Brought to you by OBS reviewer Daniele
*Beware: contains slight spoilers*
In the latest novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Agony of the Leaves, Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning may always be a bridesmaid, never a bride, but this groom is never going to make it to the altar…
Theodosia Browning’s dear friend, Delaine Dish, has asked her to be a bridesmaid for her wedding. But when the big day arrives, everything seems to be going wrong. First, a massive storm is brewing over Charleston. A bad omen? Second, Delaine’s maid of honor is late for the ceremony. And finally, the groom not only has cold feet—his whole body is cold. A murderer has crashed the wedding.
As Theodosia comforts a devastated Delaine, she needs to sort out the suspects on the groom’s side from the suspects on the bride’s side. One thing soon becomes apparent—revenge won’t be the only dish served cold at this wedding. And if Theodosia doesn’t watch her step, a cold-blooded killer may have a rude reception in store for her.… (Goodreads)
This fourteenth installment in the long running Tea Shop Mystery series begins with a slight gothic feel…a rumbling summer storm, a potentially haunted, shabby inn, flickering electricity…and a wedding that is delayed in starting. Delaine, Theo’s friend and fellow Charleston business woman, and Dougan Granville, Theo’s neighbor, are getting married following a short engagement. When the maid-of-honor and the flowers finally arrive things are ready to roll, but now where is the groom? Theodosia, serving as bridesmaid, offers to check on Dougan only to find him deceased in his room. Did he overdose on what appears to be cocaine found near his body? Did he fall ill? Was there a strange accident? Did a ghost enact revenge? Was foul play involved?
When it is determined that Dougan was murdered, Delaine soon requests (demands) that Theo investigate. Did a wedding guest kill him? Did someone sneak into the inn? She quickly uncovers several motives and suspects: a large inheritance up for grabs, a jealous ex-girlfriend, a smuggling operation involving illegal Cuban cigars, a dubious law partner, a prodigal step-son, and inn keepers that feel wronged by the deceased. And to add to her full plate of running the Indigo Tea Shop and investigating, brother ghost hunters come to town and seek her assistance.
This is not the best book of the series. It seemed more formulaic than previous entries, and the plot was a bit disjointed. Maybe the problem was fundamentally that Delaine is shallow, narcissistic, vain, and selfish and a poor character to center a mystery around. She was even more over the top and stranger than usual. And her sister was even worse. Also, Dougan was revealed to be not the finest of men so it was difficult to feel sorry that he died.
Theo bumbled through this book a bit, and solved the crime by luck more than investigation, and of course, she put herself in danger in the process. She was uncharacteristically overconfident in her abilities, judgmental, and overreacted to every clue. There was the continuing theme that she could do a better job than the police even though her relationship with Detective Tidwell has evolved a bit. He was more tolerant of Theo and a gentler “beast” this time.
I was left scratching my head at the end of the story…because I felt like it shouldn’t have been the end. The revelation of the killer was rushed and a bit out of the blue since (s)he was overlooked for much of the book, seemingly even by Theo. There was much left unresolved. Why hide St. Cloud’s identity? Was he really involved in cigar smuggling? Will the Rattlings be Theo’s neighbors in the future? If Drayton was so opposed to the ghost hunters, then why did he go out with them “hunting”? What was even the point of the ghost hunters to the story? Why leave a note for Theo in the kitchen during the Garden Tour? Who left it? Why include a relationship with Max if it was not essential to the story? He was in the periphery, and Theo ignored him much of the time. I fear Max is on his way out of the picture or a dreaded love triangle is brewing.
Having said all this, I would still recommend including this cozy on your reading list. Ms. Child’s books are always light and entertaining. Reading one of these cozy mysteries is like visiting old friends. I love Theodosia, Drayton, Haley, and Earl Grey, the dog. The tea tidbits and recipes are fun additions, and they always make me want to visit Charleston and wish there was really was an Indigo Tea Shop to patronize. I would recommend this to lovers of culinary mysteries, Tea Shop series enthusiasts, and lovers of Charleston. I cross my fingers that the next offering is back on track.