Leslie Meier has penned more than 14 Lucy Stone mystery novels, and her latest, English Tea Murder, has arrived just in time for her many fans to stash it in their summer beach bags and take it to the seaside. This book has a perfect title, invoking the surprise and thrill of murder as well as a British atmosphere of tea shops, country hedgerows, shadowy cathedral carvings and crypts and cozy row homes with tiny gardens.
Leave it to Lucy to be sitting across the aisle from a dead guy on an airliner en route to London. College teacher George Templeton expires in front of her eyes, after his asthma inhaler falls into a glass of water as he gasps for air. Lucy and three friends are on a group tour to London, and the deceased is (or was) the tour leader. The group includes a mix of students, parents and a few townies like Lucy and her friends, one of whom teaches a class in the college’s night school. Templeton’s death arouses odd and violent emotions in the group, but what’s their rhyme or reason? It begins to seem as though many people had a reason to cheer his death—including the tour guide sent to take Templeton’s place.
Lucy, in her listening way, hears various stories from her tour-mates, and a rather skewed, crooked pattern (involving a near-death plunge off a pier in Brighton and, much later, another murder) begins to take shape. How do these incidents connect, and is there something—or someone—at the center, turning this wheel of misfortune?
There’s plenty here to please Meier’s followers and fans of cozy mysteries: Lucy and her friends shop their way about the countryside, and Meier pays homage to all the tried and true British high points, from the Tower of London and its resident ravens to tea shops, strawberry jam and Devonshire cream, to the glories of Stonehenge at sunset. Though it’s hard to believe that Lucy could be quite as naïve as she sometimes seems (after delving into, what, 14-plus crimes?), she does knit up the ravell’d sleeve of another one—but not without leaving readers guessing as to what the future has in store for her characters.