Murder Spills the Tea
Tea by the Sea Mysteries #3
By Vicki Delany
Author Website: vickidelany(.)com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
The country’s hottest TV cooking show is coming to Cape Cod. And against her better judgment, Lily Roberts is entering America Bakes! with her charming tearoom, Tea by the Sea! Filming is already proving disruptive, closing the tearoom during Lily’s busiest season. But tensions really bubble over when infamous bad-boy chef and celebrity judge, Tommy Greene, loses his temper with Lily’s staff, resulting in an on-camera blowout with Cheryl Wainwright. Just as Lily thinks the competition can’t get more bitter, Tommy is found dead in Tea by the Sea’s kitchen . . . murdered with Cheryl’s rolling pin.
Suspicion immediately falls on Cheryl, but the temperamental star has racked up plenty of culinary clashes in the past, both on- and off-screen. And nearly anyone associated with Tommy or the show could be the killer: be it one of Lily’s fierce competitors, a member of the beleaguered film crew, or even one of Tommy’s fellow judges–struggling cookbook maven, Claudia D’Angelo or beauty contest winner, Scarlet McIntosh. Now, while she’s baking up a storm for the show, Lily must also whip up an impromptu investigation . . . before the murderer rolls someone else away. (Goodreads)
This was a deliciously exciting read! I hope this series enjoys a long run, as I am invested in the characters and the Cape Cod setting. The mystery kept me guessing throughout; my suspect list was a moving target. The killer was staring me in the face the whole time, as if taunting me while waiting to pop up like a jack in the box with a canned cry of “Surprise!”
This is Lily’s first season at Tea by the Sea, the tearoom she owns on the grounds of Victoria-On-Sea, the B&B her beloved grandmother, Rose, has opened for its first season. Both have been enjoying success. Tea by the Sea is gaining a good reputation for its quality of teas, excellent baked goods, and the afternoon tea service. The B&B’s English Garden is a tourist destination, and the ocean view sounds amazing. Unbeknownst to Lily, her best friend Bernie and Rose applied for the tearoom to be part of a reality TV show, America Bakes! They know that nationwide exposure for the tearoom would increase both local and tourist business.
Lily was horrified to learn they applied for her and was accepted. Two of the three judges are renowned chefs who have had TV shows and upscale restaurants. The third judge is a beauty pageant winner with an attitude. The show contracted with Lily to film from her tearoom for up to five days on the first round, and she is the first competitor filmed. Her first-round competitor is the owner of a nearby second-generation bakery who is furious that an upstart in a tearoom would compete against her.
The filming has been a challenge to Lily and to Cheryl and MaryBeth, the usually proficient mother and daughter servers. On the second day, a top-notch but temperamental chef and judge, Tony, tripped Marybeth when she brought out more tea. The hot beverage spilled on him, and she was horrified and apologetic. Tony was furious, bringing Marybeth to tears. Cheryl lit into Tony, even tossing out a threat that many parents might have said in similar circumstances. Lily tried to throw out the cameraman and end the filming but was reminded of the contract she signed.
The judges and director were staying at the B&B, so it wasn’t a surprise to Lily to run into Tony later that night when walking her dog. What did surprise her was his sadness at what he had done. It sounded like he wanted to be done with television and return to his first loves, his family and his restaurants. He said he found and apologized to Marybeth and she forgave him. The next morning, Tony was found dead in the kitchen of the tearoom, having been clobbered over the head with Lily’s rarely used marble rolling pin. When the assistant director told the detectives about the threat Cheryl made, Chuck, the detective in charge, was ready to arrest Cheryl even without sufficient evidence. Bernie and Rose are prepared to investigate and got Lily involved. They were afraid Chuck would railroad Cheryl just to solve the case.
I am very fond of the three-dimensional characters in this novel. Well, except for Chuck. Lily is my favorite, and Simon, the genuinely British gardener, would be next in line. They are both dedicated to their work and loyal to their friends. Simon had learned to bake from his mother, who owns a catering company; he often helps Lilly bake in the evening after the tearoom closes. Rose and Bernie are as “alike as two eggs in a mixing bowl” with regards to their personalities, and I genuinely like them, also.
The plot is perfectly executed, with twists and turns that kept me on my toes. The armchair traveler in me would love to see Cape Cod and the ocean, so beautifully are they described. Not a fan of reality shows, I hope the real ones don’t treat contestants badly to make the shows dramatic and interesting. I was completely surprised to learn who the killer was. When Lily was sure she knew, I had no idea how she came to that conclusion. The resolution was satisfying in every way, and I am eagerly looking forward to the next in series. For those who enjoy new recipes, a few of Lily’s best are included. I highly recommend this cozy mystery and the earlier two in its series.