Steeped in Malice

Tea by the Sea Mysteries

By Vicki Delany

ISBN 9781496737724

Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie


Thanks to the Great Teacup Shortage, Cape Cod tearoom proprietress Lily Roberts is already feeling the strain. But when a family fracas turns deadly over an antique tea set, she’ll really have to pour through the clues before another crime is brewed up.

Afternoon tea isn’t just about flavorful brews and delicious treats. It’s also about presentation—fine china teacups (never mugs!), with carefully coordinated saucers and plates. With her fragile stock running low, Lily has an excuse to indulge in one of her favorite hobbies: visiting an antiques fair for replacements.

Among other finds, Lily snaps up a charming Peter Rabbit-themed tea set in a wicker basket, perfect for children’s events. But a few days later, a woman named Kimberly marches into the tearoom, rudely demanding to buy it back—then later returns and removes an envelope hidden in the basket’s lining.

An acquaintance of Lily’s named Rachel is on the trail of the tea set too. Apparently, she and Kimberly are half-sisters, searching for their mother’s final will. To her annoyance, Lily is dunked into the middle of this mess—especially when her ex-boyfriend turns out to be involved. But it’s more than a storm in a teacup when one of the sisters is found dead on the grounds of the B&B owned by Lily’s grandmother, Rose.

Is this a simple case of greed boiling over, or are there other suspects in the blend? It’ll take some savvy sleuthing from Lily, Rose, and their allies to find the answers before a killer shatters more lives . . .(From Goodreads)


What an exciting new offering in this series! The setting sounds like one of the best places to be in the summer. The characters greeted me at the beginning and kept me entertained throughout. They are colorful, engaging, and three-dimensional, defined through realistic conversations and actions. The mystery was intriguing and kept me guessing until the end.

Lily’s English-style tea shop, Tea by the Sea, is on the grounds of her grandmother Rose’s, elegant Victorian B&B, aptly named Victoria on Sea. Rose, from England, has an English-style garden that is unmatched in the Cape Cod area. It is cared for by her gardener, Simon, also from England. Lily lives in a cottage on the property. She is a pastry chef who went to Rose’s after abruptly quitting her ex-boyfriend’s Michelin-starred Manhattan restaurant after he came toward her with a knife.

Lily, her best friend Bernie, and Rose went to an antique fair, where Lily sought multiple fine china tea sets to replace those lost to breakage. Her favorite find of the day was a child’s tea set decorated with Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. The first group of children who used it adored the whimsical set.

A rude woman came into the shop demanding to see Lily, then demanding she give her the tea set. She claimed it had sentimental value and was sold to the antique dealer in error. She expected Lily to take the set away from the children using it to give her, with its lined wicker storage container. Lily told her to return at closing time. She returned, gave Lily cash, grabbed an envelope sewn into the box’s silk lining, and left with only the envelope.

The next day, another woman came in to see Lily, a fine restaurant interior designer Lily knew in Manhattan. Rachel also came for the tea set. She was the half-sister of Kimberly, the woman demanding it the day before. Rachel was upset to have missed it, also claiming sentimental value until learning Kimberly got the envelope.

Lily was preparing breakfast for B & B guests another morning when a fight began in the dining room. Rachel came in and was arguing with Kimberly and Kimberly’s new husband. Wesley, Lily’s ex-boyfriend, was Kimberly’s new husband, staying at Rose’s B &B?

Lily later enjoyed an evening alone with her labradoodle and heard Kimberly outside, arguing with someone. Lily couldn’t tell who the other person was or even if male or female. Kimberly’s voice cut off, and the only sound was her dog barking frantically. Lily looked out and saw Kimberly lying on the ground. She called 911, attempted CPR, but it was too late.

Lily planned to stay out of an investigation that had nothing to do with her or her family. Knowing the police were looking for her, Rachel entered the tea shop in disguise the next day. She told Lily that the box lining hid their mother’s final will; her attorney didn’t have a copy. Kimberly had Rachel taken out of the earlier will. The final, handwritten, witnessed will, dated days before her death, added Rachel back in. Without it, Rachel got nothing. Wesley married Kimberly for the inheritance that would now, due to her death, become his. He began playing games. He told Lily he wanted her back, then told one of the detectives that Lily killed his bride, never having accepted their breakup. Lily, Bernie, and Rose began to investigate.

The plot twists were startling, especially Wes’s financial situation and what they learned from the girls’ younger brother and their housekeeper. The house was worth about twenty million, but there was little actual money left. I was stymied, knowing they had three excellent suspects, but insufficient evidence. I was shocked to find out who the bad guy really was! This series gets better with each mystery, and I was very happy with the ending! I highly recommend this, and the series!