BOOK REVIEW – Earl Grey and Shallow Graves

Book Review by Jackie Houchin
Reading Victoria Tait’s first book in the new Waterwheel Cafe Mystery series, is like settling into a comfy chair with familiar friends from her previous DOTTY SAYERS ANTIQUES mysteries. Much of the setting is the same as well – the Cotswolds in England, the Cirencester police department, and the Antiques complex. Dotty is mentioned and missed, but this series has a new heroine.
Keya Varma is the somewhat bumbling Indian police sargeant who became fast friends (and lunchbox mates) with Dottie, and who only began to show her mettle in the antiques series.
Keya now seems more capable and comfortable in her new job with the police department which leaves her more time to invest in the new Waterwheel Cafe she has been dreaming about. (Keya also seems less bumbling in this series, and a lot slimmer and prettier that I’d pictured her before.)
I was caught up immediately in the excitement and frustrations of the Cafe building project. I really can’t wait for the tasty treats to be served. Will there be recipes too??  But this is a mystery and very soon a body is found in the works. Actually it is the 30-year-old remains if a young girl. One of the employees at the Antiques Center is sure they are that of a young friend who went missing all those years ago. Of course work stops while Keya, her police friend Ryan, and others invesitgate. Lots of possiblilities surface, and delving into each makes this a captivating mystery read.  Then the discovery and identification of another body throws the proverbial “monkey wrench” into the Waterwheel works as well as the investigation.
With Keya dividing her time between police work, her sister’s upcoming wedding, and anxieties for her new cafe, we see a strong protagonist emerge. It makes me eager to see what she might face in the next “tea named” mysteries. Her friends and the police all do their part, but it is Keya Varma who solves this surprising mystery. You, go Girl!
Tait has acquired a very smooth writing technique in this third series. I was never jarred out of the moment by inconsistancies, and each scene is presented complete. It’s like watching a well-directed movie, or maybe even riding along with the characters in person. She’s taken a character that I semi-noticed in another series and made her into my new favorite.
One small caveat is in the last chapter which I felt wrapped up too quickly and introduced new facts that were’t supported earlier. “What?” I found myself asking as I re-read a few paragraphs. But I know Victoria Tait always has the next book in mind, so perhaps these will lead to more mystery in ….. DARJEELING AND A DEADLY DISAPPEARANCE!   I can’t wait.

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