Pekoe Most Poison
A Tea Shop Mystery #18
Berkley Prime Crime, March 2017
Old cities have some pretty odd traditions and Charleston is no exception. However, even though the tradition was originally for a good cause, the idea of “Rat Teas” is perhaps one of the oddest. According to author Childs‘ latest Tea Shop Mystery, the idea of holding fancy teas with servers dressed up in rat costumes comes from an effort to raise funds for rodent prevention early in the city’s history. In Pekoe Most Poison, the eighteenth book in the Tea Shop Mystery series, the tradition was revived by socialite and philanthropist Doreen Briggs. Although the costumed “rat Servers” are a little unnerving, the tea seems to be going quite well until a fluke accident causes a fire at one of the tables and the hostess’s husband ends up dead. Worse yet for Theodosia Browning, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop, it initially appears as though it was the orange pekoe tea that caused the death.
I have been a fan of both the Tea Shop books and Childs’ Scrap Booking series, because each puts readers right in an old American city like none other. In the Tea Shop books, it is Charleston. Over the years the author has done an excellent job of setting each book’s plot around something unique to that area. Having visited Charleston fairly regularly over the years, it is fun to see how very accurate some of her descriptions are. But setting alone won’t carry a book. The main characters need to be well developed letting readers get to know them over the course of the series. And the characters need to be true to themselves. It is with the main characters in this book, and frankly the previous book in the series, that things have gone off track. Something is different. The characters just aren’t the same. Theodosia isn’t acting at all like herself nor is Drayton. I for one don’t like the change.
Another thing that needs to be present for a series to survive is a strong plot. Again, in the last couple of books the plotting has fallen off the mark. The idea behind this one–the Rat Tea–is fun, but that part is over very quickly leaving the rest of the book to a sort of jumble of helter-skelter actions by some seriously obnoxious supporting characters.
I will probably give the series another try, but the author needs to get it back on track.
Reviewed by guest reviewer Caryn St. Clair, June 2017.