Theodosia Browning serves tea and solves crimes in Charleston, a city steeped in tradition and treachery in the latest Tea Shop Mystery from New York Times bestselling author Laura Childs.
It is Sunday afternoon, and Theodosia and Drayton are catering a formal tea at a hot-air balloon rally. The view aloft is not only stunning, they are also surrounded by a dozen other colorful hot-air balloons. But as the sky turns gray and the clouds start to boil up, a strange object zooms out of nowhere. It is a drone, and it appears to be buzzing around the balloons, checking them out.
As Theodosia and Drayton watch, the drone, hovering like some angry, mechanized insect, deliberately crashes into the balloon next to them. An enormous, fiery explosion erupts, and everyone watches in horror as the balloon plummets to the earth, killing all three of its passengers.
Sirens scream, first responders arrive, and Theodosia is interviewed by the police. During the interview she learns that one of the downed occupants was Don Kingsley, the CEO of a local software company, SyncSoft. Not only do the police suspect Kingsley as the primary target, they learn that he possessed a rare Revolutionary War Union Jack flag that several people were rabidly bidding on.
Intrigued, Theodosia begins her own investigation. Was it the CEO's soon-to-be ex-wife, who is restoring an enormous mansion at no expense? The CEO's personal assistant, who also functioned as curator of his prized collection of Americana? Two rival antiques' dealers known for dirty dealing? Or was the killer the fiancée of one of Theodosia's dear friends, who turns out to be an employee—and whistle-blower—at SyncSoft?
INCLUDES DELICIOUS RECIPES AND TEA TIME TIPS!
About the Author
Laura Childs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, New Orleans Scrapbooking Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. In her previous life she was CEO of her own marketing firm, authored several screenplays, and produced a reality TV show.
Read an Excerpt
Red and yellow flames belched from propane burners, inflating the hot-air balloon to heroic proportions and propelling it skyward. High above the grassy flats of Charleston's Hampton Park, the balloon joined a half dozen others as they bumped along on gentle currents, looking like a supersized drift of colorful soap bubbles.
"This is amazing," Theodosia cried out to Drayton as the wind blew her auburn hair into long streamers. "Almost as good as sailing or jumping a horse." Her blue eyes sparkled with merriment, and a smile lit up her face as she reveled in her first-ever balloon ride.
With her fine complexion, natural endowment of hair, and pleasing features, Theodosia Browning was the apotheosis of what Lord Byron might have described as an English beauty in one of his novels. She was, however, modest to a fault and would have blushed at the very thought.
"Is this not the coolest thing you've ever done?" Theodosia asked as blips of exhilaration filled her heart.
"No, it's terrifying," Drayton Conneley responded. He'd wedged himself into the corner of their wicker basket, teeth gritted, knuckles white, as he hung on for dear life. "When you talked me into serving afternoon tea for the Top Flight Balloon Club, I had no idea you'd twist my arm and make me go for an actual ride."
"It's good to live a little dangerously," Theodosia said. As the proprietor of the Indigo Tea Shop on Church Street, she was often tapped to host weekend tea parties. This one in Hampton Park, smack-dab in the middle of Charleston, South Carolina, was no different. Except that after pouring tea and serving her trademark cream scones and crab salad tea sandwiches, Theodosia had been offered a hot-air balloon ride. Gratis. And, really, who in their right mind would turn down a wild adventure like that! Certainly not Theodosia. To an outside eye, she might appear tea-shop-demure, but she possessed the bold soul of an adrenaline junkie.
"I'm afraid the weather's beginning to shift," Drayton said. "Perhaps we should cut our ride short?" The sky, which had been pigeon egg blue just twenty minutes ago, now had a few gray clouds scudding across it.
"Wind's kicking up, too," said Rafe Meyer, their FAA certified pilot. He opened the blast valve one more time, shooting a fiery tongue high into the balloon's interior. "This will keep us at altitude along with the other balloons. But we should probably think about landing in another fifteen minutes or so. Weather conditions do look like they might deteriorate."
"Five minutes would be better," Drayton said under his breath. As Theodosia's resident tea sommelier and self-appointed arbiter of taste, he was definitely not a devotee of adventure sports. Sixty-something, genteel, with a serious addiction to tweed jackets and bow ties, Drayton's idea of high adventure was sitting in a wing chair in front of his fireplace, sipping a glass of ruby port, and reading a Joseph Conrad novel.
"Take a look at that patchwork balloon over there. You see how it's descending ever so gently?" Theodosia said. "You don't have a thing to worry about. When we hit the ground you won't even feel a bump."
But Drayton was squinting over the side of their gondola at something else. "What on earth is that whirligig thing?" he asked.
Theodosia was still reveling in her bird's-eye view and the hypnotic whoosh from the propane burner, so she wasn't exactly giving Drayton her full attention.
"What? What are you talking about?" she finally asked.
"I'm puzzled about the small, silver object that appears to be flying in our direction."
Theodosia could barely pry her eyes away from the delicious banquet of scenery and greenery, history and antiquity, that spilled out below her. Crooked, narrow streets. Elegant grande dame homes lining the Battery. The azure sweep of Charleston Harbor. The dozens of churches that poked their steeples skyward. How lucky was she to live in this amazing city?
But as Theodosia turned, she, too, caught a flash of something bright and shiny buzzing its way toward them. Her first impression was that it looked like some kind of mechanized seagull. Something you might see in a stop-action cartoon. Only, instead of dipping and diving and surfing the wind, the object was zooming right at them.
"I think it's a drone. Someone must have put up a drone," Theodosia said. She watched with growing curiosity as it headed their way, coming closer and closer. The drone swooped upward and then dipped down, doing a fancy series of aerial maneuvers. Finally, it zoomed in and hovered alongside their basket for a long moment. Strangely, the drone appeared to be making up its mind about something. Then it peeled away.
"What's the drone for? Some kind of TV news thing?" Drayton asked. "You know, 'Film at eleven'?"
"I don't think it's a commercial drone. Probably someone who's filming the balloons for fun." Theodosia's attention slowly shifted to the weather as she scanned the sky to the east, in the direction of the Atlantic Ocean. A few more clouds had rolled in, turning the horizon into a dim blot. Hopefully, there wasn't a storm brewing.
"Such a strange, buzzing thing," Drayton said, unable to unkink the knot of worry that had formed in his head. His hands gripped the side of the wicker basket even tighter. "Like some kind of giant, nasty hornet. Just having it circle around like that gave me the heebie-jeebies."
"There's really nothing to worry . . ." Theodosia began. Then she practically choked back her words as she watched the little drone lift straight up like a miniature helicopter or Harrier jet. Up, up, up it rose until it was flying level with the red-and-white balloon that hovered just ahead of them but at a slightly higher altitude.
"Now the drone has edged precipitously close to that balloon," Drayton said as he continued to gaze upward. "That can't be good."
"No, it's not." Alarmed now, Theodosia tapped their pilot on the shoulder and, when he turned, she pointed wordlessly at the drone that now hovered some forty feet above them.
The pilot glanced up and frowned, his expression telling her all she needed to know. "That shouldn't be there," he said.
"It's strange. Almost as if the drone is checking out each of the balloons," Drayton said. "Peeking in the baskets to see who the passengers are."
"Because it has a camera," Theodosia said slowly. She glanced down toward terra firma, wondering who in the crowd below them might be manipulating the drone-and why were they doing so? Was it for fun or a joke or maybe some kind of daredevil promotional film? But the balloon she was riding in was flying way too high to make out anything meaningful.
"I think the object is flying away," Drayton said. "Good riddance."
But the drone didn't fly away.
Instead, it circled back around, hovered for a few moments, revved its engine to an almost supersonic speed, and flew directly into the red-and-white balloon.
RIP. ZSSST. WHOMP!
A burst of brilliant light, bright as an atomic bomb, lit the sky.
"No!" Drayton cried out.
Theodosia threw up an arm to shield her eyes and then watched in horror as the red-and-white balloon was ripped wide open, top to bottom, like a hapless fish being gutted.
Tongues of ugly red and purple flames roiled and twisted, practically drowning out the screams of the hapless passengers. Then the gigantic balloon exploded in a hellish conflagration, sizzling and popping and wobbling for a few long seconds. Finally, the whole thing began to slowly collapse inward as the fireball deflated.
"Dear Lord, it's the Hindenburg all over again," Drayton said in a hoarse whisper.
Against the darkening sky, the burning balloon and dangling basket looked like some sort of Hollywood special effect. Then, almost in slow motion, the entire rig tumbled from the sky like a faulty rocket dropping out of orbit.
Screams rent the air-maybe from the dying passengers, certainly from the horrified observers on the ground.
Hearts in their throats, eyes unable to resist this gruesome sight, Theodosia and Drayton continued to watch the sickening spectacle unfold.
"What a catastrophe!" Drayton cried out. "Will anyone survive?"
Theodosia whispered a quick prayer. She didn't think so.
The burning balloon roared and rumbled as it continued its downward plunge, unleashing a blizzard of blistered nylon, hot metal, and exploding propane. Ash and sparks fluttered everywhere; the sound was like a blast furnace. Then, in a final ghastly incendiary burst, the balloon and its seared basket smashed down on top of Theodosia's tea table. Tongues of flame spewed out as bone china teacups were crushed. A pink-and-green teapot exploded like a bomb.
And lives were surely lost.
Almost as a climactic final act, the heavens opened up and a fierce rain hammered down.
"Hang on, this is going to be a hard landing," the pilot yelled to Theodosia and Drayton.
Grim-faced and stunned, they dropped as fast as the pilot and the laws of physics would allow. Then, like an out-of-control elevator, they slammed into the earth with a bone-jouncing, filling-rattling thud.
Even before Theodosia hopped from their half-toppled basket, she was overwhelmed by the terrible scene that awaited them. Her tea table was an enormous pile of burning debris, panicked bystanders were screaming and crying, dozens of tables and chairs had been upended, and clouds of dark, acrid smoke were spreading everywhere. And bodies. Theodosia didn't see any at the moment, but she knew there had to be bodies. No one could survive this.
"This is just unbelievable," she said to Drayton.
"Senseless," Drayton said, shaking his head. "Tragic." Gazing around, he saw that several onlookers had also been injured by falling debris.
Anger and outrage bubbled inside Theodosia. She tilted her head back to hastily scan the skies overhead, searching for the drone. But the drone, the cause of all this misery, had seemingly disappeared. Like a supersonic fighter jet on a stealth bombing mission. Or had the drone crashed and burned somewhere as well?
And where was the drone's operator? Theodosia wondered. Who on earth had been manipulating the controls and caused this accident? But as the still-flaming debris sent up an acrid stink, a tendril of fear touched her heart. Or had it been deliberate?
To make matters worse, low hanging clouds had cut visibility to a minimum, and the storm's onslaught was whipping everything into a frenzy. Trees thrashed, lines for the hot-air balloons that were hastily descending were hopelessly tangled, and a couple of metal folding chairs had turned into nasty, flying missiles.
"How many people?" a uniformed police officer shouted to Theodosia as he ran toward her. He was heading for the crash site, a radio clutched in his hand. "Did you see it happen? How many people in the explosion?"
"Two, I think," Theodosia shouted. Her jaw felt leaden, like it was wired shut. "No, wait. Maybe three people, counting the pilot."
The officer skidded to a halt next to her, touched a hand to his cheek, and muttered, "Dear Lord." Then he was on his radio, his voice rising in panic as he called for first responders. Police, ambulances, firefighters, whatever help he could muster as fast as possible.
Unfortunately, KTSC-TV, Channel 8, arrived first. The white van emblazoned with the red TV8 logo and supporting a satellite dish on top careened across the grass at an ungodly speed, rocking to a stop directly in front of Theodosia and Drayton. Dale Dickerson, one of TV8's roving reporters jumped out, looking perfectly attired and blow combed, even in the pouring rain. Dickerson nodded to himself when he recognized Theodosia and immediately stuck a microphone in her face.
"Tell us what you saw," Dickerson said.
"It was awful," Theodosia said. She could barely comprehend the magnitude of what had just happened.
"Tell us how you felt when you saw the hot-air balloon catch fire and come crashing down," Dickerson said.
Theodosia lifted a hand and pushed the microphone away. This wasn't right. People had been killed. "No," she said. "I'm not doing this. I can't."
"The station will want this footage for the five and six o'clock news," Dickerson said, as if he was offering a huge incentive.
Theodosia couldn't care less. "No. Go pester someone else."
Dickerson gave a hopeful glance in Drayton's direction, then caught the look of utter disdain on Drayton's face.
"Whatever," Dickerson said, rushing off.
Police cruisers, ambulances, and fire trucks arrived, adding to the mayhem. A young man, his face pale as a ghost, sprinted past them. He skidded to a stop a few feet away, both arms extended, and spun around full tilt on the soggy grass. Then he ran back toward them, clearly in a blind panic.
"Whoa." Theodosia reached out and snagged his jacket sleeve. "Slow down. Take it easy."
"Did you see it? Did you see Mr. Kingsley's balloon get hit?" the young man screamed at her.
"Is that who was in the balloon?" Theodosia asked. "A man named Kingsley?" She knew the police would need to know these names.
"Who else was with him?" Drayton asked.
"It was . . . it was . . ." The young man suddenly fell to his knees and dropped his head, as if he were bracing for a plane crash.
"Take a deep breath," Theodosia said. She leaned down and put a hand on the young man's shoulder. He was hyperventilating so badly she feared he might give himself a stroke.
"Yeah, okay," the young man said as he struggled to his feet. "But who's . . . who's going to tell Mrs. Kingsley?" he asked with a sorrowful moan.
Theodosia grabbed his shoulders and gave him a small shake to try to rouse him from his confused state. "Who are you?" she asked.
"I'm . . . I'm Charles Townsend."
"Do you work for Mr. Kingsley?" Drayton asked.
Townsend bobbed his head. "I'm Mr. Kingsley's private secretary."
"Oh dear," Drayton said.
"You need to pull yourself together and identify yourself to those police officers over there," Theodosia said. "Tell them who exactly was in the hot-air balloon that crashed."
But Townsend seemed rooted in place, his expression a mixture of sorrow and distress. "And what are we going to do about the flag?" he whispered.
"I don't think he's tracking all that well," Drayton said in a low voice.
"No, he's not," Theodosia said. "I think I'd better . . ." She spoke louder and more forcefully now. "You'd better come with me, Mr. Townsend." She took him gently by the arm. "We're going to get you some help."
Theodosia led Charles Townsend over to the nearest ambulance and tapped a blue-coated EMT on his shoulder. "Excuse me?"
The EMT, a young African-American man whose name tag read t. russel, turned around to face her. "Yes?"
"This young man was a witness to the crash," Theodosia said. "And he's right on the fine edge of hysteria. Could you give him some oxygen or even something stronger to help him calm down?"
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Flat. Generally a decent book. Good detail regarding the tea shop, makes you feel as if you are sitting in the shop enjoying tea and scones, etc, but the plot dragged and abruptly ended! I turned the page looking for an 'epilogue" ….nothing. I felt the story was not tied up in a pretty bow! I was disappointed.
miss laura is the master of suspense in a story designed to keep you guessing. i never miss a story of hers because i know i will really enjoy the tale! read and enjoy...i did!
This series is light hearted and easy to read. Its strength is the imagery the author creates in everything from the city of Charleston to the tea shop to the delectable tea and treats they serve. Drayton had a more prominent role in this book, which as a fan of the series, I enjoyed. The method of murder was interesting – I don’t think I’ve ever read of anyone dying by drone before. There was also a mention of my favorite tea company, which was neat to see. An enjoyable book in a series that is a flagship of the cozy mystery genre.
Kudos to author Laura Childs for making it to the twentieth book of her Tea Shop Mysteries! Having just closed BROKEN BONE CHINA, I’m still in that after-reading-a-good-book euphoria. It was wonderful to be back with Theodosia and Drayton. The teas, the atmosphere, the murder! Why wouldn’t I want to return time and again? With her usual flare, author Childs has delivered an intriguing whodunit that had me guessing, and second guessing myself the entire way through. From the cinematic worthy murder, to the last word of the story, every detail grabbed my attention and pulled me in. Even the recipes at the end of the book hooked me! BROKEN BONE CHINA is proof that you will get consistently good storytelling when reading a book written by Laura Childs.
Tea at a Hot Air Balloon Rally Spiced with Murder Theodosia and Drayton are catering a tea at a hot air balloon rally. Theodosia leaps at the chance for a balloon ride. Dayton is not so enthusiastic. When they’re aloft, they near another balloon just as a strange object plows into it exploding the balloon and killing the passengers. Theodosia is interviewed by Detective Tidwell, who hopes she’ll refrain from using her detective skills in this case. She has good intentions, but when one of the main suspects turns out to be the fiancée of one of Theodosia’s best friends, she can’t help trying to discover who committed the murder. There’s no dearth of suspects in this latest tea shop mystery. Somehow Theodosia meets them all either through happenstance, or design. There’s the widow of the murdered software CEO who is building a mansion which is supposed to be a bed and breakfast, and there’s also the CEO’s assistant and a missing Revolutionary war flag. As usual, the characters are delightful. I was a little disappointed that Detective Riley, Theodosia’s current boyfriend, was away at a conference. Hopefully, he’ll be back in the next book. I particularly enjoyed the history woven into the story. It makes Charleston come alive. The descriptions of the teas were wonderful as usual. I’m glad the recipes are included at the end of the book. The food is so mouthwatering, you can’t help wanting to try it. If you enjoy cozy mysteries, this is a good one. I received this book from Net Galley for this review.
A commitment to characterization and attention to detail BROKEN BONE CHINA by Laura Childs The Twentieth Tea Shop Mystery A delightful tea for the Top Flight Balloon Club turns deadly when a drone targets one of the hot-air balloons and sends its flaming husk down to the earth. Not only is the Blue Indigo picnic table destroyed, all three occupants of the balloon are killed. As a witness, Theodosia Browning feels compelled to look into the incident, especially when people ask for her help. The attack was surely planned, but was it due to business malfeasance, or an attempt to gain a priceless piece of Americana? Now in her twentieth outing Theodosia Browning is no stranger to murders...and solving them. In fact, she's recently came to the conclusion that she gets a thrill from investigating. Needless to say, when a murder happens right in front of her, she's going to get involved. The mystery here was interesting. While it started out as murder...and quite a unique method at that!...it was really about theft. What lengths a person would go to to gain a priceless piece of Americana - a Union Jack flag. A variety of characters made for an interesting suspect pool, from the murdered CEO's right hand man who's been acting hinky, to his flamboyant widow who was poised to be his ex. We can't forget the bidders interested in the flag. Could the staid woman representing a museum or the shady antiques dealer be involved? Or Theo's friend's new fiance? There was a very modern method of murder here, which I found fascinating...and a bit worrisome. Is anyone safe from these drones? I'm all for the birds of prey snatching them from the sky! I'm sure Theodosia is too! I enjoy creative murders and this certainly was a unique one. As a tea enthusiast I love reading all the details about the tea and the descriptions of the tea events. What mystery fan wouldn't enjoy a Nancy Drew tea, and history fans, myself included, can gawk over the details of a Beaux Arts tea. It's these details that capture readers and draws them in...and inspires them to return. I love how Drayton has become more involved and engaged in solving the mystery, while being the staid voice of reason that Theo oftentimes ignores. I love how their partnership and friendship have developed. While Drayton could easily have become a caricature, he's evolved into a real person, albeit persnickety at times, but that's part of his charm. BROKEN BONE CHINA melds high quality tea and refinement with a desperate bid for a piece of history resulting in murder. A commitment to characterization and attention to detail make the twentieth Tea Shop Mystery a winner. FTC Disclosure – The publisher sent me a copy of this book in the hopes I would review it.
Theodosia and Drayton are at it again! I never know where I will find these two. What started out as a pleasant hot air balloon ride ends tragically as the balloon next to them is hit by a rogue drone. Broken Bone China by Laura Childs is book twenty in the Tea Shop Mystery Series and it is a good one. There are a lot of things going on this story and it seems like one thing just keeps going on after another to where there are more than one suspects being juggled in the air. It is a complex plot that took some twists and turns with some bad weather in the mix. Drayton never fails to disappoint with all his wit and wisdom. He is a font of historical knowledge and there is good information for people who enjoy American history as I do. Laura Childs' research is impeccable from her knowledge of tea, to southern culture, fabulous recipes, history, and of course, the sleuthing. I always look forward to her next book because they are so enjoyable, especially with a cup of tea.
Theodosia and Drayton are excited about the tea that they are serving at a hot air balloon rally and can't wait to fly high in the sky in a balloon just for them. While enjoying their ride they hear a noise in the distance and soon see that it is a drone flying among all the balloons. All is well and beautiful until said drone flies right into one of the balloons, ripping it to shreds and sending it hurtling to the earth. The explosion that follows is one that none in the balloon could have survived. Who could do such a thing and why? They soon learn that one of the victims is Don Kingsley the CEO of a software company. It has come to the attention of the company that someone has stolen around five million dollars from them. Theo also learns that the victim was trying to sell a very priceless flag that he owned the only problem it seems to have disappeared right after the incident. Follow along as Theo and Drayton look into Ben's life trying to discover who wanted the man dead. Was it someone from his company looking for the stolen money? Did one of the bidders on his flag decide that they didn't want to pay but would get the flag any way possible? And last but certainly not least could it have been his soon to be ex-wife who seems to be pouring money into what she hopes will be an exclusive B&B? As Theo learns more about the man and those who surrounded him a clearer picture starts to emerge but will she be able to come to a conclusion before she herself ends up in danger? It doesn't help that her boyfriend is out of town and not there to be a part of the investigation. This is a great series filled with a lovely cast of characters, a fabulous setting, and a plot that will have you looking everywhere for a killer. I look forward to seeing where the author takes the characters in her next book.
Broken Bone China may be the twentieth A Tea Shop Mystery, but you can read alone. I highly recommend reading this entire delightful cozy mystery series. I am happy that I discovered Laura Childs’ A Tea Shop Mystery (and the cozy mystery genre) while perusing a bookstore eighteen years ago. I thought Broken Bone China was well-written and proceeds at a steady pace. The book contains developed characters like Theo, Drayton, Haley and Detective Tidwell. I just love Theo’s adorable dog, Earl Grey. Haley, Drayton and Theo have become close friends and have a good working relationship. I enjoy the interactions between the three of them. I appreciate Laura Childs wonderful descriptions of the Indigo Tea Shop, Charleston, the beautiful antiques, books, Haley’s tasty dishes and the entrancing teas (I can just imagine how they would smell). The authors descriptive prose transports me into the world of A Tea Shop Mystery series. I wanted to attend the charming Nancy Drew tea that the shop hosted with the creative decorations and I liked the reference to Trixie Belden (I am a Cherry Ames girl myself). The mystery was multifaceted with a murder and a missing flag. I loved the ingenious method of killing employed by the author. There are good clues to assist readers in solving the mystery with misdirection to throw you off track. There is one little loose end at the end of the book regarding the secret sipper from Tea Faire magazine (I am hoping the author will address it in the next book with a positive review for the tea shop). There are recipes from the tea shop at the end along with tea time tips. A preview of Mumbo Gumbo Murder is included (the next A Scrapbooking Mystery). Ms. Childs has created another winner with Broken Bone China. The only sad part is that I now must wait a year to revisit Theo and the Indigo Tea Shop. If you are looking for an uplifting cozy mystery, look no further than Broken Bone China.
Amateur sleuth, Theodosia Browning, is at it again in the 20th installment of Laura Child’s Tea Shop Mysteries series. While catering a hot air balloon rally, Theodosia and her ever present tea sommelier, Drayton Conneley, witness a drone attack on one of the balloons. All of the passengers on board are killed, including Don Kingsley, CEO of a technology company. Now Theodosia is off on the trail of the murderer. Throw into the mix the disappearance of a famous Revolutionary War flag and an abundance of suspects including the CEO’s soon to be ex-wife, two competing antique dealers and the fiancée of one of Theodosia’s best friends and the reader is soon caught up in this entertaining who-done-it. This is a fun, upbeat cozy mystery series, set in the beautiful town of Charleston, S.C. Child’s cast of characters are all quirky and entertaining. Theodosia Browning is able to conduct her investigations while still running her tea shop, hosting high-profile tea events and judging contests. At the end the reader will again find a number of delicious recipes, tea party hosting ideas and tea buying resources. Fans of cozy mysteries, culinary mysteries and southern charm will be delighted with this latest installment!
This is the 20th book in the author's Tea Shop Mystery series, and since it's the first I've read, I was a bit concerned that I'd be at something of a disadvantage. Happily, I was not; no doubt some of the characters would have made more of an impression if I'd known them better, but this story stands alone well and, in fact, is quite enjoyable. It's also a cozy, and I was delighted that main character Theodosia Browning, proprietor of the Indigo Tea Shop in historic Charleston, South Carolina, is neither a wishy-washy wimp nor one of the more commonly written-about busybodies who plunges ahead devil-may-care despite dire warnings from everyone around her to butt out. She's likable, although she doesn't hesitate to speak her mind. Another player here is a character I've come to think is a cozy requisite - the irascible police detective who's constantly annoyed at the heroine's interference with investigations; but in this case, he seems to have genuine respect for her sleuthing talents. One character almost totally missing throughout this one is Theo's main squeeze, detective Pete Riley, who's off to a training conference (I mention this for series followers who might be expecting to see more of him - he sounds like a pretty cool dude). The story opens with a bang - literally. Theodosia and her resident tea sommelier, Drayton Conneley, are riding high amid a rally of hot-air balloons. Out of nowhere, a drone appears, giving their balloon an evil eye before heading toward another. That one, however, doesn't fare so well; the drone rams the balloon, causing an horrific explosion that kills everyone aboard. Among the victims is the CEO of a local technology company who'd been accused of "misplacing" some $5 million in company money, raising the probability that he was the target. As a side venture, the man was in the process of selling an extremely valuable Revolutionary War flag, with several rival bidders queuing up for the win. Just what, if anything, that might have to do with the murder remains to be determined. Early on, the primary suspect is the fiance of one of Theo's friends, the owner of a local B and B. Not only does he own a drone, but he works for the tech company and recently blew the whistle on what he believed was a defective product. In part wanting to help her friend, who refuses to believe her fiance is involved, Theo begins to investigate - in between running her successful tea shop, hosting a couple of high-profile tea events, judging a decorative teacup contest and getting soaked in the ever-present rain everywhere she goes. History buffs will get their fill here by way of prolific descriptions of older sections of Charleston. I'm really not one of them, but I admit that exploring all those nooks and crannies was enticing (although the thought of all that rain put a damper on my enthusiasm and made me wonder how they ever found a day to get those balloons aloft). Also worthy of note for those who enjoy baking are the at-the-end recipes for some of the tasty treats mentioned throughout. All in all, this is an easy-to-read, entertaining book, and I thank the publisher (via NetGalley) for the opportunity to read and review it.
This is the twentieth Laura Child Tea mystery and it starts off with a bang- literally...Theodore Browning and Drayton, her tea connoisseur, are up in a hot air balloon and witness the attack and explosion of another hot air balloon near them.When one of the victims has a Navy Jack flag, from the Revolutionary War Days disappear- then millions are at stake and a determined killer is on the loose. Theodosia and Drayton, witnessed the attack together- but she is the one hot in pursuit building up clues. Drayton, is a reluctant partner in all this, but it makes for a warm friendship between the two of them. Laura Childs, provides a charming, cozy, atmosphere with this one and between clues we are fed with Hayley's wonderful food and Drayton's choices of Tea. I love the thought of all those colorful, rich, teas served in Spode teacups. The names Chinese Gunpowder Green, Chai Masala or Tippi Yunnan China black Tea, sound exotic and elegant. Customers are left to gaze out the window of the Tea Shop, located in the historic district, with all its atmosphere. Charleston is very charming and the location makes the series even better. Broken Bone China, provides us with a wonderful array of characters-any of whom could be wearing a false face. If you read cozy mysteries for the clues, food and the details- then you will love this one. Five stars for a bang-up story. My thanks to Netgalley and Berkley Publishing