Death in a Budapest Butterfly
A Hungarian Tea House Mystery #1
By Julia Buckley
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Hanna Keller runs her family’s Tea House, serving up scrumptious snacks and tantalizing teas but when a customer keels over from a poisoned cuppa, Hanna and her tea-leaf reading grandma will have to catch a killer in the first of the new cozy mystery series from Julia Buckley.
Hanna Keller and her family run Maggie’s Tea House, an establishment heavily influenced by the family’s Hungarian descent and specializing in a European-style traditional tea service. But truthfully, one of the shop’s largest draws is Hanna’s eccentric grandmother, who’s known for her remarkable ability to read the future in the leaves at the bottom of their customers’ cups. Lately, however, her readings have become alarmingly ominous…
Hanna is also an avid teacup collector and especially takes pride in the Anna Weatherley butterfly cup she recently procured. But the exquisite piece of porcelain soon becomes the center of a murder investigation, when it’s suspected of delivering poison to one of the guests at their most recent event. Hanna’s determined to find the true killer, exonerate her family, their business, and in the process, reclaim her beautiful Budapest Butterfly.
Julia Buckley has written a solid, exciting first in her new “A Hungarian Tea House Mystery” series. The attractive cover is just the beginning of how captivating this cozy mystery is. With engaging characters, the lovely Hungarian culture, and a very challenging mystery, the author presents us with a wonderful new sleuth who is as brilliant as the lead detective. I enjoyed it!
Maggie’s Tea House has been a popular destination for nearly three decades for those who appreciate the flair of European high tea. It was opened by Maggie Keller and her mother, Juliana, and Maggie’s daughter Hana, almost 28, enjoys working there as well. Hana might be the first female in her line to not speak Hungarian, but she can cook many foods and serve at the tea gatherings with the best.
Hana found a gorgeous tea cup and plate at her favorite antiques store. At $75, it is a bargain with a tiny chip that most people wouldn’t notice. Called a Budapest Butterfly, it is designed and painted by a famous Hungarian porcelain artisan and its handle is a beautiful butterfly. She will use it s a table centerpiece where Grandma, Juliana, will give tea readings at the monthly Magyar Women group.
The tea will include nearly 70 women. Francois, their chef, is a student at a Chicago culinary institute. He prepares the special sandwiches and petit fours; his food is popular with everyone. Hana is not familiar with one of the women in attendance and is introduced to Ava Novak. She is beautiful and looks much younger than her 60+ years. It is suggested to Hana, though, by the president of Magyar women, to act as if Ava is not there. She sits by herself and seems quite comfortable.
Partway through the tea, Hana noticed that the Budapest Butterfly is no longer on the tea reading table. She finally seas it at Ava’s table…and Ava is drinking from it! Ava isn’t looking as if she feels right as the tea leaf readings begin. She holds her tummy and heads toward the ladies’ room.
Grandma gave a reading to Mrs. Kalas that is frightening, leaving both women shaken. Hana looked at the table where Ava’s purse still sits, looks inside the Budapest Butterfly and sees words written in Hungarian, words that frighten Maggie and Juliana. Words that sent Hana running to see if Ava is okay. Ava never make it to the restroom. She was on the floor in the hallway, not breathing and with no pulse.
There are about 70 women in the tea house. Detective Erik Wolf, who seems to make an instant connection with Hana, asks that the 3 generations of tea house ladies be present when they interview the Magyar Women. Hana looks over each statement after Detective Benton prints out each transcript, making notes on whatever she is aware of not on the testimony. Her mother and grandma help with translating when needed. The biggest concern is who killed one of their guests at the tea house – especially since they have known most of the women for years.
The characters are very well defined, especially Maggie, Juliana, Hana, and Hana’s brother’s girlfriend Margie. I like each of the women for their strengths, their closeness as family members and, in Margie’s case, because I can identify with her in many ways. The men of the family are less visible but no less valuable to the novel. We get to learn a little bit at a time about Erik; he is also very likable despite miscommunications. The conversations and actions show people who are comfortable with who they are, and how dedicated Hana is to keep the family safe.
Loosely inspired by the author’s grandparents’ story, this novel reflects the author’s love of her family and culture, including food, history, and folklore. I appreciated learning more about the Hungarian culture as I knew very little about it before. The mystery is well-executed and challenging. I was surprised at the plot twists that revealed unbelievable suspects! Yet out of the various suspects, the bad guy is one of the first suspects I thought of. I actually liked this person a bit and was sad to see it. Even sadder was the motive, which was based on a distorted picture of reality rather than truth. I am definitely looking forward to the next in series, and highly recommend this unique mystery!