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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Review: Ming Tea Murder by Laura Childs

Ming Tea Murder
Author:  Laura Childs
Series:  A Tea Shop Mystery 16
Publisher:  Berkley, May 5, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages
List Price:  $25.95 (print)
ISBN:  9780425281642 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Ming Tea Murder by Laura Childs
It’s scones and scandal for Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning in the latest from the New York Times bestselling author of Steeped in Evil

Normally Theodosia wouldn’t attend a black tie affair for all the tea in China. But she can hardly say no to her hunky, handsome boyfriend, Max, who directs public relations for the Gibbes Museum in Charleston. Max has organized an amazing gala opening for an exhibit of a genuine eighteenth century Chinese teahouse, and the crème de la crème of Charleston society is invited.

In the exotic garden staged in the museum’s rotunda, a Chinese dragon dances to the beat of drums as it weaves through the crowd. The guests are serenaded by a Chinese violin as they sample an assortment of tempting bites. And to give them a memento of the occasion, there’s even a photo booth. But Theodosia makes a grim discovery behind the booth’s curtains: the body of museum donor Edgar Webster.

While Theodosia prefers tea service over the service of justice, this case is difficult to ignore—especially after Max becomes a suspect. Now she must examine the life of the fallen philanthropist and find out who really wanted him to pay up…


Jennifer's Review

Ming Tea Murder is the 16th installment in the Tea Shop Mystery Series penned by Laura Childs. The series follows Theodosia Browning, proprietor of the Indigo Tea Shop located in historic Charleston, South Carolina. The book opens to find Theo attending a posh museum gala to celebrate the Gibbes Museum’s acquisition of an antique Chinese teahouse, with her boyfriend Max, who is the director of public relations for the museum. All is going well until Theo finds wealthy museum donor, Edgar Webster, brutally murdered in the photo booth. Now she must find a cunning killer before Max is arrested for the crime.

The main characters in this series are multidimensional, having evolved considerably over the course of 16 books. Theo is the ideal heroine for a cozy mystery. She is strong and intelligent, with a knack for sleuthing. She relies heavily on her support system of friends and employees, mainly Drayton and Hayley, to keep her beloved tea shop running and help her focus when she is on the trail of a criminal. Drayton is a seventy-something dapper southern gentleman who serves as Theo’s right hand man. He is rarely seen without his signature bowtie, is an expert in all things related to tea, its sourcing and consumption, and is utterly charming in every way. Hayley is the hip young dynamo who runs the tea shop’s kitchen. She’s a brilliant chef and baker, guarding her recipes like a mother hen does her chicks, and adds a touch of whimsy to not only her culinary creations, but to the atmosphere of the tearoom itself. Theo’s inner circle is rounded out by her outrageously over-the-top friend Delaine, owner of an exclusive clothier, and by Max, Theo’s refined and handsome boyfriend, who finds himself at a loss when confronted with being a suspect in Edgar’s murder and must rely heavily on Theo to search for answers.

There are a few characters introduced in this novel to support the mystery. The victim’s widow, Charlotte Webster, is capricious and outspoken when roused, and seems to be getting overly friendly with Harlan Duke, the Texan art dealer who helped bring the teahouse to Charleston, and Roger Greaves, the victim’s slick business partner. Cecily Conrad, a socially climbing shop owner, was overly friendly with the victim prior to his murder, but their affair had turned volatile before his death. Percy Capers and Elliot Kern, the museum’s Asian curator and director, respectively, both play roles in not only the mystery, but in the subplot that revolves around Max’s future with the Gibbes Museum. Other notable characters are Detective Tidwell, with whom Theo has an adversarial but respectful relationship that spans the Tea Shop series, and Delaine’s elderly relative, Aunt Astra, who has an irreverent wit that becomes so comical she is nicknamed Aunty Acid by Delaine and Theo.

This installment of the Tea Shop Mystery series has a complex and satisfying mystery that culminates with a climactic chase scene that gets the reader’s pulse moving right at the end. The Indigo Tea Shop and the town of Charleston are brought to life skillfully and the characters that the author has created blend so seamlessly with their environments and are so well drawn that the reader would not be surprised to walk into a small tea shop and see each of them there. The tea lore interspersed throughout the novels, and the special recipes and tea time tips included in each book, all help to set this series apart from others in the cozy mystery genre, and give the books charm and warmth that make them well loved.

Review: Shadow of a Spout by Amanda Cooper

Shadow of a Spout
Author:  Amanda Cooper
Series:  A Teapot Collector Mystery 2
Publisher:  Berkley (Prime Crime), April 7, 2015
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780425265246 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Shadow of a Spout by Amanda Cooper
Avid teapot collector Rose Freemont takes a break from her Victorian tea house only to find a new mystery brewing elsewhere…
Leaving her home in Gracious Grove behind her, Rose is off to the annual convention of the International Teapot Collector’s Society. Her granddaughter Sophie is minding the tea house while she’s away. Rose is eager for tough cookie Zunia Pettigrew to appraise a prized antique teapot she believes may be a holy water vessel from China.

But when Zunia declares the pot a fake, Rose is really steamed. After Zunia’s found dead beside Rose’s dinged-in teapot, Sophie must rush to her grandmother’s aid and find the real killer—before Rose is steeped in any more trouble… 

Jennifer's Review

Shadow of a Spout is the second book in the Teapot Collector Mystery Series. The first book in the series introduced us to Sophie, who moved to a small town in upstate New York to spend time with her Grandma Rose, and recover from the bankruptcy of the New York City restaurant she started up at a very young age. Rose and her best friend Laverne have left Gracious Grove and Rose’s flourishing Auntie Rose’s Victorian Tea House for a small inn that is hosting the annual teapot collector society weekend. Unfortunately, the weekend is anything but fun when the universally despised president of the New York division of the society is found brutally murdered, bludgeoned with Rose’s antique metal teapot after she and the victim, Zunia, have a public altercation. Sophie races to the Stone and Scone Inn to help her keep her grandma from being arrested for murder and stop the real killer before there is another victim!

Sophie is still very fragile from the failure of her restaurant, but is showing more strength in this novel. She is clearly a talented and creative chef, who has found her niche in her grandma’s tea house; she just hasn’t quite figured that out yet. She’s putting down some roots in Gracious Grove and reestablishing old friendships that foundered after she stopped spending her summers in the idyllic town. She’s been hanging out with Cissy, her childhood best friend, who is trying to rebuild her life after the disaster that took place in the first book, and Dana, an uneasy past acquaintance who is turning into a real friend and ally. Sophie is also contemplating rekindling her romance with old flame, Jason; she just isn’t sure if he feels the same way and is worried about making a huge mistake. This story is chock full of other supporting characters, many of them elderly and highly entertaining.

Rose and Laverne’s long term friendship is one of the more charming aspects of the book, along with the friendship of two gentlemen teapot collectors, Laverne’s father Malcolm and his friend Horace, both over ninety and still robust. Thelma, who has hated Rose for a slight that happened sixty years ago, is also along for the convention, being newly inducted into Rose’s small group of teapot collectors, The Silver Spouts. Thelma, whose disposition has always been quite tart is trying to turn over a new leaf and be less catty and judgmental, but, luckily for the reader, she hasn’t really mastered the whole kindness thing and is just as crusty and self righteous as ever, in a delightfully humorous way. Josh, the youngest member of the Silver Spouts, being just 16, is a favorite character. He has old school manners and is truly interested in the lives of the older people he chooses to spend his time with. Multiple other members of the national society have prominent, but secondary roles. Bertie, the neurotic innkeeper, has so many phobias it is comical. The widow of the murder victim and his teenage daughter are under the microscope for their familial issues. A weepy pastor, an ambitious wife and her womanizing husband, and a shy but talented tea blender all add to the suspect list and bring depth to the mystery and overall story.

The mystery is powered mostly by the multitude of lies told by everyone involved, which is started off by poor old Thelma, right in the beginning of the story. The lies are all well told and help keep the reader guessing right up to the end of the book. Being a prolific cozy mystery reader, I can very often pick out the killer early on in a novel, but was very pleasantly surprised to find that I could not do this with a Shadow of a Spout. The twists and turns in the plot, and the lies and secrets surrounding almost every character keep the story fresh and interesting right up to the end. The author did a wonderful job of tying up some minor lose ends from the first book, which had been niggling at me. We get to learn just what happened to Sweet Pea, the cat of the murder victim in Tempest in a Teapot, and find out what path Cissy has decided on for her life. Tiny details, but I loved that they were worked into the second book in an organic and relevant way. On a final note, be sure to take the time to read the little poem before the first chapter, it was short but lovely, and will resonate with any lover of a warm and restoring cup of tea.


Tempest in a Teapot
A Teapot Collector Mystery 1
Berkley (Prime Crime), June 3, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Review: Shadow of a Spout by Amanda Cooper
Tucked away in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York is the charming town of Gracious Grove, where time moves slowly, gossip spreads quickly, and the scones are to die for...
When her fashionable Manhattan restaurant goes under, Sophie Taylor retreats to her grandmother’s cozy shop, Auntie Rose’s Victorian Teahouse, where serenity is steeped to perfection in one of her many antique teapots. The last thing Sophie expects is a bustling calendar of teahouse events, like her old friend Cissy Peterson’s upcoming bridal shower.

Not everyone is pleased with the bride-to-be’s choice of venue—like Cissy’s grandmother, who owns a competing establishment, La Belle Epoque, and has held a long-simmering grudge against Rose for stealing her beau sixty years ago. Tensions reach a boiling point when Cissy’s fiancé’s mother dies while sampling scones at La Belle Epoque. Now, to help her friend, Sophie will have to bag a killer before more of the guest list becomes a hit list... 

Review: A First Date With Death by Diana Orgain

A First Date With Death
Author:  Diana Orgain
Series:  A Love or Money Mystery 1
Publisher:  Berkley, March 3, 2015
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780425271681 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: A First Date With Death by Diana Orgain
Reality TV meets murder in the first in a new mystery series from the author of the Maternal Instincts Mysteries and co-author the New York Times bestselling Scrapbooking Mysteries.

When brokenhearted Georgia Thornton goes looking for romance on reality TV, she has nothing to lose—apart from a good man, a cash prize, and maybe her life…

What was Georgia thinking? Sure, some cad ditched her at the altar, but can she really find love on TV? Her best friend—and producer of the reality show Love or Money—thinks so. Ten men. Ten adventure-filled dates. What can go wrong? For starters, a faulty bungee cord that hurls Georgia’s first date into a tragic spiral off the Golden Gate Bridge.

He’s replaced by Paul Sanders, Georgia’s former fiancé. But the cop isn’t looking for a TV gig. Suspecting that the lover’s leap was no accident, Paul’s going undercover. When another bachelor gets a fatal kiss-off, the reality is that someone has killer new plans for the show—and for Georgia herself. Now, under the threat of permanent cancellation, Georgia fears that the only man on the set she can trust is the one man she just can’t count on…

Jennifer's Review

Diana Orgain’s A First Date with Death is the debut novel of her new Love or Money Mystery Series. This book follows former police officer Georgia Thornton, who has agreed to be on a new reality show entitled Love or Money. Georgia has to evaluate ten eligible men during various adventure dates, some of whom are looking for love, some for money. To win the game of love, and a substantial monetary prize, which she will then split with her new beau, Georgia’s final choice must be one of the bachelors looking for love, if her choice is in the game just for the money, not only does she lose her heart, but she also loses her claim to the money. Things start off badly when her first date, Arron’s, bungee cord fails, plunging him off the Golden Gate Bridge, and gets worse, when her former fiancé, Paul Sanders, takes his spot as a bachelor to investigate the accidents that keep occurring during the filming.

Georgia has recently lost her job and her fiancé, sending her life into a nose dive. In a moment of weakness, she agrees to be on the show to help her friend Becca, who is a production assistant on Love or Money. Georgia has serious reservations about the show from the beginning, but the accidents and deaths that are plaguing the production peak her investigative interest, and she goes from being an unenthusiastic reality star, to an amateur sleuth, trying to stop the chaos before anyone else can get hurt, along with trying to win the prize money and possibly find true love. She is portrayed as a strong woman, who has made some poor choices and is trying hard to overcome them. Paul came off as a little smarmy right from the start, and I found myself hoping early on that Georgia would not choose him in the end. Among the bachelors, a few standouts were Nathan, the adorable surfer boy, Edward, the hunky doctor, dark and mysterious writer Scott, and armed forces vet Derek. The show’s producer, Cheryl, is a bossy and brassy woman who comes off as a bit of a caricature of a Hollywood shark, but this works well in the story and gives Georgia an amusing foil. Georgia’s dad becomes involved in the plot partway through the novel and brings heart to the storyline and solace to poor Georgia.

Many of the chapters begin with a little vignette surrounding an interview with one of the bachelors. These scenes reveal which men are on the show for love and which for money, and give the reader a glimpse into the bachelors’ motivations and backgrounds. The story is fast paced and has two branches. The first being the mystery, which is tidied up nicely in the end, and the second being Georgia’s search for self worth and stability amid the plastic and fabricated world of reality television. The reader will be rooting for her to ultimately find those things, along with lasting love. In the end, as long as Georgia gets what she needs, the big payout doesn’t seem very important.
Guest Blog by Susan Furlong and Review and Giveaway of Peaches and Scream - July 13, 2015Guest Blog by Terrie Farley Moran and Review and Giveaway of Caught Read-Handed - July 7, 2015Review: Fatal Fortune by Victoria Laurie Guest Blog by Penny Pike and Review and Giveaway of Death of a Chocolate Cheater - June 5, 2015Interview with Nancy J. Parra - Review and Giveaway of Bodice of Evidence - June 2, 2015Review: Ming Tea Murder by Laura ChildsGuest Blog by Carlene O'Neil and Review and Giveaway of One Foot in the Grape - May 13, 2015Guest Blog by Linda Reilly and Review and Giveaway of Fillet of Murder - May 4, 2015Review: Shadow of a Spout by Amanda CooperReview: A First Date With Death by Diana Orgain

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