Honeymoon with Murder

It felt fitting to end the year on a cozy mystery, so I went back to Carolyn G. Hart’s Death on Demand series. It’s another one where I am waaay behind; this is number four out of twenty-two and counting. In Honeymoon with Murder, Annie has just tied the knot with Max when she gets a frantic midnight call from her employee and matron of honor, Ingrid. The couple arrive at her house to find the warm corpse of Jesse Penrick; Ingrid is nowhere to be seen.

honeymoon with murderJesse loved to spy on his neighbors and make their lives miserable, so no one is sad to see him dead; unfortunately for the missing Ingrid, however, he had picked fight with her just that morning. This makes her look like a pretty good suspect to conceited mainland circuit solicitor Posey, filling in while the local chief is on vacation. It’s up to Ingrid’s friends, led by Annie, Max, and the indefatigable Hetty, to prove her innocence and find both her and the real killer.

We get a body early on here, much better than in the last one, but there are still plenty of suspects and plenty of clues. Even those who are not murderers have things to hide, which is where Max and Hetty’s information-gathering skills come in handy. All of the bluff, bluster, and breaking-and-entering, though, fall to Annie. Carolyn Hart plays fair, so that the mystery-solving experience is challenging and rewarding. I never feel like she is pulling the rug out from under the readers.

Hetty started out in the first two books as annoying, before she proved her sleuthing skills to Annie and Max. Max’s mother Laurel picked up the banner in the last book and still comes across as annoying rather than humorous; I think Carolyn Hart was going for a blend but I can’t quite be sure. I have a feeling she will continue to pop up in the series.

The constant name-dropping of detectives, titles, and authors still hasn’t gotten old yet, though Hetty and Annie must have cart catalogs for brains. In fact, I found myself writing down a few interesting-sounding references to look up for later on, like Anne Morice. I believe my favorite was when Annie posed as a reporter and chose the pseudonym Beverly Gray.

Sometimes I forget how old these books are, though the lack of Internet-based research should be a giveaway. I didn’t even look at the date (1988) until it was mentioned that two of the older characters served in WWII. The series seems to have aged very well so far. I’m curious how much Max and Annie actually age over the course of it.

Published in: on December 31, 2012 at 3:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Blood Orange Brewing

I’m back once again to Laura Childs’ Tea Shop Mysteries. In this seventh installment, Blood Orange Brewing, a local figure meets a gruesome end at an event Theodosia Browning’s tea shop is catering. [Seriously, every book starts this way. Either nobody in Charleston gets murdered in private, or criminals are dumb enough to wait until they know a woman with investigative instincts and lots of connections is present. The set-up is getting a little old.] In this case the event is a fundraiser to restore a Civil War-era house recently donated to the Historical Society, and the victim is a well-loved politician still involved in many local matters. There are plenty of connections between Duke Wilkes and the throngs of people at the house when he died, but no real leads. When the widow asks Theodosia to investigate she cautiously agrees, despite her other obligations like hosting a wives tea for the backers of a smarmy Congressman.

blood orange brewingBad things first: the first chapter was horribly written. I saw at least four fragments masquerading as sentences. Within the span of a few pages Childs described “heroically tall bouquets” and a character’s “heroic teeth;” I’m not sure how the word applies in either case. It also mentioned that Theodosia looked up at the dying man, as if the murder were copy/pasted from the balcony death in the previous book. Luckily either the writing improved, or my brain switched over fully from editor-reading to content-reading. The only other thing that made me wince was mention of a recent newspaper article credited to staff writer C.S. Lewis. That can’t have been an intentional reference, yet no proofreader picked up on it?

The plot was also a little on the weaker side. Though I don’t expect or want Agatha Christie from this series, it felt like there were too many red herrings or loose ends, I’m not sure which. Haley’s contract for a cookbook is in the works and then never mentioned again, though the thread will likely be picked up in the next book. Two unlikeable characters are left as just that, while a built-up character is killed off later. It’s never quite revealed how both victims learned the information that led to their deaths, or how the killer knew that they knew. On the plus side, Childs was able to work in as usual an unconventional motive that comes out of nowhere. She also finally broke the pattern about who she chooses as the culprit, though I was still able to figure it out through process of elimination.

There are plenty of good things about the series that keep me reading, like the charm of the tea shop and the everlasting ode to historic Charleston. Theodosia really does have a believable working relationship with Inspector Tidwell: several steps behind on some aspects of the case but able to provide important information because of her ear for local gossip and snooping skills. She was suitably timid at first, giving the close call her last investigation ended in. There is also a fantastic part where she and Delaine explore a secret passage in the creepy old house, which felt like something right out of a Nancy Drew book.

I’ll probably take a break from the series before picking up with them again in the new year. There are still six more I haven’t read, and I also want to start over again with her scrapbooking mysteries. At least i can chalk this up as a success for the year of the reread.

Published in: on December 28, 2012 at 3:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Pardonable Lies

“Or, Maisie,”–he had looked at her intently–“the task of asking questions, of peeling back layers of the past, reveals something that has nothing to do with the cases and everything to do with ourselves.”

I read the first two books in Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series about two years ago, and it was high time I returned to England between the wars.

In Pardonable Lies, Maisie is asked by Sir Cecil Lawton to fulfill his wife’s dying wish and investigate the death of their son in France during the war. She always believed that Ralph was alive, though in some ways he was dead to Sir Cecil even before becoming a pilot. When Maisie connects with her old school friend Priscilla she is surprised to receive a similar request. Peter is the only one of her brother’s whose grave she has not visited, because her mother threw away the telegram describing his death and burial.

pardonable liesWhat seem like routine investigations hold unseen challenges. Records are missing or inaccessible for both soldiers, and reading the papers the dead men left behind reveal that there may have been a link between the two. Unfortunately, that would mean a return to France for Maisie, who has not been since her dismal nursing days and injuries during the war over a decade prior. Her duties to her client and friend win out, and she embarks on a journey to confront the secrets and demons of the past.

Priscilla turned to Maisie. “I’m not used to this sort of talk, but here’s what I think: I think that the dragon is part of us. What happened, happened. We saw into the jaws of a terrible creature as he feasted upon us all. That is war. You have to find a way to acknowledge and live with it.”

Pardonable Lies turned out to be my favorite entry in the series so far. Maisie comes across as much more human and vulnerable. The plot was also…I don’t want to use the term romantic, but it’s the closest I can think of. We have undercover missions and secret liasons, and a French village that recalled Assignment in Brittany. The horror and tragedy of the war are still present, but I guess the figures involved just seemed more heroic somehow.

I wanted to finish this review first, but I hope there is not as long of a gap until I read the next Maisie Dobbs. I’ve heard that the series improves as it continues.

Published in: on November 14, 2012 at 11:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Unidentified Woman

I have my grandmother to thank for my large Mignon G. Eberhart collection, as most of them were hers. For an author frequently billed as “America’s Agatha Christie,” she seems to fly under the radar of most today, but I still really enjoy her romantic suspense/mystery novels. Most of my favorites date from the first half of her career, like The Dark Garden and Wings of Fear and Enemy in the House, and Unidentified Woman is also from that era. I wouldn’t call it a favorite, but still a suspenseful and intriguing read.

When Henry Frame was found drowned on their property several months ago, Victoria Stearne and the rest of the household went through the hell of a public investigation. Vicky herself was the main target of suspicion for John Campbell, the Ponte Verde State’s Attorney, because Frame had a tight grip on the purse strings and wouldn’t allow her full participation in the Stearne Mills she inherited from her father. Finally, however, the death was ruled a suicide and the family began to move on. Thalia Frame still remained with them indefinitely, and Vicky became engaged to Michael Bayne from a different Mill office. Her cousin Hollis continued to train with the army at the newly constructed camp under the direction of their family friend, Colonel Galant. Aunt Bessie is busy planning the upcoming nuptials. The weekend before, however, another dead body is found floating in the water. The unidentified young woman is wearing a dress belonging to the long-time housekeeper Clistie, who has now disappeared. Vicky is most upset, as she alone had heard a scream that night and she and her cousin Agnew had allowed Clistie to go investigate. That’s not the end of her troubles, however. Soon incriminating evidence shows up linking Vicky to the crime, and the zealous investigator Mr. Beasley is determined to see her convicted for both murders.

I think the aspect that kept me from outright loving this book is that Vicky doesn’t always seem to be the brightest crayon in the box. Granted, being suspected of murder (twice) might make you behave a little desperately, but she is still surprisingly naive this second time round. Anytime someone pushes for marriage after a crime, my first thought is that spouses can’t testify against each other (not that Vicky was actually guilty, of course). She also returns to the scene of the crime alone with Agnew, something that can only lead to being hurt, incriminated, or both. Maybe I’m just naturally suspicious from having read too many mysteries. I can’t guarantee that I would make good choices myself in the panicked heat of the moment.

It also was not the cleanest of plots. Mignon Eberhart liberally sprinkled in red herrings, not all of which seemed satisfactorily resolved. I’m still not sure whether one character who at times seemed untrustworthy was actually involved in the murder plot, though I don’t think so. It also seemed like the resolution came out of left field a bit. (To be fair,  I was sick when I finished the book, so I may not have picked up on everything I should have.)

I do have to give her credit for the characters of Beasley and Agnew, however. Beasley has Vicky in his crosshairs from the moment he takes over the investigation. He makes no attempt to hide the fact that he believes her guilty, and his constant pointed accusatory remarks are designed to pick her apart. However, even Vicky must admit that he is honest, and still follows leads that are contrary to his suspicions. As a reader I hated him, but he was far from the bumbling fool that incorrect inspectors often are. Agnew, on the other hand, was probably my favorite character. He has all the cavalier innocence of an eighteen-year-old, fascinated by the investigation but not quite sure he has the stomach when it hits this close to home. He and Vicky are five years apart but have grown closer lately, and he is more than willing to act as her partner in–well, anti-crime, I guess. I’ve read enough gothics that it’s really refreshing when cousins can just be good friends, like in The Street of Small Steps.

Though published in 1943, the book is actually set in March of 1941. The army camp is merely for training at this point, but everyone views the US entrance into the war as eventually inevitable. The small town of Ponte Verde is trying to deal with an influx of soldiers, and the fledgling camp is trying to deal with security when construction is still ongoing. I wonder if Mignon Eberhart began writing the book before Pearl Harbor, or if she decided to change the time so that the male characters at camp would still be around.

She also provides an interesting perspective on genre conventions. At the beginning of the book, Vicky is seriously doubting her impending marriage. She isn’t sure whether she actually loves Michael, or only accepted his proposal because it seemed like the obvious thing to do after he came to her aid so nobly during the turmoil of the first investigation.

She would scarcely have known him if it hadn’t been for Henry’s death. He would have stayed a few days at the house and left. They wouldn’t have been plunged together into horror–into anxiety and apprehension, yes, as fear; they wouldn’t have been thrown into each other’s arms, seeking each other’s support in time of need. He wouldn’t have acted, really, a hero’s role, with herself a heroine. Thus the whole circumstance of their engagement was artificial, fictional, unreal; marriage needed something real for a basis.

She’s totally right. I’m a hopeless romantic and like the idea that love can blossom amidst the escapades of a suspense book, but sometimes that relationship can be as contrived as the result of a season of the bachelor. Just because people are thrown together doesn’t mean they belong together, or are meant to be anything more than friends. Minon Eberhart actually plays with this idea throughout the course of the book. It’s a different perspective, but makes sense in this context.

The young lovers are one of Patricia Wentworth’s greatest strengths, but are never a main plotline in the likes of Rex Stout. How much of a place do you think they have in mystery novels? (I think romance is pretty much a given in gothic or suspense, so we’ll let those slide.)

Published in: on June 21, 2012 at 2:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Chamomile Mourning

After a brief hiatus I’m back in Charleston with Laura Childs’ sixth Tea Shop Mystery. I love the small town feel of this series. There are lots of little shops and restaurants, and everyone in this sphere of society seems to know everyone else. I’m not sure how realistic it is, but it does make me want to visit historic Charleston!

chamomile mourningIn Chamomile Mourning, the Poet’s Tea at annual Spoleto festival is forced to move indoors due to rain. Worse still is when an auction house owner plummets to his death from the balcony. When the main suspect turns out to be Gracie Venable, a friend of Haley’s from business school who is getting ready for the grand opening of her hat shop, Theo is tapped to help with the investigation. As usual, there are many secret motives lurking beneath the surface–a dispute over a lease, an affair, or even something related to the art world.

Childs still followed her format for choosing the killer, but this climax was probably Theodosia’s most harrowing crime-fighting experience yet, landing her in the hospital. I wasn’t paying as much attention to the mystery plot, though, because relationship bombshell!! Theo’s boyfriend Jory proposes to her, on the grounds that she move with him to NYC for his new position at the law firm, and either go back into advertising or open a new branch of the Indigo Tea Shop. Does he not get how much her shop and her friends mean to her? It just seemed really, really out of character for Jory, who had been fairly complacent and Ned Nickerson-like up until this point. One of the things I liked about this series was the lack of relationship drama. Long story short, Jory goes off to New York without Theo and she takes up with young restauranteur Parker Scully. As blond and charming as he may be, I just can’t like him because of the way this all came out of the blue.

On a more positive note, at one point, while hosting an afternoon tea, Theo puts in a new CD–Lark Ascending, by Ralph Vaughn Williams. I have that CD! His Fantasia on Greensleeves is one of my favorite classical pieces. This reference made up for Parker just a bit.

Fun tidbit: While flipping through this one for the review, I noticed that a very minor character is the wife of the man who is murdered in the next book. She comes across as more annoying here.

Published in: on June 11, 2012 at 2:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Jasmine Moon Murder

When 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 book, The Jasmine Moon Murder, was the first one I had to wait for; I received it for Christmas and took it back to college to read.

The latest Charleston society event is a Civil War-themed  ghost crawl through the historic Jasmine Cemetery. The spooky tableaux are meant to raise money for charities earmarked by the Medical Triad, and Theodosia and her friends are catering as a favor to her boyfriend Jory’s Uncle Jasper, vice president at Cardiotech. Unfortunately, not everyone is as kind; Jasper Davis had at least one enemy because he is killed with a fatal injection before the end of the night.

Dr. Davis was in the process of developing the Novalaser, a device meant to improve angioplasty by leaps and bounds. Unfortunately, he recently disagreed with his boss about the release timeline, arguing that the equipment should go through more testing before becoming available for general use. This was not the news the struggling company wanted to hear. It also upset a local PR firm that has staked a lot on covering the story. Rivals at the two other major medical research companies also have potential motive, if they fear the device’s success. To top it off, Jasper also has an angry ex.

Theodosia was one of the first to realize the dying man was poisoned, and feels a responsibility to investigate his death for Jory’s sake. Not everyone wants her on the case, though. This is the first time I’ve really seen Detective Tidwell tell Theo seriously to stop investigating. It’s likely because he feels she is too close to the crime, and also that her past record of success will make others more anxious to stop her. He’s half right, because she faces several dangerous situations even before her final showdown with the culprit; someone takes pot shots at her when she’s riding in the fox hunt, and a man she is supposed to meet for information is killed shortly before the assignation. She even receives a threatening note. Coincidentally (or perhaps not so much), this book is the first time Theodosia’s amateur sleuthing is officially compared to Nancy Drew’s.

I thought the plot was interesting, and I appreciate that the author’s corporate experience allows her to bring fresh motives to the cozy mystery genre. My only complaint was with one of the conclusions Theo draws. She finds is particularly incriminating that someone at the riding stables had access to a syringe, and considers this a major clue. However, most of her suspects work at medical tech companies, where syringes are not exactly unheard of. Besides, couldn’t the culprit have swiped one from wherever s/he obtained the drug.

Also, I’m pretty sure Laura Childs has a system for who the guilty person is. I had a guess after the first few books, and the fourth and fifth confirmed my hunch. I’m anxious to test it out in the next book; I almost hope it doesn’t work!

I’ve mentioned before how I love seeing “antiquated” technological references in books that are otherwise relatively contemporary. This was written in 2004, and Theodosia is fascinated that her new phone has text messaging and can also take and send photos. It even turns out to be a helpful feature in the case. I was smirking a little bit at all of this compared to Siri, until I remembered that my own cell phone is seven years old, from 2005. I was also really excited when I got it that it had text messages and a camera. I guess this means it’s time to shop for a new phone…

Published in: on April 28, 2012 at 1:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Something Wicked

I’m back at it with Annie Laurance and Max Darling. Sometimes I see a long series and am excited at how much time I’ll get to spend with characters; at other times I feel like I’ll never get through them all. This is only number three of twenty-two, so I guess I’ll be reading Carolyn Hart’s books for years to come.

The title of Something Wicked suggests a connection to Macbeth, but the plot revolves around a very different play. Annie and Max, with their Broadway past, are starring as the young lovers in the summer theater’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace. The show starts in a week, but the production is plagued with two problems. First, aged Hollywood beach-movie star Shane Petree is a horrible fit for the part of Teddy and would rather chase skirts than learn his lines. His wife Sheridan is backing the play, however, so the cast is stuck with him. Even worse, however, are the slight incidents occurring on and off stage. Props are sabotaged, a stink bomb is set off, and a cast member’s cat is found dead in the window seat.

Soon, however, the production has a bigger corpse and bigger problem when Shane himself turns up dead from a bullet wound in the middle of rehearsal.The circuit solicitor seems determined to pin this on Max because of his blase attitude, and because Shane made a pass at Annie. Finding the murder weapon in his bedroom doesn’t help either. Annie and Chief Saulter will have to use all their wits to clear his name, and come up with a culprit when everyone else has either a solid alibi or no motive.

First things first: don’t pick up this book if you’re not familiar with Arsenic. I though I’d be okay because I knew the premise and had seen about fifteen minutes, but I could tell early on that that didn’t cut it. Parts of the book depend on what roles the characters play, and who is or isn’t onstage at certain times. I ended up watching the movie last weekend, and when I reread the first chapter (and continued the rest of the book) everything made so much more sense. I recommend Arsenic and Old Lace even if you’re not reading this! It’s a comic gem, and Cary Grant is wonderful as always.

Carolyn Hart tries to provide her own humor in this book as well. Henny Brawley, the persistent customer and wannabe sleuth from previous books, has become more tolerable to Annie since they are costars. She’s the first one to smell a rat in the current production, and spends most of her time snooping around–but she does so by channeling fictional sleuths, down to speech and costume. Miss Marple is a particular favorite.

On the personal front, Annie’s soon-to-be mother-in-law Laurel is determined to take the reins of the upcoming wedding. She has a very broad mind and plans to incorporate random elements from wedding traditions around the world into the ceremony. Annie spends half the book freaking out about this and trying to avoid her. I wouldn’t peg Annie as a character afraid to speak his mind, but maybe she’s finally met her match. What makes it worse is that Max is totally on bard with his mother.

Some elements of the series are getting a bit stale. While I initially found Annie and Max’s use of lists to sum up suspect profiles and key information refreshing, it felt a little bit overdone in this book. Also, I’d like a slightly different impetus for the couple’s involvement in the crime, please. The last two books had Annie falsely accused of a crime, so clearly now it was Max’s turn. It’s also sometimes hard to keep track of everyone (which is why Carolyn Hart includes the lists, I guess). Her standard method seems to be to provide a large cast, and keep you going in circles among them until the big reveal at the end.

I have to admit that the ending surprised me; I’m not sure how I feel about it. I do know, however, that my biggest complaint by far with the book is typographical. It’s neat when books start each chapter with a script capital letter, or italics. But putting the first three words in a sans serif font when the rest isn’t? Not cool, Bantam. That random jump from Arial to Times New Roman threw me off every single chapter, and I’m not exaggerating.

One of the highlights of the series is still the constant reference to other mysteries. Lady Molly of Scotland Yard is most definitely going on my reading list! Each book also always features five painting of book scenes Annie has hanging in the store for customers to try to identify as part of a contest. I wish I could remember books with that level of detail! I was so pleased when I recognized one of the books this time around, but it turned to disappointment at the big reveal when I realized I own the other four books as well and have read at least one. Oh well, maybe I’ll get more next time!

Published in: on April 17, 2012 at 1:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The English Breakfast Murder

The English Breakfast Murderis the fourth Tea Shop Mystery by Laura Childs, and though probably not my favorite in the series it’s still a good read (or reread). Theodosia and Haley are thrilled to join the Charleston Sea Turtle Protection League to help baby loggerheads make it from shell to sea. Even Drayton in his tweeds and loafers can’t deny the cuteness of the hatchlings scuttling across the sand. The fun abates when the trio spy a dark shape fifty yards out in the water. Haley’s convinced it’s a dolphin in trouble, and Theo’s getting a pretty strong vibe herself, so she swims out to take a look. (And of course she’s a certified lifeguard–there’s that Nancy Drew streak again.)

She almost wishes she hadn’t when she realizes the object is a dead body–and the body of one of Drayton’s friends, no less. Harper Fisk was a local antiques dealer and also a member with Drayton of the English Breakfast Club, a group of historians who got together every week. The official verdict is death by drowning, but to Theodosia and Detective Tidwell that seems a far-fetched about a sea dog.

Theo is able to enlist the help of her boyfriend Jory, and avid yachtsman like herself, to help track down the boat, and along the way they find plenty of motive. Harper Fisk’s antique store was extremely successful; perhaps his young assistant wanted a bigger share, or perhaps his friends and fellow store owners were getting jealous. In addition, Fisk was an amateur treasure hunter intent on locating a valuable wreck rumored to be just offshore. If his theories were valid, someone may have wanted to claim the treasure for him or herself.

Whenever I feel overwhelmed with all the work I do teaching, tutoring, and chaperoning, I just think of Theodosia. Talk about a full calendar! She’s running her own store with all that entails, helping Delaine organize a fashion show luncheon for her clothing boutique, visiting with Earl Grey is his capacity as service dog, attending functions about town, and trying to solve a mystery on the side. I have to admit, I’m a little envious of all the society events she gets to go to, especially with her connection to the Historical Society. I would love to attend art galleries, concerts, exhibits, and luncheons, but it seems like no one really dresses up and goes out at more.

Laura Childs (aka Gerry Schmitt) is a former marketing CEO just like Theodosia, and she’s put her expertise to good work in the series. So far, as a small business owner, Theo has started a website/online store front (which was a big deal in 2001 when that book first came out), expanded to outdoor seating, developed a line on T-bath products, hosted several themed teas (like a mystery tea), called on Drayton to create new tea blends each holiday season, as well as various iced teas, and given Haley free range to perfect the use of tea as a flavor when cooking. To me this aspect is just as intriguing as the actual mystery. I used to work part time in an artisan’s cooperative and was constantly around people with creative ideas for products and marketing, so perhaps that’s why this appeals to me so.

Fun tidbit #1: Theodosia and Drayton decide to start stocking Rooibos (Redbush) tea because it has been getting a lot of media buzz lately. Perhaps this is a nod to the Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency series?

Fun tidbit #2: In the previous book, the teaser called this volume “The Last English Breakfast.” I wonder who decided to change it, and why?

Published in: on April 11, 2012 at 1:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Shades of Earl Grey

Delaine’s pleading eyes bore into Theodosia. “Oh please, you’re so terribly good at this kind of thing.”

I have to start out by saying that whenever I mentioned what I was reading, people would respond with “oh, that book…” and I’d have to tell them it was a different Shades of Grey!

You come to expect that a dead bodies will crop up in a mystery, but some cases are sadder than others. In this book, Theodosia and company are at the engagement party for her friend Delaine’s niece Camille. Unfortunately, the storm raging outside causes the roof of the glass-enclosed room to collapse, killing the young groom-to-be. To top it off, the couple’s priceless heirloom wedding disappeared from its display in the aftermath of the accident. Theodosia has a hunch that the collapsing roof could be the symptom of a theft gone wrong, and Delaine begs her to do a little investigating.

Since a cat burglar would likely strike again, Theodosia and Drayton urge their friend Timothy to take extra precautions at the Heritage Society’s upcoming display of antique European jewels. Unfortunately, their simple security system is not enough. Soon shops and homes all over the Historic District are victimized. The case is out of Burt Tidwell’s hands because it is not officially murder, but Theodosia and her friends will need all the help they can get to trap a cat.

I don’t know why I never thought of it before, but maybe one of the reasons I love these books so much is Theodosia’s uncanny similarity to Nancy Drew. She’s fairly tall, with blue eyes and curly auburn hair. She lost her mother at a young age (eight), and her father was a lawyer. She has a pair of trusted friends always ready to help with the case, and a loyal boyfriend who stays offstage unless needed. She even has a brave and intelligent dog (and Earl Grey helps plenty with this case especially).

Beyond outward similarities, Theo has both a strong desire to help people and a true talent for investigating, just like Nancy. Her mind tends to pick up on clues and see all possible hidden meanings in ordinary scenarios. She is calm and collected at all times, even when in dangerous situations. And if at thirty-five she’s a little bit older than the teen sleuth, we can overlook that difference. Laura Childs is a self-professed Nancy Drew fan, so I wonder if that really was part of the inspiration behind Theodosia’s character.

Published in: on April 2, 2012 at 1:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Gunpowder Green

“Just like her marvelous tea,” said Timothy, “you discover what she’s really made of when you put her in hot water.”

I decided to continue with Laura Child’s Tea Shop Mysteries right away, just like I read them all back-to-back the first time around. Gunpowder Green begins with Theo waiting anxiously at the finish line of Charleston’s annual yacht race, both to see the winner and serve refreshments. When Oliver Dixon shoots the antique pistol to signal the end of the race, however, it explodes and kills him.. Most are inclined to write it off as a horrible accident, but Theodosia is not so sure, and the fact that Inspector Burt Tidwell is assigned to the case confirms her suspicions.

A lot of people had potential motive for the death of the the wealthy investor, however. What he lacked in outright enemies he more than made up for in money. His brand new wife is a beauty pageant queen forty years his junior. His family has a long-standing feud with the Cantrells, and he was seen arguing with Ford Cantrell shortly before his death. His recent focus, a tech company called Grapevine about to release a new Blackberry-like PDA, has been receiving a lot of media attention lately.

I’m less of a tea drinker than I wish I was, but I do enjoy herbal teas and white teas. I find all the little tidbits sprinkled throughout the books fascinating, and the recipes are of course mouthwatering. I’d like to try to make some of Haley’s scones.

I love these books so much that it’s easy to read them all right in a row. The downside is trying to write about them all in a row! I can’t think of anything else to say here that’s not already in one of the drafts for the other books, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less good.

Published in: on March 22, 2012 at 1:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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