Review | Murder with Orange Pekoe Tea (Daisy’s Tea Garden Mystery 7), by Karen Rose Smith

MurderWithOrangePekoeTeaCozy mysteries and tea are two of my favourite things, so I was excited to settle into a few quiet evenings with this one. The premise for the mystery was interesting: a lawyer is murdered after taking on the case to defend a fertility clinic where staff error led to the failure of some in-vitro procedures. The daughter of one of Daisy’s friends is a client of the clinic and her husband was caught on camera threatening the lawyer, so as much as Daisy tries to demur becoming involved in the investigation, she gets pulled in anyway.

The novel was pretty good. It was a fairly easy read, the characters were likeable, and the reveal, when it came, took me by surprise. It’s also the 7th book in the series, and while I’ve only read one of the other books, long-term readers will likely enjoy seeing the deep dives into the series characters’ lives. For example, Daisy’s older daughter Vi is dealing with motherhood, and going to mommy groups. Her younger daughter Jazzi is getting ready for college, leaving Daisy with a bit of pre-empty nest syndrome, which Daisy’s boyfriend Jonas seems more than ready to fill. And there’s also a sweet subplot about a family of three women (teenage girl, mother, and grandmother) trying to figure out a living arrangement that’ll keep everyone happy, which I think may resonate with some readers dealing with a similar family situation.

That being said, the book felt overstuffed with subplots for me, many of which didn’t feel relevant to the mystery. I’m not sure if it’s simply because I haven’t gotten to know or care about many of these characters yet, but often, a plot thread would appear, but either not really go anywhere, or fail to catch my interest. For example, the novel begins with a fundraising event to build a homeless shelter in the town, which is crashed by protesters led by a young man named Eli who’d grown up Amish but chose to leave the community. Eli and his motivation for protesting became a huge part of Daisy’s investigation, but the reveal felt anticlimactic, and while there was a scene where Daisy forces his girlfriend to confront some hard truths, we also never quite see the fallout between the couple. Worse, the homeless shelter is barely ever mentioned again. Perhaps it’ll play a big role in a future book, but otherwise, it felt like a big buildup that didn’t really go anywhere.

Some aspects of the case also didn’t make sense. The clinic’s plan for defending against lawsuits is to pin the blame on the clinic tech who’d made the error, but only the CEO and the lawyer knew who the tech was. When the lawyer is killed, the CEO flees the country and still refuses to reveal the tech’s identity, for fear of his life, and much of Daisy’s investigation focuses on finding out who this tech is. But if the whole defence strategy was to blame the procedure’s failures on the tech, why would the CEO care so much about protecting their identity? On top of that, some of the clinic’s clients apparently prefer to go after the tech rather than the clinic as a whole, but I don’t understand why. Unless the staff person was super rich, wouldn’t it be much more lucrative to sue the clinic? All the focus on this staff member’s identity made me imagine all sorts of dramatic possibilities why they would have been protected by the CEO and targeted by clients, so the eventual reveal was anticlimactic.

As well, a minor quibble, but beyond dozens of scenes with characters drinking orange pekoe tea, the special of the month from Daisy’s tea garden, the tea in the title doesn’t really play much of a part in the mystery. The murdered lawyer did happen to be drinking a cup with a bag from Daisy’s tea garden when he died, but Daisy never seriously seems like a suspect, and from the droves of customers requesting the special, that detail turned out to be incidental at most. I was hoping for more. And to be honest, part of me kept wondering why orange pekoe was such a specialty at a tea garden. Isn’t it one of the most common grades of black tea? I feel like most grocery store brands use orange pekoe. Wouldn’t a tea shop spotlight a more unusual blend or a rarer type of tea?

Still, overall, this is a pretty good mystery, and despite what I feel was a surplus of subplots and characters at times, I did become invested in a few of them. Like I said, I didn’t guess the villain. I also enjoyed seeing Daisy and Jonas reflect on the future of their relationship after Jazzi leaves, and there’s a super adorable subplot about Jonas getting a dog.

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Thank you to Kensington Books for an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.

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