Ming Tea Murder
A Tea Shop Mystery, Book #16
By Laura Childs
Author’s website: http://laurachilds.com/
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
Normally Theodosia wouldn’t attend a black tie affair for all the tea in China. But she can hardly say no to her hunky, handsome boyfriend, Max, who directs public relations for the Gibbes Museum in Charleston. Max has organized an amazing gala opening for an exhibit of a genuine eighteenth century Chinese teahouse, and the crème de la crème of Charleston society is invited.
In the exotic garden staged in the museum’s rotunda, a Chinese dragon dances to the beat of drums as it weaves through the crowd. The guests are serenaded by a Chinese violin as they sample an assortment of tempting bites. And to give them a memento of the occasion, there’s even a photo booth. But Theodosia makes a grim discovery behind the booth’s curtains: the body of museum donor Edgar Webster.
While Theodosia prefers tea service over the service of justice, this case is difficult to ignore—especially after Max becomes a suspect. Now she must examine the life of the fallen philanthropist and find out who really wanted him to pay up…
Ms. Child’s Tea Shop mysteries have always been some of my most favorite reads so maybe I am being a bit hard on this one. Ming Tea Murder starts off with an exciting exclusive museum gala celebrating the Gibbs Museum’s acquisition of an authentic Chinese tea house. Wealthy people mill about, the exhibit is beautiful, and the dragon and music in the rotunda lend a festive air. All is going well until Theo discovers one of the primary donors deceased in the photo booth. He has obviously been murdered, and for some inexplicably illogical reason Theo’s boyfriend Max, who is the public relations director for the museum, becomes the fall guy since it was his idea to rent the photo booth. He is suspended, but he knows it is only a matter of time until he is officially fired. He is also on the police’s radar, and Theo embroils herself in the investigation to save Max.
As usual, there are plenty of suspects to wade through: the victim’s wife, his mistress, his business partner and his wife, the museum director, and a recently transplanted art dealer. Theo even briefly doubts Max’s innocence. Detective Tidwell is surprising tolerant of Theo’s meddling. Even more surprising is Theo’s collaboration with the sleazy journalist Bill; she has steered clear of him in the past. The mystery itself is pretty solid, however I did guess “whodunit” very early on.
The Indigo Tea Shop is as charming as ever, and I would love to attend one of their special teas. The food offerings always sound delicious, and I often learn something about tea varieties from Drayton.
Unfortunately, my problem is with the characters in this offering. After fifteen books, I feel like I know these people very well, but I barely recognized them here. All of their “voices” did not ring true. The dialogue felt off, and they did not sound or act like themselves. Drayton was far less formal and proper than in the past. There was name calling and slang like never before. The Theo I am acquainted with does not “bark” at people or “check out” and forget about appointments and commitments. She is a proper Southern lady and would not disrespect her elders as she did by calling Delaine’s aunt Aunt Acid. There was no feasible reason for Theo to call someone previously unknown to her by an unkind nickname. Max came across as whiney and immature (I appreciate the clean language that is inherent in cozy mysteries, but his exclamations of “Gosh” and the like were jarring in their false quality). His and Theo’s relationship seemed platonic with no trace of romance. I was confused and bothered by these differences throughout the book.
This is not my favorite book in a series that is exceptionally dear to me, and I am honestly a bit disappointed. I will continue reading in hopes of a return to the tea shop and characters that I have grown to love. If I think about it as a stand-alone cozy, it warrants a higher rating, but I miss these beloved characters and do not want to see them change so much.
*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*