Death by Darjeeling

Ten years ago I was just getting into buying my own adult books. I had read some before, of course, mostly classics and gothics, but the territory of books with primarily grown-up characters was still relatively new. With my Borders gift card burning in my pocket, I began browsing the shelves of mysteries and found two series that appealed to me: Lillian Jackson Braun’s extensive Cat Who series, and a couple paperback books by Laura Childs billed as the Tea Shop Mysteries. I started reading Death by Darjeeling and was hooked; I have a vague memory of staying in the car after school one day while my mom was running errands just so I could keep reading. Everything about these books is utterly charming, from the delicate matte covers to the recipes included in the back.

The series is centered around Theodosia Browning, or Theo, who six months before the first book left a lucrative but stressful career in advertising to open the Indigo Tea Shop in the Historic District of Charleston. She is assisted by professional tea blender Drayton Connelly, and Haley Parker, a part-time business student who mans the register and works wonders in the kitchen. Drayton is also on the board of the Historical Society, so it often functions as a feature throughout the series.

In this first volume, Theodosia, Drayton, Haley, and Haley’s friend Bethany are catering at one of the houses for the annual Garden Tour. When Bethany goes to collect the teacup from the final guest, she notices with a scream that he is dead. Theodosia soon realizes that she has more than just a bad reputation for her tea to worry about; the deceased, Hughes Barron, was poisoned. Barron was a building contractor unpopular among the locals, not only because of the ugly condos he built on the nearby nature preserve but also for his recent plans to acquire property in the historic district. The police, including homicide detective and former FBI agent Burt Tidwell, seem fixated on Bethany as the prime suspect because of words she and others had with Barron at a Historical Society meeting. Theodosia is convinced of the girl’s innocence, however, and decides to do a little investigating of her own.

This series was my first introduction to themed “cozy” mysteries and really set the gold standard for me; I’ve found very few since that can measure up. It stays clear of madcap territory, and all the characters stay rational and grounded. Flighty heroines who do stupid things and get themselves into trouble are one of my pet peeves, and fortunately Theo couldn’t be further from that. The plot has suspense without drama. It is squeaky clean in a good way; Theo even does hospice work with her gentle rescue dog Earl Grey. Overall, the books leave me with a happy, peaceful feeling. I’m glad I decided to start rereading them!

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Published in: on March 4, 2012 at 8:52 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] I reread Death by Darjeeling I mentioned that I flew through the first few books right in a row (much like I did now). The fifth […]


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