Steeped in Evil (Tea Shop Series #15)

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Overview

In the newest mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Sweet Tea Revenge, Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning is about to learn the true meaning of terroir…

Theodosia Browning has never considered herself a wine connoisseur—tea has always been her forte. But that doesn’t mean she’s going to pass up an invitation to a fancy wine-tasting party at the upscale Knighthall Winery, just outside of Charleston, South Carolina.

But a ...

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Steeped in Evil (Tea Shop Series #15)

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Overview

In the newest mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Sweet Tea Revenge, Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning is about to learn the true meaning of terroir…

Theodosia Browning has never considered herself a wine connoisseur—tea has always been her forte. But that doesn’t mean she’s going to pass up an invitation to a fancy wine-tasting party at the upscale Knighthall Winery, just outside of Charleston, South Carolina.

But a sweet evening takes on a bitter aftertaste when a dead body is discovered in one of the wine barrels. The son of proprietor Jordan Knight has been murdered.

Dissatisfied with the police investigation, Knight turns to Theo for help. She’s heard through the grapevine that there are both family and business problems at Knighthall. They say in vino veritas, but everyone at the winery seems to be lying through their teeth. Sorting through the guest list as well as family and staff, Theo has her pick of suspects. It may look like the killer has her over a barrel, but cracking tough cases is vintage Theodosia Browning.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
01/27/2014
In Childs’s charming 15th cozy featuring Theodosia Browning (after 2013’s Sweet Tea Revenge), the owner of a tea shop in Charleston, S.C., the heroine encounters a new mystery while accompanying friend and business partner Drayton Conneley to a wine-tasting party. Drew Knight, the son of Knighthall Winery’s owner, Jordan, is found murdered on the premises, and Jordan’s friend Drayton persuades Theo to help the incompetent local sheriff with the investigation. Theo’s boyfriend, Max Scofield, has enough experience with Theo’s close calls to warn her against getting involved, but detecting is an itch that Theo must scratch. As Theo considers a wide range of possibilities, the list of suspects grows. It includes Drew’s beautiful model girlfriend, Tanya Woodson; his social-climbing mother, Pandora; rival winery owner Georgette Kroft; and Drew’s as-yet-unidentified drug dealer. With humor, plenty of action, and a tantalizing array of teas and recipes, Theodosia is sure to win more followers with this enjoyable whodunit. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
2014-02-06
A South Carolina wine-tasting party has a deadly finale. As the owner of Charleston's Indigo Tea Shop, Theodosia Browning is no wine expert, but when her tea blender and right-hand man, Drayton Conneley, receives an invitation to an upscale wine-tasting party, she's happy to go along. Knighthall Winery, owned in part by Drayton's pal Jordan Knight, is one of several small wineries struggling to produce good wine in the difficult coastal climate. When the crew opens a barrel of their new red, out falls the body of Jordan's son, Drew. As it turns out, Drew was shot, not drowned in wine. Since the police investigation seems to be going nowhere, Drayton, acting at the behest of Jordan and his wife, Pandora (Drew's stepmother), begs Theodosia to use her sleuthing skills to crack the case. Theodosia soon learns all is not well at Knighthall. Pandora wants to divorce Jordan and sell her share of the winery to a Japanese liquor distributor. Given the option she holds on Drew's shares and the help of a minority owner—art gallery owner Andrew Turner—it looks as if she may get her way. Drew had gone through several rounds of drug rehab. His Porsche is missing, and his model girlfriend is acting strangely. Theodosia's boyfriend, Max, who's involved in a downtown art walk and a silent auction to raise money for a museum, disapproves of her sleuthing. With her tea shop doing landslide business, especially for special events like her Downton Abbey tea, neither has much spare time. Like a dog with a bone, however, Theodosia can't let go, and her curiosity leads her into danger. Fans addicted to Childs' tea-shop tales (Sweet Tea Revenge, 2013, etc.) and unfazed by the transparent mystery will gobble up her charmingly rendered main characters, loving descriptions of Charleston and appended recipes.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425252956
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 3/4/2014
  • Series: A Tea Shop Mystery Series , #15
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 22,760
  • Product dimensions: 5.48 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura Childs

Laura Childs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries (Sweet Tea Revenge, Agony of the Leaves, Scones & Bones), the Scrapbooking Mysteries (Gilt Trip, Postcards from the Dead), and the Cackleberry Club Mysteries (Stake & Eggs, Eggs Benedict Arnold, Eggs in Purgatory). She is a consummate tea drinker, scrapbooker, and dog lover, and travels frequently to China and Japan with Dr. Bob, her professor husband. In her past life she was a Clio Award–winning advertising writer and CEO of her own marketing firm.

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Read an Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.***

Copyright © 2014 by Gerry Schmitt & Associates, Inc.

1

 

Theodosia Browning didn’t consider herself a wine connoisseur, since tea was really her forte. Fragrant Darjeelings, malty Assams, and her current favorite, a house-blended orchid plum tea that tickled her fancy as well as her taste buds.

On the other hand, how often did a girl get invited to a fancy wine-tasting party at the very upscale Knighthall Winery?

Rarely. In fact, tonight was a first for Theodosia. And her invitation to this lushly groomed vineyard, located a leisurely drive from Charleston, South Carolina, came at the behest of Drayton Conneley, her right-hand man and tea expert at the Indigo Tea Shop. Luckily for Theodosia, Drayton happened to be a dear friend of Jordan Knight, Knighthall Winery’s slightly flamboyant proprietor.

“You see?” said Drayton, grabbing her elbow and steering her toward an enormous trestle table set under a spreading live oak. He was sixty-something and still debonair with a prominent nose and thatch of gray hair. “Jordan managed to produce four completely different varieties of wine.” Wine bottles beckoned like shiny beacons, and attentive waiters were more than willing to fill glasses. “Amazing, wouldn’t you say?”

“Amazing,” Theodosia echoed. She didn’t know if four varieties was a feat worth celebrating, but Drayton certainly seemed impressed. And the grounds of the winery did look absolutely magical this September evening, all lit up and sparkling like a scene from some elegant Austrian fairy tale. Plantation oaks and pecan trees were iced in silvery lights, candles floated in a free-form pool, a string quartet played lively music, and a handsome magician in white tie and tails amused guests with fluttering, disappearing pigeons and sly card tricks.

Drayton handed Theodosia a crystal flute filled with white wine. “This is Knighthall’s White Shadow,” he told her. “Although I’d call it more of a Riesling.”

Theodosia took a small sip and found the wine to be utterly delicious. Crisp and aromatic, with hints of apples and citrus. Not unlike a fine oolong tea. “It’s spectacular,” she replied.

“I told you,” said Drayton. “Lots of folks thought it would be next to impossible to grow grapes out here on Wadmalow Island, but Jordan’s definitely proved them wrong.”

If tea plants could grow here and flourish, Theodosia thought to herself, why not grape vines? Although perhaps a sandier soil was needed? Wasn’t a sandier, rockier soil supposed to prove the true mettle of the grape?

They stepped away from the tasting table and looked around, enjoying the warmth and excitement of the evening and the rather excellent people watching.

“I’d say the crème de la crème of Charleston is here in full force tonight,” said Theodosia. Tanned and toned women in chiffon dresses drifted by, wafting perfumed scents that hinted at lilies and lilacs. Men in seersucker suits also wandered the elegant grounds, sipping wine as well as an occasional tumbler of bourbon. Of course, Charleston folk being the congenial sort, everyone seemed quite preoccupied with the exchange of air kisses and pleasantries, pretending not to notice if they themselves were being noticed.

“The beautiful people,” Drayton mused. “Dressed to the nines just in case a society photographer should happen along.” Of course, he was also dazzling in a blue-and-white seersucker suit—a sartorial Southern statement that was punctuated by his trademark red bow tie.

Theodosia would have denied it, of course, practically laughed in your face, but she was also one of the beautiful people. With an abundance of auburn hair that might have inspired a painter like Raphael, creamy English skin, and sparkling blue eyes, she looked like she might have slipped in from another, earlier, century. She was bold yet tactful, filled with dreams and yet practical for her thirty-some years. Her only flaws were that she tended to wear her heart on her sleeve and often rushed in where proverbial angels feared to tread.

“Jordan!” Drayton called out as Jordan Knight, the owner of Knighthall Winery, came up to greet them. “Congratulations on such a fine turnout.” He turned to include Theodosia. “And this is Theodosia Browning, I don’t believe you two have met.”

“Thanks for coming,” said Knight as he shook hands with each of them. He was midforties, with a shock of salt-and-pepper hair, watery blue eyes, and a slightly pink complexion. He’d removed his jacket, loosened his tie, and his manner seemed to veer between nervous and ebullient.

“I’m pretty sure I just convinced the owner of the Lady Goodwood Inn to carry my wine,” Knight chortled. In his other, more practical life, he was the CEO of Whizzen Software. Knighthall Winery was his most recently established passion.

“Well done,” said Drayton, clapping his friend on the back.

“Your winery appears to be thriving,” Theodosia told Knight. Being a business owner herself, she knew how difficult it was for a company to succeed, let alone flourish, in today’s tough business climate. And the deck was stacked against upstarts even more.

“We’re starting to gain some traction,” Knight responded. “We have distribution to thirty liquor stores in something like five states. And my son is in the process of helping to negotiate a potentially large deal with a Japanese distributor, as well.” Knight gazed about distractedly. “You’ve met my son, Drew, haven’t you?”

Drayton nodded yes. Theodosia shook her head no.

“I’d love to say hello to him,” said Drayton. “Is he here tonight?”

“Drew’s around here somewhere,” said Knight as he cast a quick glance at the large crowd and shrugged. “He’s no doubt managing all the behind-the-scenes activity.” Now he glanced nervously at his watch.

“Relax,” Drayton told him. “This is your big night. Enjoy it!”

Knight grimaced. “I’m a little antsy about my presentation.”

“What is that?” Theodosia inquired politely.

“In about five minutes,” said Knight, “we’re going to do a special barrel tasting of our new cabernet reserve.” He flashed a perfunctory smile. “We’re calling it Knight Music.”

“Catchy,” said Theodosia.

“We’re pinning all our hopes on this one,” said Knight. “Going for broke.”

“I’m guessing that several of Charleston’s food and wine critics are in attendance tonight?” said Drayton.

Knight nodded. “We invited anybody and everybody who can give us a mention, article, or shout-out. After five years of moving heaven and earth to produce four varieties of muscadine grapes, it’s all come down to this one make-or-break moment.”

“Good luck to you then,” said Theodosia as Knight hurried away.

Theodosia and Drayton edged their way slowly through the crowd, in the direction Jordan had gone. A makeshift stage had been set up just outside a large, hip-roofed barn, and two workers were rolling out an enormous oak barrel. Two Japanese men, both wearing white suits and standing ramrod-stiff, stood nearby, watching intently.

Theodosia gave Drayton a nudge. “Those must be the Japanese distributors your friend Jordan mentioned.”

Drayton nodded. “I read a recent article in the Financial Times about how the Japanese are suddenly head-over-heels crazy for wine. Particularly the pricier ones.”

Sake being so last year,” said Theodosia.

“Everything is cyclical,” said Drayton, trying to sound practical.

“Except for tea,” said Theodosia. “Tea just seems to keep gaining in popularity.”

“And aren’t we glad for that,” said Drayton.

“Excuse me . . . Theodosia?” said a voice at their elbow.

Theodosia turned with a smile and her eyes met those of a good-looking man with piercing green eyes and a mop of curly blond hair. Kind of surfer dude meets buttoned-down lawyer. He was smiling back at her, and with a kind of instinctive knowledge, she realized that she knew him. The man’s name was Andrew something. Andrew . . .

“Andrew Turner,” said the man, filling in the blank for her, bobbing his head. “We met at my gallery a couple of weeks ago.”

“That’s right,” said Theodosia. “Max brought me to one of your openings—you were featuring all sorts of dynamic, contemporary oil paintings as I recall.”

“Where you undoubtedly feasted on cheap white wine and stuffed cherry tomatoes,” said Turner. “The hopeful gallery owner’s stock-in-trade.”

“I don’t recall the wine,” said Theodosia, “but I do remember a wonderful painting that you had on display. All reds and purples and golds. Subtle but also very visceral. The artist was . . . James somebody?”

“Richard James,” said Turner. “You have a very keen eye. And as luck would have it, that particular piece is still for sale if you’re interested.”

“Let me think about it,” said Theodosia. She hastily introduced Turner to Drayton, then they all paused as a passing waiter stopped with his tray of hors d’oeuvres to offer them mini crab cakes and shrimp wrapped in bacon.

“Why don’t you drop by again during the Paint and Palette Art Crawl,” Turner suggested. “You know it kicks off this Wednesday.”

Theodosia was about to answer, when Drayton quickly shushed them. Jordan Knight was standing on the stage next to an enormous weathered oak barrel. And it looked as if he was about to begin his speech.

The crowd hushed en masse and pressed forward to hear his presentation.

“Thank you all for coming,” said Knight. “This is such a proud moment for me.” He clasped a hand to his chest in a heartfelt gesture of appreciation. “We’ve labored long and hard to cultivate grapes here in South Carolina.”

There was a spatter of applause.

“And our newest vintage, Knight Music, which you are all about to taste, would never have been possible without the hard work of my manager, Tom Grady, and our many dedicated workers.” Jordan extended a hand toward a red-haired woman who stood off to the side. “And, of course, I must thank my wonderful family. My wife, the amazing Pandora Knight, and my son, Drew Knight.” He smiled as his eyes searched the crowd for Drew. When he didn’t find him, he said, “Though my son seems to be missing in action at the moment.”

There was more laughter and guffaws from the crowd.

As Jordan continued his speech, two workers began to tap the large barrel of wine. They fumbled around on the top, trying to get a spigot going, but it didn’t seem to be working.

“Of course,” said Jordan, playing to the crowd now, “our winery is not without problems—as you can plainly see.” One of the workers tilted the large barrel up onto one edge. The other worker, looking frustrated and brandishing a crowbar, suddenly popped off the round, wooden top. The heavy lid went airborne, spinning in the air like an errant Frisbee, and then hit the stage with a loud bang. At that very same moment, the entire barrel seemed to teeter dangerously.

“Whoa!” Jordan shouted. “Careful there. We’re going to sample that fine wine.”

But the giant barrel, unbalanced and heavy with wine, was more than the workers could handle. They fought valiantly to right it, but were beginning to lose their grip.

Slowly, the barrel tipped sideways and viscous red liquid began to spill out, sloshing across the stage and spattering the crowd. There were sharp cries of dismay from the guests as everyone tried to jump out of the way.

Jordan Knight scrambled for the barrel in a last-ditch effort to avert total disaster. He leaned down and tried to muscle his shoulder beneath the huge barrel. Unfortunately, the laws of physics had been set into motion and he was clearly too late. The barrel continued to tip, rolling over in slow motion like a sinking ocean liner making a final, dying gasp.

The barrel landed on its side with a deafening crash, and torrents of red wine gushed out like rivers of blood.

Now horrified gasps rose up from the crowd as Jordan Knight seemed to stagger drunkenly. He crumpled to his knees, landing hard, and his entire face seemed to collapse. Then an agonized shriek rose up from his lips, blotting out the music and even the gasps from the crowd.

Curiosity bubbling within her, Theodosia pushed her way through the crowd to see what on earth was going on.

And was completely shocked to see the body of a dead man lying on the stage!

He was curled up, nose to knees, like a pickled fish. His head was tilted forward, his arms clutched close across his chest. The man’s skin, what Theodosia could see of it, was practically purple from being submerged inside the barrel of red wine.

Who? and What? were the first thoughts that formed like a cartoon bubble deep in Theodosia’s brain. And then her eyes flicked over to Jordan Knight, who was kneeling in the spill of wine, his pant legs completely soaked with purple as tears streamed down his face and his arms flailed madly about his head.

From the look of utter devastation on Jordan Knight’s face, Theodosia was pretty sure he’d found his missing son.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 23 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 23, 2014

    Steeped in Evil, by Laura Childs Berkley Prime Crime, 2014 Some

    Steeped in Evil, by Laura Childs
    Berkley Prime Crime, 2014

    Sometimes the best books are not measured by a shiny literary sticker on the cover, or how many sales were in one month. Granted, Laura Child’s Tea Shop Mysteries are pretty high up on the charts, but sometimes the best books are those that encourage you to do something nice for yourself and take time off to visit old friends. As Drayton so gentlemanly states, “We create a refuge of sorts . . . [a]n intermezzo from the pressures of everyday life.” And Laura Childs has written another book to do just that.

    Steeped in Evil, number 15 in the series, is filled with tantalizing aromas, sweet chuckles, a few rewarding tense moments, (dare I say a ‘barrel of fun’) and an engaging ticket into the world and town of interesting people, qualities of a good tea, colorful gardens, and a slice of time where your own troubles fade, chores are not important, and the first smile of the day lingers from page one to the end of the book. Detective Tidwell thankfully returns and I did hope to enjoy his interactions more than was offered. But how nice to learn that a reader really wants a character to appear more on the pages. I have read every book in this series and reviewed most of them, and can honestly say that this latest release will not disappoint the many fans of Haley, Theodosia, Drayton and Delaine. Slip away from your day for just a little while and you, as I, will sincerely thank Ms. Childs for a lovely evening among friends.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 19, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Author Laura Childs continues her long running Tea Shop Mystery

    Author Laura Childs continues her long running Tea Shop Mystery series, with her latest book Steeped in Evil. This book shifts it's focus from the tea shop theme to include a mystery involving wine. Readers who love the Charleston, South Carolina setting will once again find new things to love about this amazing city. Childs has a way of incorporating different outside aspects into her mysteries that broaden the appeal of her writing. The Downtown Abbey tea party is a great example of that. Readers who are also fans of the show will love the nod to one of their favorites.

    What I liked:

    This series is my favorite as far as cozies go and Laura Childs in my opinion just keeps getting better. When you find a combination of themes and characters that work, why change it? This is a great long lived series that keeps uncovering new and interesting things about not only the characters but about the setting, the kinds of murders that can and do occur and everything else involved in making this series great. This author knows what readers want to read and she keeps delivering book after book.

    In this book, the focus shifts a little bit from tea to wine. Tea is still a big part of the story, but readers get a lot of interesting information about wine as well. Myself, I never know what wine should go with what main dish and always feel like I'm pairing the wrong things together, so I enjoyed this tutorial into wine making and thought it was an interesting addition to this series. It also made for a great theme. A wine related murder just has an edge to it. I thought Childs approached this mystery well and pulled readers in quickly with the variation on her normal theme.

    Charleston is still a big part of this series the setting always takes on a life of it's own. This is a remarkable city that is steeped not only in evil for this series, but in history and romanticism. I think Childs always brings out interesting facts about the history and culture of the city that might remain hidden to most readers. I love the fact that Charleston is such a huge part of what makes this series so impressive.

    I have to mention the Downton Tea party that Theo and the gang host. What a great idea. The popularity of that show is phenomenal and Childs really uses it to market her own work. I think it was a great idea and now I want to have a Downton Tea of my own. I always love all of the tea related facts and things that go on in this series, but this was really a highlight.

    The mystery itself was engaging and full of surprises. The winery owners son ends up floating face first in a wine barrel and it's up to Theodosia to figure out who wanted him dead. Theo always brings something interesting to each investigation. In this one, readers find out that the winery was in some financial trouble that may have been grounds for murder. I liked the way Childs kept me guessing right up to the end with this one. Just when I thought I had, I was foiled agaaaaain!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted May 6, 2014

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    Posted May 6, 2014

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  • Posted April 25, 2014

    I have missed Laura Childs, and felt that her writing had become

    I have missed Laura Childs, and felt that her writing had become trite. The latest book in the Tea Shop Mysteries gave me many pleasurable moments as I am planning a trip to Charleston this year. I loved the talk of parties, neighborhoods, and South Carolinian life. I adore the mention of Haley's menus for the teas and afternoon meals and wish I could attend one of the events. I always feel that Theodosia has more of a relationship with Drayton, her partner, than her current boyfriend, Max. Drayton and Theo are always running off to solve a mystery. Reading this novel was an excellent remedy for the flu.


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  • Posted April 24, 2014

    The fifteenth installment in Laura Childs' thoroughly charming T

    The fifteenth installment in Laura Childs' thoroughly charming Tea Shop mystery series. I’ve been reading these stories since the beginning and I was so captivated by her lovely descriptions of Charleston, South Carolina, that I visited that beautifully historic southern city a few years ago…and I can’t wait to go back.
    I recommend reading this series in order, for the progression of Theodosia’s relationships and residences, and also because some secondary characters that (ahem) may no longer be around.
    These are lighthearted mysteries featuring Theodosia Browning, an enterprising youngish woman who owns the Indigo Tea Shop in Charleston. Along with her master tea blender, the debonair and classically elegant Drayton Connelly, and Haley, her indomitably creative and efficient chef extraordinaire, they create a little haven of heaven with their delicious offerings and their comforting atmosphere.
    Of course, Theodosia also stumbles into mystery. In this story, a dead body falls out of a wine barrel at Knighthall Winery’s wine-tasting party. As always, Theodosia is on hand and, since Drayton’s friend is the winery’s owner, she agrees to look into things.
    The best part of the story, however—and indeed, the entire series—is the little details: what the Indigo Tea Shop is serving for lunch, their oh-so-creatively themed tea parties, the colorful and sometimes wacky business owners in Charleston—including Delaine Dish, the slightly manic owner of a woman’s clothing store, Cotton Duck—and the descriptions of the beautiful city of Charleston. In this story, we also get a little education on the winery industry and, because the featured businesses are all small, there’s some interesting information about running a business in general as well.
    Theodosia Browning is a beautiful woman and she always seems to have a different boyfriend with each book, but there’s no serious love interest or love play here, only friendship.
    As always, Childs includes recipes for food to accompany tea, tea party theme ideas, as well as web sites, tea industry magazines, Charleston tourist information, and even lists of fine tea purveyors and tea plantations. 
    A thoroughly enjoyable mystery and series and a sweet lovely ode to the city of Charleston.

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  • Posted April 1, 2014

    Not as good as other books in the series!

    While I still enjoyed this book,I didn't feel this book was as good as others in this series. Didn't enjoy the mystery as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2014

    A good mystery

    Great book for tea lovers. I sure wish I could visit that tea shop.

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  • Posted March 18, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Once again I have had the pleasure to read another of Laura's bo

    Once again I have had the pleasure to read another of Laura's books. We meet up with Theodosia and Drayton at a wine tasting party. All seems to be going well until the son of the host, Jordan Knight, turns up missing. After searching everywhere it is decided to go on with the presentation. As Jordan is giving his speech to workers again to tap a large barrel of wine but it doesn't seem to be working. The wind is to be sampled by the attendees, but instead of only wine the body of Jordan's son is also in the barrel. Theodosia and Drayton once again find themselves right in the middle of another murder case. What an awful way to die drowning in a wine barrel but wait, that's not the cause of death he was also shot. As much as Theodosia prefers to stay out of this case, she is encouraged by Drayton to help solve the murder as Drayton is good friends with Jordan Knight. Theodosia's boyfriend Max also encourages her not to get involved. But we all know Theodosia better than that, with the help of Drayton and Haley, the talented cook and baker, she finds herself pulled into the case.

    Laura Childs is one of the most talented authors I have had the pleasure to read. All of Laura's books seem to enchant me in the first chapter. Laura is the author of several series among them, Theodosia and her tea shop, of which this is her 15th book, her scrapbooking mysteries, and the Cackleberry Club mysteries. It is always such a pleasure to meet up with our old friends in each series. There is not much I would rather do than grab a cuppa and sit and visit at the tea shop, then take a stroll down the street to get something to eat at the Cacklebury diner and catch up on the gals there. And after our appetites are satisfied just a short walk down to visit the ladies at the craft store for more scrapbooking supplies. I am sure that everyone has read one of Laura's books, and if you haven't, now is the time to start.

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  • Posted March 15, 2014

    Theodosia Browning leaves tea and turns to wine. Steeped in Evi

    Theodosia Browning leaves tea and turns to wine.

    Steeped in Evil by Laura Childs
    The Tea Shop Mystery series #15

    Theodosia Browning leaves tea and turns to wine-at least for the fancy new wine reveal at Knighthall Winery. Unfortunately, the opening is marred by murder. The owner's son, and organizer of the event, is found dead...in his own barrel of wine. Pressured by her good friend Drayton she starts asking questions, and is soon driven by her own curiosity to investigate the murder. What exactly was going on at the winery? What is &quot;green alien&quot;? Could it be something even more dangerous than men from outer space?

    Laura Childs once again brings us the charming setting of Charleston, South Carolina and its environs with its quaint shops and interesting people. While exploring the new world of wine Theodosia gets involved with a new group of people, people who are not quite what they seem. As readers we learn about wine, as well as tea, as Theo expands her knowledge.

    I really enjoyed this book, and not just because I'm an oenophile. Laura Childs pens another solid mystery in this enjoyable, long running series, adding depth to her characters and branching out to keep things interesting. Theo is a likeable protagonist who deals with not only murder, but also runs a successful business, handles friends who can be most difficult at times (I was pleased that I didn't &quot;see&quot; much of Haley in this outing), enjoys a bit of a romance, and always has time for a run with her dog, Earl Grey! I only wish I had her stamina! Steeped in Evil is a great addition to an always enjoyable series.

    Recipes are included.

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  • Posted March 12, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Steeped in Evil is the latest release from Laura Childs in the l

    Steeped in Evil is the latest release from Laura Childs in the long-running Tea Shop Mysteries series, the 15th book in the series since the first one was published in 2001.  So many long-running series, no matter the genre, tend to run their course well before the 15th book, but I find these books to still be as much fun to read as the very first one!

    One of the things that I enjoy the most is the varied cast of characters.  Theo, our female lead, is quirky and intelligent and very independent.  She owns a tea shop in Charleston, a tea shop that I truly wish existed and existed near me!  She runs it with the help of Drayton, an older man with a love of tea and of antiques.  Haley works with her, younger than the others, and a whiz in the kitchen.  Mrs. Dimple is an older woman who helps out occasionally and reminds me of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple in appearance.  There is an entire range of supporting characters, too, all with their own stories and quirky idiosyncrasies that add a lot of depth to the plot.

    Aside from the villians in the novel, the only character I really couldn't get behind was Theo's boyfriend.  I felt like he was demanding and condescending.  He often seemed to try to control Theo and it rubbed me the wrong way almost every time he was involved.  Fortunately, he was a rather minor character.

    The tea shop has been the clear focus of all of the books in this series and that continues to be in this latest installment.  Fans of Downton Abbey will enjoy a scene in which themed tea is held within the shop, complete with special teas and treats.  The author creates scenes like this that are rich in both details and descriptions, and they will often leave the reader salivating!  You can't help but learn a bit about tea with these books and, as a tea lover, I enjoy that.  Although much of this book, takes place in a local winery, the beloved tea shop still remains the foundation of the series.

    The mystery in this story was a good one, the murder of son of the winery's owner.  There were lots of twists and turns and I never was quite sure &quot;whodunit.&quot;  There were hints and clues that lead to first one suspect and then another, keeping me guessing.  Just when it seems as if everything is solved and settled, there are still some intriguing twists and turns that change everything.

    Cozy mysteries are my guilty pleasure, especially those with some kind of theme to them... crafty things or food.  This series has been one I have read from the very beginning because of my love of tea.  Sometimes, however, the amateur sleuth in this genre can come off as bumbling rather than intelligent.  Fortunately, that is definitely not the case in this book.  Theo is smart and capable and fiercely independent.  The other problem that sometimes occurs in this genre is the focus.  Instead of the mystery at hand being the thrust of the plot, it almost gets forgotten with the majority of attention paid to the theme of the book.  This is what kept me from giving a full 5 mugs to this book.  As much as I love the tea shop theme, there was a little less balance in this book.  It often felt like a little too much time was spent on the shop and its details than the mystery itself.  It is a little thing,  though, and not something that kept me from enjoying the book.

    One fun part of the book comes  after the story has ended.  There is an entire section of recipes for the foods featured throughout the book.  I tried several of them and loved them all, although my favorite has to be Drayton's Coconut Iced Tea.  There is also a section on &quot;Tea Time Tips,&quot; all sorts of inspiration for creating your own tea time.  There is even one for a doggy tea time!  The author also includes a &quot;Tea Resources&quot; section full of publications, plantations, websites and blogs, and much more.

    Things to love about Steeped in Evil...

        --Theo.  I love her quirkiness and independent streak!
        --The range of characters.  Major or minor, they were all very different and interesting.  This time there is also even a clairvoyant that plays a part in an unexpected way.
        --The immersion into the world of tea.  I love that the author  always includes  recipes for the delicious and tantalizing treats that she creates throughout the story.

    Things I wanted more or less of...

        --More focus on the mystery itself.  I don't think it had to be an either/or kind of thing, less tea shop and more mystery.  More mystery would have balanced out the wonderful and rich world of tea.

    My recommendation:  Fans of cozy mysteries will enjoy this series.  While I don't think it is strictly necessary to read the previous books in order to enjoy this one, I do think that it would greatly enhance the story.  

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  • Posted March 10, 2014

    theodosia and drayton are back!!! haley is there too and max...o

    theodosia and drayton are back!!! haley is there too and max...oh my, such a wonderful mystery with all the old characters. i won't blurb the story, that's already been done. just to say that if you want a good read, this is it. drayton is the very model of a british gentleman, haley is a miracle baker, and theodosia is theodosia. they get involved in solving mysteries and while doing it they put on themed teas and handle the day to day business of the tea shop. a wonderful good mystery. if that isn't enough, the recipes are to die for, yes they are in the book also. yummy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2014

    Great read

    One of my favorite authors. Fun mystery read with all the same familar characters and h. Would recommend.

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