Death by Spiced Chai
Bookstore Café Mystery #10
By Alex Erickson
Author’s website: alexericksonbooks.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Since Krissy Hancock opened her bookstore-café in the charming small town of Pine Hills, Ohio, she’s discovered that murders don’t just happen between the pages. This time, she’s both suspect and target.
In a small town like Pine Hills, reputation counts for a lot. And for reasons that Krissy Hancock can’t figure out, someone is trashing hers. Cockroaches in the bookstore’s coffee, spiteful reviews, vandalism—Krissy is being framed for every bit of bad news around. Her boyfriend, local cop Paul Dalton, is on the case, but before they can source the saboteur, Krissy is in the frame for murder, too.
The murder weapon was a teapot full of Krissy’s favorite spiced chai, and all the local gossips are spilling the tea about her supposed involvement. But the real culprit has a grudge that’s been simmering for years. And unless Krissy can uncover the truth before the killer’s rage boils over again, it won’t just be her business in hot water—her life will be on the line too.
Death by Coffee sounds like my kind of hangout! The café/ bookstore is named after one of Krissy’s father, James’s, best-selling novels; she is a co-owner along with best friends Vicki and her husband, Mason. The café on the ground floor is extremely busy, while the bookstore is on the second floor overlooking the seating area. There were many pieces to this complicated murder, vandalism, and other actions someone is committing to ruin Krissy’s business and reputation.
Hamish Lauder was a customer who was abrupt but not unkind. He came in to purchase James’s latest novel. Hamish was upset that an author would disrespect a reader by starting a new series while in the middle of writing another one, but he did purchase the new book. He left it for her father to autograph to him, and perhaps even deliver it when it is ready. If someone didn’t know Hamish or Krissy, they would think the two were ready to fight, but Krissy would never do that with a customer – even if they did talk bad about her father.
Shortly after he left, a lady in the café screamed; there was a roach in her half-full coffee cup. She ran into the ladies’ room and came right back out, as there were roaches in there, too! What a way to clear out a café…
It only got worse from there. A local “news” blogger, who Krissy hadn’t heard about before, had amped up her comments about Krissy. Her new next-door neighbor had a strong, obvious dislike for her. She is called into the police station and accused of vandalizing a competitor’s building. Then she is called into the police station about the murder of Hamish, even though she didn’t know him before the day he bought the book. Her Javacon coffee mug and a book of her father’s, autographed to her, were at the crime scene, along with a pot of her current favorite tea.
Thankfully her boyfriend still believes her, but it is a mixed blessing. Someone texted her a grainy photo of Paul and his ex-girlfriend in which it appears he is leaning in to kiss her. He is a police officer, and was told by the detective, John, that he should stay away from Krissy until all is resolved. Krissy’s best friend, Vicki, and a few other people, including Rita, her friend despite being the biggest gossip in town, are trying to find out what they can to help her, as the police don’t appear to be looking at anyone else.
Krissy and her best friends/ business partners are going forward in the café after making sure no roaches have taken up residence in the building. They refuse to believe that she is behind all the goings-on in their lives. As for Paul, they are sure he has a good explanation, but when she finally does ask him, he can’t tell her unless his ex will allow him to as it isn’t his story to tell.
This is a very emotional time for Krissy, and she is rarely this flustered. To someone who hasn’t been stalked or had such audacious lies told about them over the space of forty-eight hours, her behavior and personality seems over-the-top. All the characters are described as well as fitting for their roles, even though Krissy isn’t shown at her best.
Even to an avid reader, this sounds like either a conspiracy – as almost nobody could have that many things go wrong in less than 48 hours – or that Krissy is a train wreck waiting to happen! I felt bad for her, especially since she truly enjoyed where she lives, her friends, and her business. The thought that she could lose it all, go to prison, and never know why would be devastating. Even her remarkable tenacity and optimism were exhausted before each day ended.
Thankfully, there are people willing to help sort this out with her. The plot twists were wild for at least the first half of the book, and the best they could discover was the description of one of the people involved. The author did an excellent job of penning a seemingly unsolvable mystery. He also included very funny scenes that helped break the tension. The solutions were very surprising, as well as the motives, and the end was very satisfying. I highly recommend this cozy mystery and look forward to visiting Krissy at Death by Coffee again soon.