Title: Tea is for Trouble (A Haunted Tearoom Cozy Mystery #1)
Author: Karen Sue Walker
Published on: 6 May 2021
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Tea is for Trouble is the first book in Karen Sue Walker’s A Haunted Tearoom Cozy Mystery series.
April May buys a pink and purple Victorian mansion on a whim in a sleepy little town of Serenity Cove. She wants to convert a part of the mansion into a Tearoom. When April first sees the mansion, she knows she has to own it. She sees the ‘for sale’ board and calls the real estate agent.
He’s not very interested in selling it but finally agrees. Bob’s mother had previously co-owned the mansion with her sister. When Bob’s mother died, the house went to her sister. When the sister passed away, she left the house to a local cat shelter. Bob is back now and wants what is rightfully his.
April’s moved in to the mansion and hosts an open house. None of the townspeople turn up. Bob arrives and soon, three more ladies do. When April is striking up a chat with the ladies, Bob sneaks into the attic. April catches him in the act and forcefully puts him out of the house. The next morning, April and the local handyman Mark discover Bob’s body in the walk-in freezer (which is attached to the kitchen). April is the main (and only) suspect.
Tea is for Trouble is an impressive cozy debut. The story has a paranormal touch to it. April owns the mansion that once housed the town’s famous restaurant. It is rumored a famous chef, Emile Toussaint, worked in the restaurant. He disappeared one day and was never seen again. Fifty years later, April sees him in the kitchen – as a ghostly apparition. She initially poo-poos his appearance as hallucination but when he starts to teach her his famous recipes, she believes she’s actually talking to a ghost and not hallucinating.
The local police chief Sergeant Rawley does not believe Bob was murdered. When the body is discovered, April insists Bob was forcefully put into the walk-in freezer while Rawley accuses her of gross negligence. The freezer door was broken and could not be fixed; for the time being, the local handyman fixed a lock on it and the key was hung on a hook behind the door – anybody who knew where to look had access to it.
The townspeople are unwelcoming and already gossip about April. To prove her innocence, April decides to solve the mystery behind Bob’s murder. She has the help of three women – Irma (the local pub owner), Freddie (the medical examiner) and Jennifer (who ends up as a hostess at April’s tearoom).
Though a first in the series, equal importance is given to character introduction and mystery. The characters are well-portrayed and as the story ends, it is pretty clear the four ladies have formed an impromptu sleuthing team. We also have the ghostly apparition of Emile to consider. No cozy mystery is complete without a furry baby – in this case, it is a cat named Whisk.
A couple of red herrings are sure to take the readers in the wrong direction. Mark, the local handyman is handsome but also a possible suspect in the murder case. Then there is Harold, the man who was caught lurking in the mansion when April was not around. The local police chief isn’t helping either. He believes April is guilty and threatens to ruin her tearoom.
I could not guess the identity of the perp. Halfway through the story, April learns of the previous owner’s precious jewel collection. The series will probably follow this angle – find the jewels and in the process, learn what happened to Emile and Norma (the owner).
I loved the writing style. The mystery is well-maintained until the end. A dash or two of humor and loads of mouth-watering delicacies (with recipes at the end of the book) made this story interesting. Excellent character portrayal too. I am looking forward to knowing what’s next for April and the tearoom, after all, the story ends with the local Mayor threatening to ruin April’s business. Ouch!