Death by Darjeeling by Laura Childs

Death by Darjeeling (A Tea Shop Mystery)From the author's website: "Ordinarily, Charleston's Indigo Tea Shop is an oasis of calm.  But when tea shop owner, Theodosia Browning, caters the annual Lamplighter Tour of historic homes, one of the patrons turns up dead.  Never mind that it's Hughes Barron, a slightly scurrilous real estate developer.  Theodosia's reputation is suddenly on the line.  Aided by her friends and fellow tea shop entrepreneurs, Theo sets about to unravel the mystery of the deadly Darjeeling and encounters a number of likely suspects.  Tanner Joseph, the fiery environmentalist, held a grudge against the developer for his misuse of land.  Timothy Neville, the octogenarian major domo for the Heritage Society, opposed Hughes Barron's election to the board.  And Barron's unsavory partner might very well profit from a cleverly written buy-sell agreement!"

I say this now without any irony, I love the fact that mystery series are so popular that you can get one about almost any interest or hobby you have.  You want a mystery series about scrapbooking?  No problem!  How about one about knitting?  There must be three or four such series!  Gardening, wedding planning, coffee drinking, or birdwatching?   Yes, yes, yes, and yes.  Vampires?  Sure!  Witches?  More than one such series.  The only problem is weeding out the bad series.  
After recently deciding that I loved Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and Sarah Caudwell too much to stop at just them, I've been looking over some of these series to see if any of them could be enjoyable.  Unfortunately, I don't think the Tea Shop Mysteries from Laura Childs will be it.  While the book was inoffensive and decently written, it didn't thrill me or even make me want to read more than the first chapter which is not a great sign in a book.  I didn't have trouble powering through it to get it done with, but neither did I think it was a particularly memorable book other than about two seconds after introducing the killer, I thought to myself, "That person is the killer."  If I, a person who can almost never guess mystery answers, is able to do that based on nothing other than a character description, it's a little too obvious.

Additionally, I felt a few too many sub plots were not wrapped up properly.  There was no denouement that wrapped up those characters or plots which were left hanging.  I suppose this is because Childs had planned a series, but I really hate when that type of thing occurs because there is no guarantee that I'd like to continue to read the next book in the series.

Lastly, a great deal of enjoyment of the book comes from whether you like the main character of Theodosia, who is clearly an old soul.  I did not.  I found her to be boring mostly, with uninteresting interactions with most people around her.  The only people I liked to see her interact with was her romantic interest and the detective Tidwell.  Perhaps I found the other characters boring as well, but those two had enough strength to their personalities that they made Theodosia interesting as well.

So, why isn't the rating on this book even lower, you ask?  Because it is competently written and because someone who is more interested in tea might like the descriptions of the tea house.  In fact, those were the parts I was particularly interested in.  Perhaps it is time for me to go buy a book about tea and tea houses.

Verdict:  4.  I say on my rating page that a 5 book is one that makes me say, "Well, that was a book.  It sure was."  And that is exactly how I feel about this book, but I disliked it just a little bit more than that!
Thoughts:  I can't help but think with so many books in this series it must get vastly better.  I'm going to give one or two more books in the series a try.  I have book twelve or thirteen sitting on my shelves due to a kind neighbor, so I might give that a try to see if I like Childs's writing style or plotting better.

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