Tea Shop Mystery, Book #22
By Laura Childs
Author Website: laurachilds(.)com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
It is the week before Halloween and Theodosia Browning, proprietor of the Indigo Tea Shop, and her tea sommelier, Drayton, are ghosting through the dusk of a cool Charleston evening on their way to the old Bouchard Mansion. Known as the Gray Ghost, this dilapidated place was recently bequeathed to the Heritage Society, and tonight heralds the grand opening of their literary and historical themed haunted house.
Though Timothy Neville, the patriarch of the Heritage Society, is not thrilled with the fund-raising idea, it is the perfect venue for his grandniece, Willow French, to sign copies of her new book, Carolina Crimes & Creepers.
But amid a parade of characters dressed as Edgar Allan Poe, Lady Macbeth, and the Headless Horseman, Willow’s body is suddenly tossed from the third-floor tower room and left to dangle at the end of a rope. Police come screaming in and Theodosia’s boyfriend, Detective Pete Riley, is sent to Willow’s apartment to investigate. But minutes later, he is shot and wounded by a shadowy intruder.
Timothy begs Theodosia to investigate, and shaken by Riley’s assault, she readily agrees. Now, she questions members of the Heritage Society and a man who claims the mansion is rightfully his, as well as Willow’s book publisher and her fiancé, all while hosting a Sherlock Holmes tea and catering several others.
But the Gray Ghost holds many secrets, as do several other key suspects, while this murder mystery plays out on the eve of Halloween. (Goodreads)
After twenty-two books in this long running series, reading Haunted Hibiscus is like visiting your favorite friends in a beautiful location for a few days. As always, the characters are well developed, the scene gorgeously set, and the mystery full of misdirection and possibilities.
It is almost Halloween in Charleston, South Carolina, and tea shop owner Theodosia and her trusty tea sommelier side-kick Drayton find themselves enjoying the historical society’s haunted house fundraiser. That is until the head of the society’s grand-niece Willow dies during the festivities. At Timothy’s urging, Theodosia feels obligated to look into things, and she is driven even more when her policeman boyfriend Pete is shot in the line of duty.
I really enjoy the subtle Halloween theme here. The mystery is well thought out and executed with several possible motives and suspects that make total sense. That said the killer’s identity took me by surprise. I really enjoyed Drayton’s increasing role in the investigations. My only problem is that this time around, Theodosia comes across as thinking she knows more and is better than the police. She is somewhat brash in approaching and questioning the suspects, and this feels out of character for this Southern Lady sleuth. Hopefully, she will be back to herself in the next book.
As much as I enjoy the murder mysteries in this series, I would be lying if I said the characters and all things tea are not just as important to me. I often find myself salivating over the delicious menus and recipes and often interrupt my reading to Google any unfamiliar china patterns mentioned. I have purchased several teas based on them being mentioned within these pages. I appreciate the tea/luncheon/party tips and theme ideas.
Haunted Hibiscus is another delightful entry in one of my favorite cozy series. Highly recommended to any cozy mystery reader, especially those interested in culinary and southern settings.