4 star rating
Steeped in Evil
A Tea Shop Mystery, Book #15
By Laura Childs
ISBN# 978-0425252956
Author’s Website:

Brought to you by OBS reviewer Daniele


 In the newest mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Sweet Tea Revenge, Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning is about to learn the true meaning of terroir…

Theodosia Browning has never considered herself a wine connoisseur—tea has always been her forte. But that doesn’t mean she’s going to pass up an invitation to a fancy wine-tasting party at the upscale Knighthall Winery, just outside of Charleston, South Carolina.

But a sweet evening takes on a bitter aftertaste when a dead body is discovered in one of the wine barrels. The son of proprietor Jordan Knight has been murdered.

Dissatisfied with the police investigation, Knight turns to Theo for help. She’s heard through the grapevine that there are both family and business problems at Knighthall. They say in vino veritas, but everyone at the winery seems to be lying through their teeth. Sorting through the guest list as well as family and staff, Theo has her pick of suspects. It may look like the killer has her over a barrel, but cracking tough cases is vintage Theodosia Browning. (Amazon)


I quite anticipated reading this fifteenth entry of the Tea Shop Mystery series, hoping that this book would be back to the quality of Childs’ earlier works (I was a tad dissatisfied with Sweet Tea Revenge), and I can happily say that this installment did not disappoint.

Theo accompanies her employee and comrade, Drayton, to a wine tasting soirée at a local winery that is owned by Jordan Knight.  The party comes to an abrupt end when Jordan’s son, Drew, is found dead in a wine barrel.  The Knights, thinking the Sherriff’s investigation inadequate, implore Theo to use her sleuthing talents.  She agrees to “look into things” since Jordan is Drayton’s friend.  She soon finds that all is not well at the winery; financial problems, a deteriorating marriage, and strained relationships abound.  There are plenty of suspects and motives to consider: Drew’s step-mother stands to inherit his portion of the winery, the adjacent golf course wants the winery’s land, a rival winemaker would like to see them out of business, a silent partner might want out of the sinking operation, and there is even the possibility of a drug deal gone bad. In addition, Drew would have rather pursued his art than be part of the winery enterprise.

This story is a bit different from the others in the series in that the murder occurs just out of Charleston city limits and focuses quite a bit on wine.  It provides a behind the scenes look at the business of wine and how costly and cutthroat the industry can be.  Tea shop loving readers should not despair, though, because tea and nibbles are still prominently featured.  Of particular note is a Downton Abby Tea that fans of the television show will definitely appreciate.  Since the crime did not take place in Charleston proper, there is little of Detective Tidwell here.  Dayton, however, has a greater presence.  This installment moves along at a good pace and was action packed.  However, there is a chase scene that seems a bit too farfetched, even by cozy mystery standards.  I did suspect “whodunit” partway through, but there were plenty of twists and turns to make me doubt my conclusion, and the motive turned out to be a bit of a surprise.

If I had to sum up the Tea Shop Mysteries in one word, that word would be charming.  Ms. Childs has a distinctive style and pens books that leap to life out of the pages.  Her writing provides a feast for the senses – sights, sounds, smells.  Whether she is describing Charleston, the daily tea and food offerings at the Indigo Tea Shop, Theo’s home, Drayton’s always proper dress, or the atmosphere at a charity benefit, the reader feels like he is there in the midst of things.  Recipes, tea entertaining tips, and resources are found at the back of the book.  I enjoyed this mystery, as I have the whole series overall, and look forward to many more additions.  It is always a pleasure to visit what have become old friends to this reader at the Indigo Tea Shop.  Highly recommended.