As a tea shop owner, I get invited to a lot of special event teas. But the craziest one I’ve even attended was a “rat tea” held at a very fancy mansion in Charleston’s ultra luxe historic district. Yes, that’s right, a rat tea. I’m talking about proper waiters costumed in velvet waistcoats and white gloves while wearing fuzzy white rat heads – all while they’re serving tea.
You see, a rat tea hearkens back to eighty years ago when Charleston had a rather large rodent problem. Measures were taken, of course, and the fine ladies who lived in the large manor homes did their part in promoting this by holding fancy rat teas.
So that’s what crazy Doreen Briggs did the other day, she held a rat tea for the crème de la crème of Charleston society. Only somewhere along the line everything slid off the rails. First her husband Beau Briggs started choking on his cup of Pekoe tea. Then the candelabra fell over and ignited the main centerpiece. And then, with smoke and bits of charred silk flowers floating through the air, her gasping husband collapsed into my arms. We did everything we could, but were unable to revive him.
All the society guests freaked out, of course, and were highly suspicious about the tea. And once the police were called in, poor desperate Doreen begged me to intercede. She asked me to conduct a sort of shadow investigation alongside the one the police were running. So now I’m buzzing around my tea shop – The Indigo Tea Shop – serving scones, trying to keep my customers happy, all the while trying to get a handle on a number of certifiably crazy suspects.
There’s Big Reggie, Beau Briggs’s cigar-smoking, sports car-driving business partner. And their snarky PR lady who always seems to dress in skin-tight leather outfits. And a Bernie Madoff-type hedge fund owner who has pocketed seven hundred thousand dollars of Doreen’s money and – please say it ain’t so – is looking to buy a house right next to the one I own. And then there’s a strangely silent waiter who may or may not have seen some nefarious goings-on in the kitchen.
Ah yes, the kitchen. When I dropped by Doreen’s home to speak with her, she was swirling a glass of brandy and looking awfully shaky. I took the glass away from her and went into the kitchen to fix her a nice cup of hot tea instead. But imagine my shock when I poked through the pantry and found a box of Pekoe tea sitting right next to a box of X-terminate Rat Poison! Deciding that particular pairing might be a little too close for comfort, I contacted the Charleston Police. And what a nice young detective they sent over! I’ve been dealing with Detective Tidwell all these years, but he’s awfully cranky and stubborn. Not one to let a girl intrude on a murder investigation.
But Detective Pete Riley seems to be a breath of fresh air. He’s young, efficient, and oh so good looking. In fact, he makes a girl’s heart kind of flutter when he’s around. But now I find myself walking a very thin, precarious line. I want to continue investigating Beau’s murder and I need to figure out just how serious Detective Riley is when he tells me he’d like to get to know me better. Hmm. This is a very tricky case, indeed.
Want to know how all this turns out? Pekoe Most Poison is a thriller-cozy (okay, it’s a thrillzy!) sprinkled with humor and packed with twists and turns you’ll never see coming! In fact, it’s the 17th book in the much-beloved Tea Shop Mystery series.
And as a bonus, here’s one of my favorite recipes from the Indigo Tea Shop:
Apple Nut Squares
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
2 cups apples, chopped
½ cup walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine eggs, sugar, and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and combine. Stir in apples and nuts. Spread mixture into a greased and floured 8” x 12” pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool and then cut into squares. Yields about 12 squares.
You can read more about Theo in Pekoe Most Poison the 17th book in the “Tea Shop” mystery series.
In the latest Tea Shop Mystery from New York Times bestselling author Laura Childs, Theodosia Browning attends a “Rat Tea,” where the mice will play. . .at murder.
When Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning is invited by Doreen Briggs, one of Charleston’s most prominent hostesses, to a “Rat Tea,” she is understandably intrigued. As servers dressed in rodent costumes and wearing white gloves offer elegant finger sandwiches and fine teas, Theo learns these parties date back to early twentieth-century Charleston, where the cream of society would sponsor so-called rat teas to promote city rodent control and better public health.
But this party goes from odd to chaotic when a fire starts at one of the tables and Doreen’s entrepreneur husband suddenly goes into convulsions and drops dead. Has his favorite orange pekoe tea been poisoned? Theo smells a rat.
The distraught Doreen soon engages Theo to pursue a discreet inquiry into who might have murdered her husband. As Theo and her tea sommelier review the guest list for suspects, they soon find themselves drawn into a dangerous game of cat and mouse. . .
Includes recipes and tea time tips
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About the author
Laura Childs is the USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbooking Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. In her previous life she was CEO of her own marketing firm, authored several screenplays, and produced two reality TV shows. She is married to Dr. Bob, a professor of Chinese art history, enjoys travel, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs. Connect with Laura at laurachilds.com.
All comments are welcomed.
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Pekoe Most Poison is available at retail and online booksellers or you can ask your local library to get it for you.