Broken Bone China

By Laura Childs

Berkley Prime Crime

$26, hardcover

Laura Childs has long been one of my favorite writers, particularly her Tea Shop Mystery series. This is the latest in the long list, though she has another due out in a few more months.

Theodosia Browning is the owner of the Indigo Tea Shop in historic Charleston, South Caroliona, and Childs’ books generally feature some kind of event in which that shop’s delicious foods are on the menu.

In this one, Theodosia and her tea sommelier, Drayton Connelley are riding in a beautifully decorated hot air balloon during a festival featuring dozens of such airships.

Suddenly they notice a drone buzzing all-too-close to their craft, then darts away and attacks a nearby balloon, causing a fiery crash that kills the neighboring ship’s passengers.

As eyewitnesses to the incident, Theodosia and Drayton are immediately caught up in the investigation, which is conducted by a local detective well known to readers of this series.

One after another of Theodosia’s long-time friends and acquaintances is suspected of being responsible for the murders, and though the police detective works diligently, it’s obvious he needs all the help he can get from the tea shop staff.

When a friend’s drone is found to be missing from its storage spot, its owner is immediately suspected, but it’s obvious to Theodosia the man is bewildered at its disappearance.

She can’t help but get involved, whether the detective wants her to or not.

It’s an excellent series, and this was an interesting case, with plenty of sidebar opportunities to learn more about tea and its yummy accompaniments. Readers who enjoy trying new recipes will find several for treats mentioned throughout the book.

Collared

By David Rosenfelt

Minotaur Books

$26.99, hardcover

Andy Carpenter is a lawyer who would really rather play with his adopted son, Ricky, or help out with his Tara Foundation, a private dog rescue operation, than concentrate on a new case. After all, he’s a multi-millionaire who has no financial need to earn more.

But when a friend’s long-lost border collie is suddenly left at the shelter’s door, Andy needs to find out more about the animal’s original disappearance.

This is much more important than it might seem because three years earlier, the infant son of a friend was kidnapped at the same time as this dog.

There is no question of the dog’s identity. It not only recognizes its former owner but has a chip proving it’s really her pet.

Although he has been dithering over whether he should renew his law license, Andy does so, knowing he must work on this case, wherever it may lead.

The child is still missing, with no real leads to its whereabouts, or even whether it is still living. The mother is a friend, and Andy’s wife exerts pressure for him to look into the matter.

David Rosenfelt writes somewhat unusual mysteries, with Andy’s irreverent attitude providing humor in even macabre or dangerous situations.

I was introduced to his work several years ago, when Rosenfelt was guest speaker at a Brazoria County Library dinner, and have thoroughly enjoyed a dozen or more of his books since then.

If you like light mystery novels that focus on characters rather than gore, and especially if you’re a dog lover, you might want to try one of his books. And then another, and another.

A Wallflower Christmas

By Lisa Kleypas

St. Martin’s Press

$7.99, Kindle

This combination of Christmas, the young women known as Wallflowers, and a new romance provides a treat for any reader with even a smidge of romance in her soul.

The original Wallflowers — Annabelle, Lillian, Evie and Daisy — adopt a new member, and Hannah is certainly a worthy addition to their ranks.

Rafe Bowman, a brother of Lily and Daisy, is expected by his father to marry Lady Natalie Blanford, the daughter of a business associate of his father.

The typical bad boy of romantic novels, Rafe is a pawn in a business deal by his own father and that of his intended bride, and as a result, has a good deal to lose by following his heart.

He has fallen in love with his intended bride’s cousin and paid companion, Hannah, but his father threatens to disinherit him unless he agrees to the arranged marriage.

The elder Bowman decides Rafe can satisfy those urges later, outside his arranged marriage, but needs to marry someone who can provide wealth for their family.

It’s a fast-moving romance novel to choose for a time when more demanding characters and plots are not on your agenda.

Marie Beth Jones is a published author and freelance writer based in Angleton. Contact her at 979-849-5467 or 1mbjones@nnewwave.com.

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