Berkley Prime Crime
This book was a pleasant surprise to me. First in a new series. The characters are well-thought out and complex; as the story goes along I learned more about them. I particularly found the thought processes of Thelma Earnshaw to be spot on for her age and demeanor. As a senior I recognized a kinship with her mind jumping from place to place then wondering what she had been planning to think about before she interrupted her own thoughts. Not an easy thing to put into writing, but precisely the way this very unhappy and miserable person might think. Great descriptive writing.
Two elderly women, one with a deliberately long memory of losing who she alone considers the love of her life to the other, who married him and in her own words "saw him first." Everything is one-sided competition right down to both women operating tea rooms, with one-sided being the key, because Thelma firmly believes she has been a victim in all things, especially since Rose Freemont, so-called man stealer, whose shop is right across from Thelma's, runs a much more successful tea room than Thelma.
Sophie Rose Freemont Taylor, Rose's granddaughter, has just returned to the town she considers to be her home, back to Rose. She is licking her wounds at the loss of her own enterprise, chef and owner of her New York restaurant. As she is updated on her friends by Rose, she is surprised to learn her best friend, Cissy, Thelma's granddaughter, is about to marry another of their group of friends, Frankie, now known as Francis, a rich high-class architect. For some reason, Thelma is dead set against the marriage, which seems strange on several levels. What could be the cause of Thelma's spite and vinegar? There is a cause that we haven't uncovered yet.
The story builds nicely, as an engagement tea for Cissy is held at Thelma's tea shop, La Belle Epoque, when suddenly a medical emergency happens as one of the guests collapses. Accusations are wildly flung, and Sophie is bent on trying to solve whether a death is actually a murder or whether it was an accident, as she deftly seeks out enough information to have some idea as to what actually went down. Now the trick is to learn the real story. How best to go about it? How about gathering all the people that supposedly were friends of Francis' mother by throwing a fund-raising memorial tea?
I really enjoyed this cozy mystery. I thought I had it figured out early on, only to learn that what I thought I knew didn't even briefly come into play. So many people appear to have their own interests at heart that to make any sense of what has become a murder and why it happened, that Sophie believes if she can just get everyone in one place together, she can tease some information out that no one is prepared to talk about. Does it really boil down to money? Well, that's always a good place to start, as they say, Follow the money. Since the police chief is actually a relative to some of the people involved, it is only fitting that he should be at the memorial tea. With strategic placement of the people who are attending, will Sophie be able to get what she wants? Is conversation all it really takes to get someone to spill the beans?
I found the character of Sophie to be less invasive in trying to extract information than other amateur sleuths I've read, which I appreciated. A very interesting plot which thickens remarkably throughout the book. The first I've read by Amanda Cooper and certainly looking forward to reading more.