This is the first in the “Tea Shop Mystery” series written by Laura Childs. It was published in 2001.
Charleston’s Indigo Tea Shop is an oasis of calm. But when tea shop owner, Theodosia Browning, caters the annual Lamplighter Tour of historic homes, one of the patrons turns up dead. Never mind that it’s Hughes Barron, a slightly scurrilous real estate developer. Theodosia’s reputation is suddenly on the line. Aided by her friends and fellow tea shop entrepreneurs, Theo sets about to unravel the mystery of the deadly Darjeeling and encounters a number of likely suspects.
This is a light mystery, good for beach reading, bedtime, and those spare moments throughout the day. Also, it is good for reading when you cannot possibly expend the energy, time, and stamina to muscle through a Neal Stephenson book. The story takes place in Historical downtown Charleston, South Carolina – the peninsula, if you will. But it is not quite as realistic as readers may wish it to be. Sure, there are plenty of wealthy socialites in the area and there are quaint shops that cater to both locals and tourists. However, in my many visits to Chas, no one talks or acts very much like the characters in this book. I feel that the author attempted to mix the “image” of the South with a modern feeling. And this is all okay, I suppose, as long as the reader is expecting a light mystery.
Some problems include the “girls” in the book who work at the tea shop. Haley and Bethany. Both are in their twenties but yet the author portrays them as very immature – flighty and air-headed. So, even though I believe Bethany is twenty-seven years old, she acts like she’s nineteen. It’s a bit difficult to get used to this. Also, the author overdoes the way the characters speak. They are frequently “instantly concerned” or “ashamed” or whatever. Also, the diction of the South is not accurate. I guess the author could have chosen to write in the dialect, but instead chose to write in the way that the rest of the world thinks the dialect is. So “I do declare” and “kindly restrain yourself,” make appearances, but not one “y’all” or “lord, ha’ mercy!”
I figured out the killer halfway through the book. I do not really know how I figured it out, but I did. The main character, Theodosia, was hunting down suspects left and right, but for some reason, I feel her suspects were too easy. I am not entirely sure that the actual killer had motive….. they just seemed nuts. The last two chapters involve Theodosia confronting the killer, who definitely seems to have lost their grasp on sanity. Just enough to be creepy.
Overall, it is a cute concept. I neither loved nor hated the characters, but it was a quick, light read. Some of the faux-Southernisms were overbearing, but probably fit right into most readers expectations. It isn’t a bad novel, there’s just not much in it to make me care. Eventually, I’ll probably continue in the series – likely when I am between books or not willing to invest effort in a heavier novel.