Agony of the Leaves (A Tea Shop Mystery)
by Laura Childs
Cover Artist: Stephanie Henderson
Review by Gayle Surrette
Berkley Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425245538
Date: 06 March 2012 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The Indigo Tea Shop is one of the businesses catering the opening of the aquarium's event to honor the largest donors. It's very busy and Theodosia Browning takes a break slipping out to the Ocean Wall exhibit. She finds the exhibit calming and refreshing until she spots a body which turns out to be her ex-boyfriend, Parker Scully, owner of Soltice, a restaurant that is also catering this event.
Once the police arrive and the body is removed from the tank, Theodosia spots a problem with the body that convinces her that Parker was murdered. Everyone, except Theodosia, is willing to rule it a death by misadventure, although Detective Burt Tidwell is willing to humor her enough to listen. Theodosia is willing to leave it up to the police, but she knows that Parker was murdered and when his current girlfriend asks for her help to find the killer, well Theodosia decides just asking a few questions wouldn't hurt.
Reader of Childs' Tea Shop Mysteries know that Theodosia can't let things be; that she must find the killer. Of course, there's plenty to keep her otherwise occupied: a treasure hunt for charity, a high tea at her Aunt's to help raise money for a bird sanctuary, and serving tea at her shop. But even with all this on her plate, Theodosia finds herself trying to track down the missing file on current projects in Parker's file cabinet.
This time there are so many possible killers with so many reasons that even the astute reader who can usually figure things out early in the story will find themselves backtracking and shaking their collective heads as thread after thread turns out to be the wrong one. The author pulls the reader in and makes them care for the characters and read at speed to be sure of their survival.
These books are set in Charleston, South Carolina, and the author manages to make the setting another character. I can almost feel the heat and smell the flowers and the scent of tea steaming in a cup. The book also includes a list of Tea Resources, suggestions for themed teas, and recipes.