Mystery Book Review| Sweet Tea and Secrets by Joy Avon

Crooked Lane Books * June 11, 2019

Sleuth Callie Aspen wants to light up the Fourth of July tea party by solving a celebrity’s decades-old disappearance, but her digging results in more fireworks than she expects.

Sweet Tea and Secrets is as refreshing as a cold beverage on a hot summer’s day.  The story is a tightly-constructed cozy mystery reminiscent of an Agatha Christie novel, with characters that are appealing and a setting that is quaint, making you want to wait to pick it up until you have your favorite beverage in hand (tea, perhaps) and a sweet treat nearby to add to the experience.

What I like:

The novel focused on solving the mysteries.  The story didn’t get side-tracked with the goings-on at the Book Tea or with the events happening in the town.  As a reader, I appreciated that the plot stayed focus with only brief side trips to explore relationships, histories, and other relevant aspects of the characters.

The characters are relatable, even at times emotionally vulnerable.  Callie Aspen has left her apartment, career, and friends to move to Heart’s Harbor, Maine and help her Great-Aunt Iphy at the Book Tea.  We traverse the fear and doubt with her as she periodically questions her decision, giving her that 3rd dimension that takes the main character from being a cardboard cut out to feel like someone you know.  Who hasn’t gone through times like that?

You had to pay attention to what you were reading because potential clues and red herrings fill the story.  The use of Callie’s emotions as clues/red herrings, which I have not noticed any other writers utilizing, is a nice twist in the puzzle – how reliable of a narrator is Callie Aspen?  The novel is a real puzzle but one that can be solved with the proper vigilance from the reader and therein lies the fun of a good cozy mystery.

What I wish:

I was able to get to know Aunt Iphy and Ace Faulk better.  Though Callie is relatable, the other significant characters in the novel remained two-dimensional.  The narration is third-person limited so fleshing out other characters can be a bit of a challenge, but it is possible through the main character noticing little quirks and tells during exchanges as well as providing us with insights she has ascertained with that detective astuteness she shows in other parts of the novel.

Callie didn’t moon over Falk so much.  We learned a lot about Callie’s insecurities with men and romantic relationships, but we learned it repeatedly, and it became tiresome.  It made Callie seem immature in her emotional responses to men, and even though she has not had an excellent track record over the course of the two novels, there was no other indication that she was emotionally immature.

There will be more mysteries featuring Callie Aspen.  I look forward to reading more mysteries with Callie and cannot wait to see how the characters grow and develop over time. Joy Avon has a great framework in her novels for a mystery that reflects the talents of the greats in the genre – Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers to name a few – and I for one cannot wait to read more!

To Read or Not to Read

If you are a fan of cozy mysteries, then this is a series you MUST read. Avon is smart, funny and at times whimsical in her approach to the genre but the best thing of all, she gives you a puzzle that is not easy to solve nor is impossible. Happy reading!

I want to thank Crooked Lane Books for granting me early access through NetGalley.

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