Death on the Night of Lost Lizards
Hungarian Tea House Mystery #3
By Julia Buckley
Author’s website: juliabuckley.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Hana Keller and her tea-leaf reading grandmother are used to finding the perfect savory treats to pair with a delicious cuppa at her family’s tea house but when a local professor is killed, she uncovers a serving of suspects instead…
Hana Keller is getting ready for a lovely holiday season. She decides to host a tea at her apartment for her closest friends. During the cozy get-together, one of Hana’s friends gets a call that a murderer is on the loose and that the women should be careful. Hana soon learns that Sandor Balog, a professor of Hungarian Studies at the local college, has been viciously killed.
Hana gets one of her visions that she is going to be pulled into the professor’s death somehow. When Erik, her handsome detective boyfriend, finds several suspects at the Tea House, Hana knows she must now investigate. And when the wrong man is arrested, things come to a boil and Hana finds herself in the path of the real killer. (from Goodreads)
I truly enjoy this series, having been hooked from the beginning. The author brings believable situations to Riverwood, a suburb of Chicago, and to Maggie’s Tea House. Hana, her family, and friends are delightfully engaging. I particularly enjoy reading a bit about Hungarian culture as I have not met people before who have ancestors from there. The mystery is excellent, with plot twists that keep the protagonists on their toes. Characters are defined well through realistic conversation and actions.
Hana’s mother, Maggie, is owner of the tea house. Maggie’s mother, Juliana, and Hana both worked there. Juliana and her husband moved to the US from Hungary when Maggie was much younger. Maggie, her parents, and her siblings are fluent in English and their native language. I enjoyed seeing how the population of those of Hungarian descent is significant enough that the language is taught at the nearby university. Learning some of the folklore and porcelain collectibles was fascinating.
Christmas is just around the corner and the tea house has many special events scheduled. The tea house is much larger than I thought; one of the events served at least eighty people! The three ladies and their pastry chef are experts at expediting service to everyone. On a day when snow was falling, Hana saw a young man coming from an alley without a coat on. He looked cold and anxious, and she knew him but couldn’t remember where from. When she arrived home, an early birthday package awaited her. Uncle Zoltan remembered a costly tea set she had wanted when much younger, and he found several pieces for her. The pattern is “lost lizards”, the handles of the teacups being two entwined lizards, and she is thrilled. That night, her. boyfriend Eric, a detective, was late coming over as he was called on a new murder case.
The victim, Sandor Balog, was the professor of Hungarian language and chair of the World Languages department. He was loved by many in the community, including a couple women he dated during the time he was separated from his wife. Hana knew him only by his first name from the times she saw him in her favorite antiques shop looking for collectible treasures of their heritage. The coatless young man was one of his students, and his mother a professor who works for Sandor and had a huge fight with him shortly before his death.
Joy is a beautiful ribbon woven throughout this novel. I enjoyed how Henrik was defined, “as though he had found a way to house joy in his tall, thin body.” I enjoyed some of their sayings, my favorite being “as happy as monkey about its tail’. The author brings the beautiful Hungarian culture alive, enhancing the mystery and making it an enjoyable read.
The mystery had several twists and turns, especially as Hana, Erik, and his partner eavesdrop throughout the tea that Sandor was honored in. As they delve into the people in Sandor’s life, Hana is surprised at some of the things she learns about him, things that added people to the suspect list. I was somewhat startled to find who the bad guy really was, as I had missed any solid clues except for one I had a hunch about until the last moments. Overall, the end is satisfactory, and I highly recommend this novel while looking forward to the next one!