O how I love Tea Shop Mysteries by Laura Childs. I'm working my way through The Silver Needle Murder for the second time right now. How is it possible for something to be so dreadful... and yet so dreadfully addictive?
My husband bought the first one, Death by Darjeeling, for me a couple of years ago. I got about halfway through it and then had to put it down for about six months because it was so abysmal. Yet somehow, for some reason, I picked it up again, finished it, and have been totally addicted to these mysteries ever since. Their heroine, Theodosia Browning, runs the Indigo Tea Shop in Charleston and investigates murders - at an astonishing number of which she is present - in her spare time.
If I lived in Charleston, I would hesitate to leave the house on a Sunday night, as most of the murders seem to take place on a Sunday evening, allowing the Indigo Tea Shop team to turn up bright and early to work the next morning and hash over the tragedy. I would also think twice about attending any function catered by (tho' fortunately not at) Theodosia's shop, as there appears to be a disproportionate chance of getting bumped off at such events. This is a pity, because at least half the attraction of the books is their tea-party porn: the descriptions of the luscious goodies churned out (almost single-handedly, another unrealistic feature) of the Indigo Tea Shop kitchen by Haley, a 20-something college student, and of course the descriptions of the teas. Yummo.
There is so much I love to hate about these books. The writing verges on the groan-inducing most of the time, but I will restrict myself to a couple of examples. From the current volume: Theodosia is getting ready for some kind of soiree (as she often does; Charleston society abounds with fundraisers and social events for the well-heeled, which appears to be most everyone) and
'...she jumped into the shower. When she emerged five minutes later, looking pink and damp like a freshly-steamed rock shrimp...'
Worst simile in the history of the written word...? or at least a strong contender.
And from another volume - I shan't reveal which for fear of spoiling the surprise - Theodosia saves the day at the end by superglueing (yes, you read correctly) the villain's hair to the driveway. As if this wasn't enough reason for tears of hysterical laughter (I'm getting the giggles just thinking about it), Theodosia, the police, and a few other people then just LEAVE the hapless malefactor glued there... and all go inside for a cup of tea.
And yet... and yet. I keep coming back for more. I just can't help myself.