Book 12 in the Tea Shop Mysteries series, published March 2011 (but I always wait for the paperback to come out, a year later).
Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning is lured into attending the Heritage Society's "Pirates and Plunder" show by her master tea blender. Amid the gold earrings and doubloons, an antique skull cup with a huge diamond steals the show – and gets plundered by someone who murders a history intern in the process. Even with that on her plate, Theodosia still has to attend Charleston’s Food and Wine Festival, where she’s hosting a tea and cheese tasting – the latest culinary trend. Theodosia knows she'll have to whet her investigative skills to find the killer among a raft of suspects…
Theodosia Browning, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop in Charleston, and her friend and master tea blender Drayton, are attending a party at the Heritage Society, focusing on pirates and their bounty. After all, the most famous pirate Blackbeard, Edward Teach, was known to roam the coast. Lots of treasures and odd things are displayed, ancient and original pirate flags, the Jolly Roger’s, with skulls and bones on them. Treasure chests with gold doubloon’s spilling out of them, but the focus point is truly unique, and grotesque. A human skull, made into a drinking cup, and with a large diamond embedded in it. And legend has it, it is the skull of Blackbeard himself!
Unfortunately, not many people are watching the display. Most of them came just to eat and drink and be seen. Theodosia and Drayton have just gone to congratulate Camilla and her new intern Rob on the splendid arrangement of the treasures, and are of to fetch some champagne themselves. Suddenly, a loud crash is heard, and the displays are plunged into darkness. When Theodosia and Drayton arrive on the scene, Rob and Camilla are struck down, and the skill has been stolen, the display case destroyed. Rob has been stabbed, and no matter how hard Theodosia tries to stop the bleeding, she cannot prevent Rob from dying. Camilla has been struck hard on the head, but she is taken to the hospital, and survives.
Timothy, the 80plus years old director of the Heritage Society, is in a near panic. His board of directors will want his head for this, and the Heritage Society is his life! And so he asks Theodosia to look into things, as the police have no clue at all. While Haley and the capable Miss Dimple take care of the Tea Shop, Theodosia and Drayton set out to find out more about the skull cup, and the legends involving the pirate. Are they really on a treasure hunt? At least there is no shortage in suspects, lots of people are interested in skulls and pirates. But who would kill for it?
Theodosia is disappointed that her not-serious-boyfriend cannot make it to her housewarming party, and is aware she has not thought about him for days. But there is also Max, a handsome man who works at the museum, and has taken an interest in her. And there sure is some heavy attraction between them. What is she to do about it? But when the two men meet, perhaps the solution is taken out of her hands, as Parker Scully seems to know what is happening.
Another great addition to this lovely series. If you like tea and well written cozy mysteries, I have no doubt at all that you will like this series. Laura Childs has such a great writing voice, I can picture myself in Charleston easily. The descriptions of everything, the houses (or rather, mansions), the gardens, the tea shop, the food, the people, it is all so vibrant. I totally love it. If I ever get the chance to go to America, this city is on my must-visit list.
I have loved Theodosia from the start of the series. A former marketing executive, who stepped out of the rat-race, and opened her own teashop, which was a long dream of hers. She could not have pulled it of without Drayton, who knows everything there is to know about tea, and where to buy the best, and Haley, who is a whiz in the tiny kitchen. The three of them keep coming up with new events to promote their teashop, and their catering business. I like that Theodosia is a somewhat older heroine, and I adore her dog, Earl Grey. He is a service dog, visiting the sick and invalids, bringing them some joy and therapy. Although not in this book. Drayton is also 60 something, dressed like a British gentleman, complete with bow tie. And Haley is just a young girl, constantly changing her major at college, but she can make the most marvellous dishes to be served in the teashop.
And among their hard work, murders get solved, but Theodosia does not always escape unscathed. And of course there is detective Tidwell, who is totally not happy with Theodosia sticking her pretty nose in his business.
Lots of other secondary characters who keep coming back in each book, so you get to find out more and more about them. I really like that.
And most important, I had no clue whatsoever about the murderer. I really thought someone else was behind it all. Which means it was a good mystery.
I am looking forward to the next book already, and learning more about this new love interest for Theodosia. I think she deserves something more than the loose thing going on with Parker Scully. And Max sure seems to be able to get her knees weak.
And for those of you who love to cook and bake, there are recipes in the back of the books. All the delicious things Haley serves in the Indigo Tea Shop.