"Fascinating," declared Theodosia Browning as her quizzical blue eyes roved about the hexagon-shaped room. Packed with antique medical instruments, colorful jars, and old anatomical charts, the tucked-away alcove must have been the old surgical suite back when this Victorian-style Charleston home had been a hospital almost a century and a half ago, Theodosia decided. Its builder and owner had made a fortune in early pharmaceuticals and patent drugs. Because, lord, have mercy, she told herself, this is what medical facilities were like in the 1860s.
Synopsis: Tea shop owner Theodosia Browning must deal with a PR nightmare when one of Charleston's most prominent citizens drops dead in the middle of her catering set-up. She investigates and some people die. Others drink tea and have sandwiches.
So here's the skinny on this series:
Theo is one of those independent, business-owning women who happen to trip over dead bodies all the time and yet inexplicably have not been arrested for murder or lost all their friends. In this book, she has to solve two murders and a Dread Conspiracy as well as saving her protege from making a bad business decision, keeping her tea shop open, contributing to the Charleston Heritage Society, and not slapping a fellow business-owner repeatedly about the head and shoulders.
Now, the series as a whole has had its ups and downs--I've reviewed the first six books here, and some were admittedly better than others. This seventh book is not my favorite in the series, one because it features way too much of the horrible other shop owner, Delaine, and two because it clogdances on my animal-harm trigger, so I spent some quality time fanning the pages and skimming with squinty eyes, but I think if you don't have that trigger, you'll enjoy the book very much.
Seriously. I loved the first 221 pages of the book, and then the other 45 I just fanned on. Doesn't make them terrible pages, it just makes me a wiener.
For anyone who's read some of the books in the series, I offer the following observations:
--Damn I miss Jory Davis. He was a really great bf for Theo to have. Sure he was kind of a tool sometimes, but the bad-boy thing was part of his charm. This new fellow, Parker? Is too milquetoast for Theo. She's going to burn through him like fire in a canyon.
--Given my druthers, I want to see Theo end up with Sheriff Tidwell, or better yet, no one at all. She's happy alone, we see that in every book, but Tidwell's a fantastic character. He's never described in terms of physical attractiveness, but Theo admires and respects his brain and work ethic, and in this book, his soul. I'm rooting for Burt to bring home the bacon, so to speak.
--I think few things about this series would give me more pleasure than if Delaine was knocked off in one of the future books. She works every last nerve of mine. And considering I've run into a couple of series where beloved minor characters meet unfortunate ends (Diane Mott Davidson and Margaret Coel, y'all break my heart) why not have a really un-loved one snuff it? Is there a petition I can sign somewhere?
--I really like how crisp the writing is, and moreover, how it doesn't take itself too seriously. To wit:
And...finally...the nasty glint from a jagged piece of metal protruding from the right side of Duke's scrawny neck even as his ruined carotid artery pulsed and pumped a final glut of blood.
Maraschino cherry scones and apple muffins emerged from the oven looking golden-brown and smelling delicious.
--I keep loving how all the shops in the historic district keep changing hands. It's very true to life and keeps bringing us interesting new characters. The district of wee small shops knit together is, as a whole, a huge part of the draw that keeps me reading. It's a devilishly clever conceit that's pulled off with great success.
This is the 7th book in the tea shop mystery series, and I have to say, I'm still reading. I have books 8 and 9 on the headboard, so I'm keeping on keeping on.