was behind the whole Mother Malkin Resurrection Plan. She's one of several witches trying to get revenge, as the book's title suggests. But the Spook traps Bony, and sends Tom back home to take Alice to see Tom's mam.
Alice and Tom's mam really hit it off. Unfortunately, when Mam leaves to deliver a neighbor's baby, Mother Malkin 2.0 seizes the opportunity to strike. She possesses the pig butcher and tries to kill Tom. With Alice's help, Tom drives the spirit from the butcher's body, and Mother Malkin's sludgy form is devoured by pigs. Gross.
The Spook is still afraid that Alice is in cahoots with the evil witches, but he leaves it up to Tom to decide. Since Tom feels like he and Alice are BFFs now, he decides to let her live. Guess we'll have to wait until the sequel to discover Alice's true intentions. Dun dun dun…