Earl Grey and Shallow Graves by Victoria Tait

Title: Earl Grey and Shallow Graves (Waterwheel Cafe Mystery #1)

Author: Victoria Tait

Published on: 19 May 2023

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Buy on Amazon: Kindle | Paperback

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Earl Grey and Shallow Graves is the first book in Victoria Tait’s Waterwheel Café Mystery series.

Sergeant Keya Varma is delighted with her new part-time role as the Cotswolds’ Rural Engagement Officer. She’s also fulfilling her dream of opening a small neighbourhood café. But she gets herself into a stew with renovation works when builders unearth a young girl’s remains. While Keya and her police colleagues gain ground reviewing the unsolved disappearance of a local girl, her brief taste of success turns to dust when a friend is found dead at her tea shop. Confusion over identities threatens to bury the investigation and our junior police officer is worried that justice won’t be served.

Can Keya dig into the mystery and uncover the real culprit?

I was so excited when Victoria told me she’s planning a spin off series from her Dotty Sayers Antique Mystery series. Sergeant Keya Varma is a close friend of Dotty and they have solved crimes together many a times. So, to see Keya get a series of her own was a cherry on top of a very delicious looking ice cream… oh, toda! Keya is clumsy and cannot stop herself from banging into things or falling into… in this story, she falls into a river. And the scene is captured on video and showed in the evening news. Ahem.

Keya’s boss played a major role in a smuggling ring and was given two options – retire or face imprisonment. Since Keya was innocent and is well-liked by her community, she’s offered a part-time role as the Cotswolds’ Rural Engagement Officer. Of late, there seems to be an increase in thefts and fly-tipping.

Keya’s also living her dream life. She’s always wanted to run a cafe of her own and in Priceless Betrayal, she gets the idea to convert a part of the Akemans into a cafe. The renovation works begin but is stopped soon as the workers discover skeletal remains.

Gilly, the co-owner of Akemans Auction house, and a friend of Keya, tells her about a friend who went missing thirty years ago. Gilly was present when the skeletal remains were unearthed and she fears it’s that of Rachel, the young girl who went missing in 1989.

Thirty years ago, the local police had investigated the case and found no clues to proceed further. The victim’s parents died soon after, and her older brother applied for a death certificate seven years after her disappearance.

Keya and Ryan start to investigate the case. Keya is keen on hiring the local pub’s part-time waitress for her cafe. But looks like fate had other plans for the waitress.

Keya Varma is of Indian descent. Apart from mystery, the series also follows Keya’s personal life – in this installment, there’s a talk of an upcoming wedding. Keya’s sister is getting married soon. There’s a dress fitting and meet the parents for chai and samosas scene. It goes without saying that Keya too is pressurized to find a spouse and she wonders if she could ask Ryan to be her plus-one at the wedding. Keya doesn’t care much about wedding duties and is quite relieved when her sister’s friend accepts wedding duties. Phew! Keya dodged a bullet there.

Coming to the mystery behind the ‘murder’ that happened thirty years ago, there seems to be a lot of suspense behind the identity of the victim. Not just that, we have another crime case halfway through which is followed by an unbelievable and shocking twist. Not just me, even Keya was so shocked that she poured the contents of her teacup into her boss’s lap.

After the aforementioned twist is revealed, things start to get murkier. It becomes very clear to Keya and Ryan that the plot is more complicated than it seems. It all leads to one person – and only they can reveal the missing link.

Since this is a spin-off from Dotty Sayers mystery series, some of the characters are common to both series. Also, the last installment of Dotty Sayers ended with Dotty leaving for France. In Earl Grey and Shallow Graves, Keya misses Dotty and keeps thinking of her return. Seems like Dotty’s having a good time in France and might not return soon…

Earl Grey and Shallow Graves by Victoria Tait is an enjoyable and entertaining read. It’s Keya Varma so strap in for a dose of clumsy and quirky antics.

I received an ARC from Victoria Tait in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion.

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