Dragonwell Dead

By Laura Childs

Berkley Crime Club

$23.95, hardcover

Since Laura Childs’s Tea Shop Mystery series is one of my long-time favorites, I have no idea how I missed this one, but I must have, because as I read it, not a single thing about the book brought a glimmer of having done so previously.

This is the eighth in the series featuring Theodosioa Browning and the staff of her tea shop in Charleston, S.C. Like others before and after it, this one contains numerous references to a variety of teas.

These range from the multiple varieties served here, as well as interesting descriptions of tea-related accouterments, and the shop’s menus.

Of course, each book features a mystery to be solved by Theo, often with the help of her pal and tea master, Drayton.

In this one, the sheriff in charge of the case seems to be unacquainted with modern (or even antiquated) crime-solving routines and has to depend on Theo for help.

As a former crime beat reporter, this seems to me to be more than a little far-fetched and detracts from my overall enjoyment of the book.

The foray Theo and Drayton make into the swamps to find a particular variety of wild orchid — not to mention the dangers they encounter along the way – are a good addition to the plot and the background.

I also enjoyed the portions of the story set at one of the old plantations in the area and the inclusion of information about the specifically themed gardens there.

Of course, I’m a long-time fan of Childs, so what’s not to enjoy? If you’re not already one of the many fans of her books, it’s time to give them a try.

Hello Stranger

By Lisa Kleypas

Harper

$19.99, hardcover

I almost always look at the book reviews on the Internet before I write my own, just to see whether I’m on the same wave length as everyone else.

In the case of this one, the reviews are so totally opposite one another it apparently justifies the skimming techniques I used while reading it.

One reviewer warns she is officially divorcing the author, while another calls the romance “wonderfully crafted” with multilayered characters and “an engaging story and swoony romance.”

For me, it was too interesting to set aside, but as mentioned above, I found myself skipping through some sections that I found (a.) dull and boring, or (b.) totally off-putting.

It’s the story of a romance between England’s first female physician and a by-blow of the author’s fictional Ravenel family, and it contains the sex scenes required for today’s romance novel reader.

The hero is a former London policeman who hates the Ravenels in general because of how shabbily the family’s father treated his mother.

He is adequately handsome and well-built, and he has realized the man he had thought was a friend and benefactor is really a low-life traitor.

His lady love is (of course) beautiful and brave and dedicated to her profession, someone who had never expected to fall in love, but manages to do so almost immediately after a total stranger rescues her from a trio of villains.

Lisa Kleypas has written some really good romance novels. This one is readable, but it’s far from her best effort.

Wicked Prey

By John Sandford

G.P. Putnam’s Sons

$27.95 hardcover

When the Republican National Convention meets in Minneapolis, it means trouble for Luke Davenport. As a special investigator for the BCA, he investigates some political hacks expected to exchange cash for votes.

As is often the case with John Sandford’s books, there are some parallel/intersecting elements to the plot.

In this one, a criminal gang that wants the cash for themselves has devised a scheme to steal it, and they don’t mind leaving a few bodies behind as they do so.

The entire city is in chaos with so many people, so much protective law enforcement and a few hangers-on, including hookers, pimps and street thieves all involved in one way or another.

Adding to the problems, Davenport’s adopted young daughter, Letty, who works part-time in a TV newsroom, is doing sidebar interviews.

She has caught the eye of a pimp jailed by Davenport some years earlier. Now confined to a wheelchair from injuries inflicted by other prisoners, this man blames Luke for the problems that have followed.

He plans revenge through kidnapping and abusing Letty, but she is street smart enough to investigate his interest.

After doing the research necessary to learn of this man’s past and his hatred for Luke, she refuses to simply escape his interest. Instead, she becomes determined to help the young hooker who is caring for him.

It all works out in the end, of course, but it’s loads of fun to read along the way, with the shenanigans of a major political party’s convention adding plenty of atmosphere.

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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