I can't remember which blogger mentioned Death by Darjeeling but it both caught my attention and piqued my interest for a multitude of reasons. Chiefly, it was a mystery integrating the subject of tea. I figured it would be hard to go wrong.
Death by Darjeeling is the first in a series of Tea Shop Mysteries written by Laura Childs. According to my copy of the book, Laura Childs is a New York Times Bestselling Author. My paperback copy lists thirteen titles in this series and a few notes from reviewers who say that "Murder Suits Laura Childs to a Tea." (Nice.) I'll give it marks for being "diverting" and "entertaining." Death by Darjeeling didn't strain my brain and it kept me occupied which is really all I asked of it. I guess that qualifies me as being a satisfied customer in certain respects.
Theodosia Browning is the main protagonist and chief amateur sleuth of this series. She owns a tea shop in downtown historic Charleston, South Carolina and has a dog named Earl Gray. (To my friend who loves tea and Charleston, yes, I was indeed thinking of you while reading this book.) She is a single gal, and capable business owner who is open to romance if it should come along. In this particular story she finds herself stumbling across a murder during a Lamplighter Tour hosted by the local Historical Society. The victim is found dead alongside (gasp!) a cup of tea, a specialty brew created for the celebration. Theodosia and one of her employees is being investigated for foul play and she is eager to vindicate them both. Thus begins her sleuthing career.
Truthfully, I have to tell you that I was not wow-ed by this book. Yes, it hit on several of my loves: history, beautiful settings, and tea. The problem for me is just that I found the book to be "ok" and not much more than that. To my reading audience who enjoys a light mystery and these same themes in books, do be aware that there are about half a dozen foul words scattered throughout this book. They are not concentrated in an any particular area but sort of creep up on you. I wish Childs would have kept her language entirely clean, for if she had I could recommend this book without hesitation.
My other problem with Laura Childs comes about as no real fault of her own. The last mystery I read was by Dorothy Sayers and I was simply blown away by Sayers' ability to weave intellectual arguments amid her mystery. My impression of the Tea Shop Mysteries (and so many other modern mystery series) is that the authors wish to peddle stories out quickly and pigeon hole into a genre that can be easily digested by modern readers. There was not a lot of suspense involved in Death by Darjeeling and no terribly deep thoughts. I know that's being a bit harsh and unkind and I don't necessarily mean to be either. I just don't feel that Childs writes as craftily as, say, Du Maurier or Sayers. If I'm going to read a mystery I want it to be a really good one. If I want a light mystery I tend towards watching sitcoms and that gives me my "mystery quick fix." (I've long been a fan of shows like Matlock, Murder She Wrote and, more recently, Monk or Castle.) If I want to read a mystery, I favor those that are complex and thought provoking.
Now, I have a confession to make. I had never tried Darjeeling tea before this book and in the reading of it I felt a sense of guilt rising up. (I "do guilt" really well.) I determined to locate some and give it a try. Lo and behold, on our travels we ran across this downright amazing tea shop which I gushed about over here. I tried Darjeeling as a nod to the book (and enjoyed it). So thank you, Laura Childs, for coming along on my recent journey and for encouraging me to try something new. I appreciate that.
― Henry James