Oolong Dead: A Tea Shop Mystery
by Laura Childs
Cover Artist: Stephanie Henderson
Review by Gayle Surrette
Berkley Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425225998
Date: 03 March 2009 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Theodosia Browning owns and operates the Indigo Tea Shop in the historic district of Charleston. However, she also has the bad luck to often find herself involved in murder and mayhem. In Oolong Dead, she's riding in a horse race and, after tumbling off her horse at a jump, she's face to face with the body of Abby Davis, the sister of her ex-boyfriend and no friend of hers. In shock, she focuses on the lovely cameo Abby was wearing instead of the obvious bullet wound.
Abby's death brings, Jory Davis back into Theodosia's life. He wants her help in finding Abby's killer and he thinks her murder is related to an investigative report she was working on. He makes arrangements for her to get access to Abby's work files and to visit the property she was to inherit.
Theodosia is uncomfortable with Jory. She feels as if she's cheating on Parker Scully, her new beau. But, there is a mystery to be solved and in spite of herself, she agrees to help. Luckily, Detective Burt Tidwell seems willing to impart some information about Abby and the case. Before long, Theodosia is stretched thin with preparing to host a tea for the Bravissimo Club, a booster club for the Charleston Opera, running her business, sniffing out clues, and managing to take time to sleep.
Childs manages to use her continuing characters to add texture and richness to the setting. The reader gets the feeling that they are in Charleston and can relax into this culture of politeness and courtesy which veils the steel beneath. The plot twists and turns, but the people who have information are those people we've come to know through previous books and their access to such information is not contrived, but plausible and expected at that level of society.
The ending was satisfying and logical from the clues but not an ending you'd expect. However, it does show that Theodosia is a strong, independent woman and I'll look forward to her next adventure.
Each of the Tea Shop Mysteries can stand alone but I'd suggest, if after reading this one, you find you enjoy it -- go back to the beginning and learn more about Theodosia Browning and her friends and coworkers. You also can't help learning more about tea -- its history, culture, and utility as well as its ability to satisfy the palate. Each of the books have recipes or ideas for hosting tea parties. I actually made the Chocolate Sour Cream Scones in this book and they were delicious.