REVIEW: Sweet Tea Revenge

Sweet Tea Revenge by Laura Childs
Berkley Prime Crime (336 pages)
March 5, 2013

Rating:  6 (Just okay. It had its strong points, but...)

For fans of:  Joanne Fluke

When Indigo Tea Shop proprietress Theodosia Browning agrees to be Delaine Dish’s maid of honor, she assumes her biggest chore will be keeping the high-maintenance bride from melting down long enough to officially become groom Dougan Granville’s problem. Unfortunately, however, that accomplishment isn’t meant to be, for Theodosia finds poor Dougan dead in his room just minutes before the ceremony’s scheduled to begin. Who killed Delaine’s fianc√©, and why? Theodosia must help the local police get to the bottom of this particular mystery if her friend’s ever to receive any closure.

Sweet Tea Revenge is the fourteenth of Laura Childs’ Tea Shop Mysteries, and it’s a decidedly ho-hum addition to the series.  Childs’ prose is, as usual, overwrought and preposterously florid; the book is drowning in so many adjectives, adverbs, metaphors, and exclamation points that you occasionally lose track of the plot.  The pace is slow, there isn’t much action or drama, and the stakes are incredibly low, with nobody of import in danger of being killed or arrested, and no real pressing need to solve Dougan’s murder. The mystery itself is hastily sketched and shoddily constructed, with both the circumstances of the murder and the investigation into it straining credulity. There aren’t enough clues, the suspects are woefully underdeveloped, and the Big Showdown between Theodosia and the murderer is nothing short of ridiculous.

That’s not to say that Sweet Tea Revenge has no redeeming qualities, however. Theodosia and the other Indigo employees, Drayton and Haley, are charming as ever, and actually make for pretty great company. For you camellia sinensis aficionados out there, this tale contains a ton of information about exotic teas (and even features some tips and a lengthy list of tea resources). And the book has an incredibly strong sense of place, with Charleston and its homes and businesses coming to life in Childs’ hands. In particular, I find myself wishing the Indigo Tea Shop actually existed; between Drayton’s amazing collection of teas, Haley’s drool-worthy assortments of sweets and savories, and the tranquil and cozy yet still genteel atmosphere of the space itself, I can’t imagine a better place to escape to on a sunny afternoon. Ultimately, that’s what keeps me coming back to this series, installment after installment – because everybody needs a cozy getaway, even if it’s located between the covers of a book.