Berkley Prime Crime (2019)
A Tea Shop mystery (Book #20)
by Shirley Wetzel
Theodosia Browning is having a fabulous time floating in a hot air balloon over the historic area of Charleston. Drayton, her assistant at the Indigo Tea Shop, is decidedly not. She tries to calm his fears, but when they spot a strange metal object flying around the group of balloons, she realizes he may be correct. The object finally flew into one of the balloons, puncturing it and sending it down to the ground in a ball of fire.
Theodosia’s pilot manages to bring them in for a safe, albeit rough, landing. They hurry to the scene of the accident, and are shocked to find the site of Theodosia’s catered tea for the Top Flight Balloon Club covered in flaming debris, crushed bone china teacups, and incinerated food. Nearby are the remains of the fallen balloon, containing the bodies of three victims. Pieces of a small drone are scattered in the wreckage.
Detective Burt Tidwell, the head of the Charleston Police Department’s Robbery and Homicide Division arrives to take charge of the scene. When Theodosia and Drayton tell him what they witnessed, he realizes the crash was no accident. One of the victims is Don Kingsley, CEO of the local software company, SyncSoft. Further investigation turns up possible motives for the crime. There are rumors that a large sum of money had disappeared from the company, and the board of directors blame Kingsley. He may have made some enemies in business, or perhaps in his personal life. One other possibility: Kingsley had amassed a valuable collection of military memorabilia, including a nearly priceless Revolutionary War flag. Several deep pocket collectors are in town, hoping to bid on the flag. When it’s discovered that the flag is missing, they become suspects as well.
Kingsley’s widow Tawney is not too broken up by her husband’s death. She is sinking her new wealth into turning an old mansion into a high-end bed and breakfast. She denies claims that her husband was seeking a divorce. If true, that would be a strong motive for murder. The police decide, however, to focus on a whistleblower at SyncSoft. Harold is the fiancé of Angie Congdon, owner of the Featherbird House Bed and Breakfast, and to all accounts a decent, non-violent man. Unfortunately, his name popped up on a list of Charlestonians who had purchased a drone. Angie is one of Theodosia’s closest friends, and the sometime amateur sleuth is determined to prove his innocence.
Her search for the real killer takes her through a motley crew of suspects, from the merry widow to a bunch of greedy antique dealers, crooked businessmen, and other assorted folks. Theodosia is a feisty, fearless, Southern lady of a certain age, and she is dogged in her quest.
BROKEN BONE CHINA is the twentieth book in the Tea Shop Mystery series, and it is delightful as all the rest. All the charm and graciousness of Old Charleston comes alive on the page. The reader can almost see the historic architecture, smell the flowers that abound, and taste the delicious Southern cuisine. Theodosia and her chums are fully fleshed out, as are the other characters. Receipts and tips on all things tea-related add to the fun. Recommended for fans of traditional mysteries.
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