When Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning is invited by Doreen Briggs, one of Charleston's most prominent hostesses, to a "Rat Tea," she is understandably intrigued. As servers dressed in rodent costumes and wearing white gloves offer elegant finger sandwiches and fine teas, Theo learns these parties date back to early twentieth-century Charleston to promote better public health.
But this party goes from odd to chaotic when a fire starts at one of the tables and Doreen's entrepreneur husband suddenly goes into convulsions and drops dead. Has his favorite orange pekoe tea been poisoned? Theo smells a rat. And as she reviews the guest list for suspects, she soon finds herself drawn into in a dangerous game of cat and mouse...
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Palmettos swayed lazily in the soft breeze, daffodils bobbed their shaggy heads as Theodosia Browning stepped quickly along the brick pathway that wound through a bountiful front yard garden and up to the polished double doors of the Calhoun Mansion. Pausing, she pulled back the enormous brass boar’s head door knocker . . . nothing wimpy about this place . . . and let it crash against the metal plate.
Claaaang. The sound echoed deep within the house as the boar’s eyes glittered and glared at her.
Turning to face Drayton, her friend and tea sommelier, Theodosia said, “This should be fun. I’ve never visited Doreen’s home before.”
“You’ll like it,” Drayton said. “It’s a grand old place. Built back in the early eighteen hundreds by Emerson Calhoun, one of Charleston’s early indigo barons.”
“I guess we’re lucky to be invited then,” she said. Their hostess, Doreen Briggs, also known to her close friends as “Dolly,” was president of the Ladies Opera Auxiliary and one of the leading social powerhouses in Charleston, South Carolina. Theodosia had always thought of Doreen as being slightly bubbleheaded, but that could be a carefully cultivated act, aimed to deflect from all the philanthropic work that she and her husband were involved in.
A few seconds later, the front door creaked open and Theodosia and Drayton were greeted by a vision so strange it could have been a drug-induced hookah dream straight out of Alice in Wonderland. The man who answered the door was dressed in a powder blue velvet waistcoat, cream-colored slacks, and spit-polished black buckle boots. But it wasn’t his formal, quasi-Edwardian attire that made him so bizarre. It was the giant white velvet rat head perched atop his head and shoulders. Yes, white velvet, just like the fur of a properly groomed, semi-dandy white rat. Complete with round ears, long snout bristling with whiskers, and bright pink eyes.
“Welcome,” the rat said to them as he placed one white-gloved hand (paw?) behind his back and bowed deeply.
At which point Theodosia arched her carefully waxed brows and said, as a not-so-subtle aside to Drayton, “When the invitation specified a ‘Charleston rat tea,’ they weren’t just whistling Dixie.”
It was a rat tea. Of sorts. Drayton had filled her in on the history of the quaint rat tea custom on their stroll over from the Indigo Tea Shop, where they brewed all manner of tea, fed and charmed customers, and made a fairly comfortable living.
“Seventy-five years ago,” Drayton said, “rat teas were all the rage in Charleston. You see, at the advent of World War Two, our fair city underwent a tremendous population explosion as war workers arrived at the navy shipyard in droves.”
“I get that,” Theodosia had said. “But what’s with the rats specifically?”
“Ah,” Drayton said. “With the increased populace, downtown merchants were thriving. Because they were so franticly busy, they began tossing their garbage out onto the sidewalks, which immediately attracted a huge influx of rats. The local public health officials, fearing some kind of ghastly epidemic, quickly spearheaded a ‘rat torpedo’ campaign. Volunteers were tasked with wrapping poisoned bait in small folded bits of newspaper and sticking them in alleys and crawl spaces.”
Theodosia listened, fascinated, as Drayton continued his story.
“These rat torpedoes were so effective,” Drayton said, “that prominent society ladies even held fancy ‘rat teas’ to help promote the campaign.”
“And the rats were eventually eradicated?” Theodosia had asked.
“Charleston became a public health model,” Drayton said. “Several major cities even sent representatives to study our method.”
The blue rat at the door was still nodding to them as Theodosia and Drayton stepped inside the foyer. Here, they were greeted by a second rat wearing a pastel pink coat. This rat was equally polite.
“Good afternoon,” pink rat said.
“I feel like I’ve been drinking to excess,” Theodosia said. “Seeing pink rats instead of pink elephants.”
“This way, please,” pink rat said to them in carefully modulated tones.
They followed him down a long, red-tiled hallway where oil paintings dark with crackle glaze hung on the walls and the hum of conversation grew louder with each step they took. Then pink rat turned suddenly and ushered them into an enormous sunlit parlor where fifty or so guests milled about and a half-dozen elegant tea tables were carefully arranged.
Pink rat consulted his clipboard. “Miss Browning, Mr. Conneley, you’re both to be seated at table six.”
“Thank you,” Drayton said.
“Do I know you?” Theodosia asked pink rat. Her blue eyes sparkled with curiosity and her voice was slightly teasing. She was a woman of rare and fair beauty even though she’d be the first to pooh-pooh anyone who told her so. But with her masses of auburn hair, English rose complexion, and captivating smile, she certainly stood out in a crowd.
“I don’t think so, ma’am,” pink rat said as he spun on the heels of his buckle boots and hastened off to escort another group of guests to their table.
“Who was that?” Theodosia asked as her eyes skittered around the rather grand room, taking in the crystal chandelier, enormous marble fireplace, gaggle of upscale-looking guests, as well as tea tables set with Wedgwood china and Reed & Barton silver. “He sounded so familiar. The rat guy, I mean.”
“No idea,” Drayton said as he regarded the table settings. “But isn’t this lovely? And what fun to stage a madcap homage to the rat teas of yesteryear.” Drayton was beginning to rhapsodize, one of the most endearing qualities of this debonair, sixty-something tea sommelier, while Theodosia was suddenly fizzing with curiosity. Why had she been invited when she had just a nodding acquaintance with Doreen Briggs? And who were these white rat butlers, anyway? Professional servers shanghaied from a local catering company? Or actors who’d been hired to wear costumes and playact a rather bizarre role?
These were the kind of things Theodosia wondered about. These were the things that kept her brain whirring at night when she should have been fast asleep.
“Drayton!” an excited voice shrilled. Theodosia and Drayton turned to find Doreen Briggs closing on them like a five-foot-two-inch heat-seeking missile. She charged up to Drayton, rose on tiptoes to administer a profusion of air kisses, and then flashed an enormous smile at Theodosia. “Theodosia, she said. “So good of you to come.” Doreen gripped her hand firmly, pumped her arm. “Welcome to my home.”
“Thank you for inviting me,” Theodosia said. “And I must say, you have a very lovely home.”
“It is cozy, isn’t it?” Doreen said. Her green eyes glinted almost coquettishly, her reddish-blond hair cascaded around her face in a forest of curls that didn’t seem quite natural for a woman in her late fifties.
“We’re thrilled to be here,” Drayton added.
Doreen, who was stuffed into a pastel pink shantung silk dress with a rope of pearls around her neck, waved a hand that was festooned with sparkling diamond rings, and said, “Don’t you think this is jolly fun? The rat tea theme, I mean? Aren’t my liveried rats just adorable?”
“Charming,” Theodosia responded. Truthfully, she thought the rats—she’d seen at least four of them chugging officiously around the room—were a little strange. But this was a woman who supported the arts, gave money to service dog organizations, and was on the verge of bequeathing a sizable grant to Drayton’s beloved Heritage Society, so she was willing to cut her a good deal of slack.
“Where’s Beau?” Drayton asked. “He’s certainly here today, isn’t he?” Beau Briggs was Doreen’s husband, a self-professed entrepreneur who owned apartment buildings in North Charleston and was a partner in the newly opened Gilded Magnolia Spa on King Street.
Doreen pushed back a strand of frizzled hair. “He’s around here somewhere. Probably bending the ear of one of our guests, talking about one of his pet business projects.” She put a hand on Theodosia’s arm and said, “Isn’t it cute when men work themselves into a tizzy over business? I love how they think they’re masters of the universe when it’s really we women who run things.”
“And a fine job you ladies do,” Drayton said.
“Aren’t you the most politically correct gentleman yet,” Doreen fawned. “You’ll have to indoctrinate Beau with some of your fine, liberal ideas.” She managed a quick sip of air and said, “We’re sitting right here.” Then she waved a chubby hand. “Your table is right next to us.”
“I’m looking forward to meeting your husband,” Theodosia said. She’d heard so much about the man who’d helped create Gilded Magnolia Spa. Magazines had run full-color spreads, health and beauty editors had rhapsodized about it in articles, and the ladies-who-lunch types, who shopped at Bob Ellis Shoes and Hampden Clothing, had been exchanging whispers about the spa’s gold foil facials and amazing electrostim lifts.
“I imagine Beau will pop up any moment,” Doreen said as she glanced around the room. Then her face lit up and she cried, “There he is.” She waved a hand as bracelets clanked. “Beau!” Her voice rose higher. “Yes, I’m talking to you, hunky monkey . . . who do you think I’m waving at like a crazy lady? Get over here and say hello to Theodosia and Drayton.”
Beau Briggs, who was forty pounds overweight, with slicked-back red hair, the jowls of a shar-pei, and perfectly steam-cleaned pores, came huffing over to join them.
“Dolly,” he said. “What?” His pink sport coat was stretched around his midsection, the gold buttons looking about ready to burst and go airborne. Theodosia decided Beau might partake of his own spa’s skin care regimen, but not their low-cal smoothies and fruit salads.
“These are the people I was telling you about,” Doreen said. “Theodosia and Drayton. They run that lovely Indigo Tea Shop over on Church Street. You remember, they bake those chocolate chip scones that you adore so much?”
Beau turned an expectant smile on them. “I hope you brought some along?”
Doreen gave him a playful slap. “Silly boy. You know our caterers are handling the scones and tea sandwiches today. Theodosia and Drayton are our guests. They’re here to partake of tea, not serve it.”
“A respite,” Drayton said, trying to be jocular.
“Then sit down, sit down,” Doreen said as all around them guests began taking their seats. “Oh!” She spun around to position herself at the head table, all the while looking a little scattered. “I suppose it’s high time I get this fancy tea started.” She glanced down, looking slightly perturbed. “Now, where did I put my silver bell?”
The tea turned out to be a lovely affair, albeit a trifle strange. The rat theme continued as everyone took their places and more liveried rats came scurrying out of the kitchen. They carried steaming teapots in white-gloved hands, pouring out servings of Darjeeling and Assam tea. By the time silver trays overflowing with cinnamon and lemon poppy seed scones arrived, Theodosia was well past her initial surprise. In fact, she was able to sit back and enjoy herself as Drayton did the heavy lifting, chatting merrily with all the guests as their table, most of whom she had only a nodding acquaintance with. Then again, Drayton was a stickler for politeness and decorum. And tended to be a lot more social than she was.
Let’s see now, Theodosia thought after they’d gone around the table and made hasty introductions. The two blondes, Dree and Diana, were on the board of directors for the Charleston Symphony. The woman in the fire-engine red suit . . . Twilby . . . Eleanor Twilby? . . . was the executive director of . . . something. And then . . . well, she just wasn’t sure. But the crab and Gruyère cheese quiche she was digging into was incredibly creamy and delicious.
Doreen turned in her chair and tapped Theodosia on the shoulder. “Having fun?” she asked.
Theodosia, caught with a bite of food in her mouth, chewed quickly and swallowed. “This quiche is incredible!” She really meant it. “I’ll have to get the recipe. Haley would love it.” Haley was her chef and chief baker back at the Indigo Tea Shop.
“Carolina blue crab,” Doreen said in a conspiratorial whisper. “From a caterer that’s brand-new here in Charleston and making quite a splash. We even tapped them to cater all the appetizers for our grand opening party at Gilded Magnolia Spa next Saturday.”
“You have quite a large group here today,” Theodosia said. “Are most of them spa customers?”
“It’s a sprinkling of all sorts of people,” Doreen said. “Spa members, media people, a few friends and neighbors, some business associates.” She raised a hand to one of the rat waiters and said, “We’re going to need a fresh pot of this orange pekoe tea for Beau.” And to Theodosia: “It’s his favorite.”
“One of Drayton’s recommendations?” Theodosia asked.
“Oh, absolutely,” Doreen said. “I consulted with Drayton on all the teas we’re serving here today. As usual, he was spot-on.”
“He’s the best tea sommelier I’ve ever encountered. We’re fortunate to have him at the Indigo Tea Shop.”
“Watch out someone doesn’t try to steal him away,” Doreen said. She turned, held up Beau’s teacup for the waiter to pour him a fresh cup of tea, and said, “Just set the teapot on the warmer, please.”
The pink rat leaned forward, set down the teapot, and, in the process, the edge of his sleeve brushed against one of the tall white tapers.
“Watch the! . . .” Doreen cried out as the candle wobbled dangerously in its silver holder.
But it was too late.
The burning candle bobbled and swayed for a couple more seconds and then tipped onto the table. It landed, flame burning bright, right in the middle of an enormous, frothy centerpiece. As if someone had doused it with gasoline, a ring of dancing fire burst forth. A split second later, the decorator-done arrangement of silk flowers, pinecones, twisted vines, and dried moss was a boiling, seething inferno.
As the guests at Doreen’s table began to scream, two people leapt to their feet and began beating at the crackling flames with linen napkins. Their efforts just served to fan the flames and set one of the napkins on fire. It twisted and blazed like an impromptu torch until the person waving it suddenly dropped it onto the table.
Beau Briggs, as if just realizing they might all be in mortal danger, suddenly jumped to his feet, knocking his chair over backward. “Somebody get a fire extinguisher!” he yelped as flames continued to dance and scorch the tabletop. Now everyone from his table was jigging around in a fearful, nervous rugbylike scrum, while people from other tables were rushing over to shout suggestions. Doreen, no help at all, put her hands on her head and let loose a series of high-pitched yips.
“Somebody do something!” a woman in a black leather dress screamed.
At which point Theodosia grabbed the teapot from her table, elbowed her way through the gaggle of guests, and poured the tea directly onto the flames.
There was a loud hiss as an enormous billow of black smoke swirled upward. But the tea had done the trick. The fire had fizzled out, leaving only the remnants of a singed and seared centerpiece swimming in a brown puddle of Darjeeling tea.
“Thank you,” Beau cried out. “Thank you!”
“Good work,” Drayton said to Theodosia, just as blue rat arrived, fumbling with a bright-red fire extinguisher. He aimed the nozzle at the table and proceeded to spray white, foamy gunk all over the remaining plates of food.
“Stop, stop,” Beau yelled at the rat. He lifted his hands to indicate they were all fine, that the danger was over, even as a few tendrils of smoke continued to spiral up from the charred centerpiece.
“Goodness,” Doreen squealed, nervously patting her heart with one hand. “That was absolutely terrifying. We could have . . . all been . . .” She spun around toward Theodosia, a look of gratitude washing across her face. “Thank you, my dear, for such quick, decisive thinking.”
“But your tea party’s been ruined,” Theodosia said with a rueful smile. “I’m so sorry.” The head table, which had looked so elegant and refined a few minutes earlier, was now a burned and blistered wreck. The ceiling above was horribly smudged.
“We’ll salvage this party yet,” Beau said. Undeterred, he pulled himself to his full height and raised his hands, like a fiery evangelist, ready to address the upturned, still-stunned faces of all his guests.
“I don’t know how,” Doreen muttered.
“My dear friends,” Beau said. “Please pardon the inconvenience.” He pulled a hankie from his jacket pocket and mopped at his florid face as a spatter of applause broke out. He acknowledged the applause with a slightly uneven smile and continued. “Even though everything is firmly under control, I think it’s best that we finish our . . . ahem, that we adjourn to . . .” Stumbling over his words, he halted midsentence as a tremendous shudder ran through his entire body. It shook his shoulders, jiggled his belly, and made his knees knock together. Then his eyes popped open to twice their normal size and he let out a cough, razor sharp and harsh. That cough quickly became a series of coughs that racked his body and morphed into a high-pitched, thready-sounding wheeze.
Doreen, looking properly concerned, held out a glass of water for her husband. “Please drink this, dear.”
As Beau struggled to grab the water, his hands began to shake violently. He managed to just barely grasp the glass and lift it shakily to his lips.
“I just need . . .” Beau managed to croak out.
But just as he was about to take a much-needed sip of water, his head suddenly flew backward and he let loose a loud choke that sounded like the bark of an angry seal. The water glass slipped from his hand.
Crash! Shards of glass flew everywhere.
“Beau?” Doreen said in a small, scared voice, as if she sensed something was catastrophically wrong.
Beau was waving both hands in front of his face now, gasping for breath and hacking loudly. “Wha . . . bwa . . .” He fought to get his words out, but simply couldn’t manage it.
At least five sets of hands stretched out to help him, all holding water glasses. Instead of grabbing one of the glasses, Beau struggled to pick up his cup of tea. He managed to get his teacup halfway to his lips before his right hand convulsed into a rigid claw and the cup slipped from his grasp. As it clattered to the table, he clutched frantically at his throat. Eyes fluttering like crazy as they rolled back in his head, he managed a hoarse groan. Then, as if made of rubber, his legs gave way completely.
Bam! Beau dropped to the floor like a sack of potatoes, smacking his forehead on the sharp edge of the table on his way down.
In a frenzy now, screeching for help, Doreen bent over and tried to grab him. But Beau was so heavy and unwieldy that all she managed to do was bunch his shirt above his jacket collar. “He’s not breathing!” she screamed. “Does anyone know the Heimlich maneuver?”
One man from a nearby table immediately sprang to his feet and came flying around to help. He knelt down directly behind Beau, wrapped his arms around his chest, and pulled him halfway upright. Then, locking his hands under Beau’s sternum, the man pulled his arms tight, making quick upward thrusts.
Beau’s eyes flickered open, then turned glassy as white foam dribbled from his mouth.
“It’s working, it’s working!” Doreen cried. “He blinked his eyes.”
“Thank goodness,” Drayton said. He sank into his chair as the Good Samaritan continued to thump and bump poor Beau Briggs.
“Is he coming around?” Doreen asked in a tremulous voice as Beau’s head jerked back and forth spasmodically and then lolled to one side as if his neck were made of Silly Putty.
“His color’s looking better,” the skinny woman in black leather cried out. “His face isn’t purple anymore.”
“That’s good?” Doreen asked. Then, as if to reassure herself, said, “That’s good.”
Meanwhile, the man who was still administering the Heimlich maneuver was struggling mightily and beginning to lose steam. “If I could just . . .” he grunted out, trying to catch his breath. “. . . Dislodge whatever he’s got caught in his throat. Try to get him breathing on his own.” He pulled and thrust harder and harder, his own face turning a violent shade of red. “Where’s the ambulance?” the man gasped. “Where are the EMTs?”
“On their way!” the pink rat cried. “I can hear sirens now.”
“Can somebody take over here?” the Good Samaritan gasped.
A man in a white dinner jacket sprang into action. He employed a different technique. He bent Beau forward and thumped him hard on the back. But nothing seemed to be working. Beau’s eyes, open wide but unseeing, looked like two boiled eggs. His bulbous body was as limp and unresponsive as a noodle.
“I don’t think that technique is going to work,” Theodosia said in a quiet voice.
Drayton heard her and frowned, his eyes going wide with alarm. “Why would you say that? What do you think is wrong with him?”
“You see that white foam dribbling from his mouth?” Theodosia said. “You see his pale, almost waxy complexion? I think he’s ingested some sort of poison.”
“Poison!” Doreen suddenly screamed at the top of her lungs. “Don’t drink the tea! The tea is poison!”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What a lovely way to spend a rainy Sunday, curled up with a delicious book. I crave tea and a scone, but where to find? This event features a "Rat Tea" at a lovely McMansion in Charleston, SC, but tragically, the host is murdered. Laura Childs presented the history of the "Rat Tea” but omitted much of the wonderful setting of Charleston in this novel. The food and tea still send longings to my mouth, and I am still craving one of Haley's scones. The story ends, but the reader is never enlightened if all Theodosia's work benefited the Heritage Society.
“...’Theo, your logic has always made sense to me.’ ‘ Just not to me’ said Theodosia” It’s always a good day when Laura Childs-aka Gerry Schmitt- is in the house. With this, the 18th book in the series, we find Theo, Drayton, Haley,Earl Grey and even Delaine are back and feistier than ever. Doreen and Beau Briggs are throwing a “rat tea” to acknowledge the history of Charleston when Beau collapses and ends the party abruptly. His death puts the entire guest list, including the family under suspicion as Doreen begins to hold a promised endowment to Drayton’s Heritage Society hostage until someone figures out not only who, but how and why Beau was killed. As Theo gets closer even she might be in the killer’s crosshairs. So, get cosy with our friends...and those a bit less friendly, and see who’s mixing it up this time. Highly recommended 5/5
Pekoe Most Poison is the eighteenth book in the Tea Shop Mystery series. I never tire of reading this series, being well-plotted and told stories. It always easy for me to envision Drayton bustling about the Indigo Tea Shop and seeing the elegant furnishings of the tea shop. Theo and Drayton have been invited to a “rat” tea party, parties that date back to post WWII Charleston days, at the home of socialite Doreen Biggs. As more tea is brought to the head table, a burning candle is inadvertently knocked over and in the confusion of putting out the fire Beau Briggs, the husband of Doreen, becomes ill and is soon dead. Theo suspects poisoning as the cause and later the autopsy confirms. Drayton does something very un-Drayton like, as he is able to get Theo to agree to look into what happened at the tea party and who wanted this to be Beau’s last party. It seems that Doreen is holding a hefty contribution to the Heritage Society, which Drayton is a loyal member, “ransom” in order to encourage Theo to investigate her husbands poisoning. There seems to be no shortage of suspects. As the paramedics were working on Briggs, Theo notices that one of the “rat” tea servers is acting suspicious. She also learns from Opal Anne that “Big” Reggie Huston, manager of the spa, has reportedly been embezzling funds from the spa and the Whitley’s who own the B&B next door to Doreen and want to by her house to convert into another B&B. Will the old saying about “follow the money” hold true? Ms. Childs once again provides the reader with a very interesting story and a great cast of characters. It kep me guessing till the end. Once again Chef Haley, chef at the Indigo Tea Shop, provides us with some wonderful recipes.
Favorite Series Alert! Laura Childs‘s Tea Shop Mystery Series was one of the first cozies I ever read. And I fell in love with Charleston, South Carolina, the Indigo Tea Shop, Theodosia, Drayton, and the entire crew. When this book came in the mail, I confess I sat the other book I was reading aside because I just couldn’t wait to catch up on the latest installment of this series. In Pekoe Most Poison, we follow tea shop owner Theodosia Browning as she is a guest at a “rat tea” that goes horribly wrong. A fire breaks out and in the midst of the chaos and the event hostesses’s husband is found dead. Can Theodosia and Drayton solve the case and bring the killer to justice? From the vivid imagery, to the exciting characters, to the page turning excitement, this book is not one you want to miss. And as a special bonus, the covers are beautiful! This book is actually sitting on my coffee table as part of my fall decorations because I enjoyed the look of it so much.
PEKOE MOST POISON is an entertaining read. With quirky characters, an intriguing mystery, and plenty of humor, the story kept me engrossed and guessing until the end. Cozy mystery fans are sure to enjoy this one. Disclosure: I won a free copy of this book in a giveaway.
I think this is one of my favorites of the Tea Shop series so far! I really enjoyed this one. The mystery itself was great. I didn't figure out who the killer was until very close to the end where it was revealed. Plus, this time around we had a new method and a new way of delivering that method. Sometimes having the victim shot or stabbed gets a little old, so this one was a refreshing change. I absolutely love the characters in this series. Reading about Theodosia, Drayton, and Haley is like visiting with old friends. Their characters are so well-rounded, developed, and complex. It's a pleasure visiting them in each book and getting to know them just that little bit more. It's a pleasure to see how their relationships with each other and with others in the community grow and develop. I love all the descriptions of Charleston. I've never been there but with as many of these books I've read, I feel like I have. I can easily visualize all the alleys and cemeteries and old mansions that are there. I feel like if I ever make it down there to visit, I'm going to feel right at home! It takes a skilled author to do that without boring the reader with the descriptions. Ms. Childs' does this excellently. The pace of these books has always been good and this one is no exception. It was never boring and kept moving along at a good clip, but yet not too fast that you couldn't keep up. This is a great installment in the Tea Shop Mystery series and I highly recommend it! Pick it up and enjoy! If you've never read the series, you don't have to know the back story to enjoy this one, but I highly recommend the rest of the series as well! ** I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not compensated for my review. All opinions and conclusions expressed are my own. **
I love love love this series. From the start of the book the writing style seemed different...ok style but different. I liked the book but the main character Theodosia acted differently in helping to solve the crime. she was bossy and not lady like. Her BFF Drayton would never say "Gotcha!" Spoiler alert....She often told the police who was guilty and the police took that person in for immediate questioning and it was unsuccessful each time. It just seemed out of character for her. Love the tea information as always. Will continue to read this series but hope the author returns to the previous style. She is beginng a new series...the exert was not for me.
Author Laura Childs continues to share some of the most unique events relating to tea through her Tea Shop Mystery Series. This time around Childs has her protagonist, Theodosia Browning, attending a ‘Rat Tea’ with her friend and tea sommelier, Drayton Conneley. As it turns out, someone turns up dead and Theodosia can’t help but get involved. The author places the reader in the middle of the action (and unusual setting) through her rich descriptions and eye for detail. She explains about a ‘Rat Tea’ and its history. Readers can also almost smell the delicious aromas from the dishes prepared by chief baker Haley at Theodosia’s Indigo Tea Shop. The sights and sounds of Charleston come alive through the pages as well. The story moves at a good pace with some twists and turns and a few misdirections to keep you guessing. The characters are well-developed and likable. The characters continue to grow with each new installment in the series, but new readers won’t be left in the dark. PEKOE MOST POISON is a delightful and entertaining cozy murder mystery you’ll find hard to put down once you begin. The author’s blend of murder, mystery, suspense, humor, and friendship combine well with a touch of romance, a dollop of history, and a sampling of tasty recipes and tea time tips. You don’t have to be a tea lover to enjoy this tantalizing tale. FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.
A Laura Childs books is like getting a hug. Really. Her cozies follow the rules of the genre and offer a couple of nights of pure escape, surrounded by developed characters, clear plots, and delicious sensory details. Character and setting are strong in her cozies. In the smallest of moments, the author slides in a detail or two that show us just who we are dealing with. For example, what would you think of first when you watch your husband keel over dead? Certainly not your precious Akoya pearls tumbling and scattering across the floor. Poor Doreen. Bless her heart. Laura Childs offers many moments for us to see who these people really are underneath their fancy outfits. And how can you not chuckle at “her hair looked like a basket of curly fries.” Now that conjures up an image. And a constant throughout each book in the series is the endearing friendship and interaction between Drayton and Theodosia. (I just love Drayton.) Ms. Childs is also skilled at setting. There are so many sweet moments of description to give you a sense of taste, smell, and tea shop ambiance. I love visiting the Indigo Tea Shop and reading about the table décor, which tea Drayton describes, or what Haley has on the menu. The author also drops the reader right in the middle of a dark alley or other intriguing location along lovely Charleston streets. You will find yourself slinking down an alley, passing white marble statuary and pattering fountains, all while a sleek black car is in pursuit. And after all the tasty menu items, mansion descriptions, cozy kitchen details, and quaint street scenes, the friendship between the staff and Theodosia is sweet, familiar, and feels like a warm smile straight from the author. This book does exactly as intended: provides the reader with a good evening or two of lovely scenes, story, and character. Then there is a bonus for you. In the back of the book are recipes, tea resources, websites and blogs to visit, and links to get you to Charleston, South Carolina. I highly recommend this series for a delicious and cozy night of hugs.
Delightfully charming. Can you say that about a Cozy Murder Mystery? Maybe it was the charming cover that set the tone for me. I thought this book was a delightful read. The characters, the town, the tea shop were charming. This book, author and series were new to me. I was delighted to be introduced to Theodosia and her friends. Pekoe Most Poison was a page turner for me. From page one it was a hard book to put down. It was fast paced filled with murder, blackmail and a little embezzlement. With more than a few suspects. And a smidgeon of romance. Just a smidgeon. The author left this reader expecting Theodosia has found herself a little more than interested in the attractive police detective. This was my first time to read any of the works of Laura Childs. She has found a new fan here. Since I have not read any of the other books in the series I can tell you honestly you will enjoy Pekoe Most Poison even without knowledge from the previous installments. Although I will warn you. Most likely you'll be as engaged as I was and want to journey through the entire series.
Pekoe Most Poison by Laura Childs is the eighteenth book in A Tea Shop Mystery series. Theodosia Browning and Drayton Conneley have been invited to a “Rat Tea” by Doreen Briggs. It gives Theo her first glimpse of Calhoun Mansion owned by Doreen and her husband, Beau (well, technically Doreen). Theo is shocked when the door is opened by a man with a rat head on his head and in a blue velvet Edwardian outfit. Doreen went all out for her Rat Tea (the history of this tradition is in the book). Things are progressing smoothly until one of the servers gets too close to a candle at the head table. The centerpiece catches fire, and quick thinking Theo flings tea on the fire. A short time later, Beau Briggs starts coughing, choking and clutching at his throat after drinking his orange pekoe tea. It is soon obvious that Beau was poisoned. After giving her statement to Detective Pete Riley (his boss, Burt Tidwell is away at a conference), Theo heads back to the Indigo Tea Shop. Theo is happy to leave this investigation with the police until she gets a call from Drayton. Drayton, in turn, received a frantic call from Doreen. She is extremely distraught and wants Beau’s death looked into by Drayton and Theo. If Drayton does not get Theo to agree, he will lose the grant money promised to the Heritage Society (which they desperately need) by Doreen (she wants a little quid pro quo). Theo admits (to herself) that she is curious, and agrees to investigate Beau’s death. It does not take long for Theo to be sorry she ever agreed to help the distressed widow. Will Theo find the culprit or end up the killer’s next victim? Pekoe Most Poison was just a delight to read. I found the book to be well-crafted, easy to read, and contain engaging characters. It was lovely to revisit the Indigo Tea Shop, Theo, Drayton, and friends. I started reading Pekoe Most Poison and quickly found myself engrossed in the story. This is the type of cozy mystery that I love. The mystery was complex with twists and turns (and misdirection). If a reader pays close attention, they will be able to solve the mystery before the killer is revealed. I liked the new romantic interest for Theo. It will be interesting to see how it plays out in future books (for which I hope there are many). I give Pekoe Most Poison 5 out of 5 stars. I wish more authors created cozy mysteries like Pekoe Most Poison (and the other books in this series). I think that Pekoe Most Poison could be read alone, but I believe it would be helpful to read the earlier books in A Tea Shop Mystery. Reading Death by Darjeeling will give you background information on Theodosia, the Indigo Tea Shop, and the other supporting players (Drayton, Hayley, Burt Tidwell). At the end of the book are recipes, tea tips, and resources. The only downfall to Pekoe Most Poison is we must wait a year for another A Tea Shop Mystery.
I found myself quickly turning the pages as I became absorbed in this murder mystery, and in an opulent setting, can you imagine sitting at a table being served by a rat? We are attending a “Rat Tea”, doesn’t that sound exciting? Now if I were having a tea I would not invite Theodosia Browning to attend, why you ask, well death seems to follow this young woman around, and this tea is no exception. Our girl owns a teashop named Indigo, and the word descriptions of the food and tea are amazing, and I sure would love to go there, and some of the recipes are shared at the end of the book. This story is going to keep you on your toes and keep your mind guessing and guessing, and just when you think you have it, nope, or maybe you do. Another great sleuthing mystery about to unfold, and you are going to have a front seat to the action. I received this book through Great Escapes Book Tour, and was not required to give a positive review.
an intriguing mystery in a delightful setting PEKOE MOST POISON by Laura Childs The 18th Tea Shop Mystery When Theodosia and Drayton are invited to a posh tea event, they enjoy the teas and the food, happy to be served instead of serving. A pleasant afternoon turns tragic with series of events that start with a minor fire and end with the death of their histrionic host's husband. Theo suspects murder and is soon proven correct. Now, in order to help the historical society, Theodosia will look into the murder on behalf of the new widow. Theodosia and the gang are at it again in this, the eighteenth tea shop mystery. This time Drayton, instead of trying to hold her back, is the one who encourages Theo to once again get involved in a murder investigation. Noticeably absent from the investigation was Detective Tidwell, and while I missed his noshing at the Indigo Tea Shop I was pleased to meet Detective Pete Riley; a smart, open minded detective and a new love interest for Theo all in one! Childs introduces a unique Charleston tradition in PEKOE MOST POISON, the modern version of a rat tea complete with liveried servers wearing rat masks. The servers aren't the only ones wearing masks, albeit they are the only ones to literally do so. Masks here include public personas, both over and under played, underlying motives, and serve to hide the truth. Laura Childs has once again provided an intriguing mystery in a delightful setting. Surrounded by one of my favorite subjects, tea, she infuses the right amount of history, food, and fun. Recipes and Tea Time Tips included. FTC Disclosure – The publisher sent me a digital ARC provided through NetGalley, in the hopes I would review it.
This is a really good series and this addition to the series was superb. I love the cozy feeling with Theo, Drayton & Haley. The three of them make a wonderful setting for this tea themed cozy mystery. The tea house not only serves up a delightful cup of tea and a wonderful fresh baked scone, it also serves up a dash of murder and mayhem. When a local couple throw a Rat Tea Party, everyone is shocked when the host drops dead. The hostess is frantic and decided to ask Theo and Drayton for help, unfortunately, there is a catch. If Theo and Drayton refuse to help, then there won't be a huge contribution made to the historical society. Knowing how much Drayton loves his historical society, Theo agrees to help and soon find herself involved in an investigation to bizarre to imagine. Fans of this series will be thrilled to read this wonderful addition to the tea shop series. I voluntarily read an ARC of this book provided by the publisher and NetGalley.
Eighteen books in and the Tea Shop Mysteries by Laura Childs are still strongly brewed and refreshing! What can I say about PEKOE MOST POISON that hasn’t already been said about the other seventeen books in this series? I think all of the positive adjectives have been used, and rightly so. The one thing I can say . . . the very fact that this is book eighteen speaks to the brilliant writing talent of Laura Childs. Her middle name must be diversity, because she always manages to make each book in this series unique. One thing for sure that I can say about this book is, rats! Yes, like the rodent. Author Childs introduces us to the tradition of a Rat Tea. It’s a fascinating piece of history that I knew nothing of. (You’ll learn about it when you read this book!) It also happens to be where the victim in this book is murdered. Very original idea! This excellent installment of the Tea Shop mysteries had a wonderfully complex plot. With more than a few suspects surfacing in the murder investigation, and business at Indigo Tea Shop being as brisk as ever, protagonist Theodosia “Theo” Browning, and her friend and tea sommelier Drayton really had their hands full trying to solve this murder, and keep things at the shop running smoothly. By the end of the book I was breathless from all the perfectly planned twists in the plot. And as always, the fun isn’t over after the story is. The back of the book contains recipes, a list of tea resources, and a sneak peek of, SHADOW GIRL, from the suspense thriller Afton Tangler series by Laura, writing under her own name, Gerry Schmitt!