TEMPEST IN THE TEA LEAVES
by Kari Lee Townsend
Berkley Prime Crime
Sylvia “Sunny” Meadows has always felt like a square peg trying to fit into a round whole in her parents’ hoity-toity world in New York City. At 29, Sunny packs her worldly goods into her Volkswagen bug and heads for Divinity, New York where she’s purchased an old Victorian house and plans to open up a fortune-telling business. Her first client is the town librarian and Sunny is troubled when the tea leaves show the woman’s life is in danger. After the librarian leaves, Sunny deems it best to tell the police, but by then, it’s too late; the woman’s already dead. And the investigating officer, Detective Mitch Stone, suspects Sunny’s the culprit. Although there’s major chemistry between them, the two get off to a rocky start which becomes even more treacherous when the mayor decides he wants Sunny to team up with Detective Stone to help solve the murder. Sunny’s parents arrive to help clear their daughter’s name and Sunny’s frantic to find the murderer while the murderer is busy planting evidence against her.
This cozy mystery is charming and fun, although one distraction is the protagonist’s demeanor. Although she’s 29 years of age, she seems much younger, doing such things as sticking out her tongue at people and calling the detective names such as “Mr. Grumpy Pants”. Her relationship with her parents is more along the lines of a rebellious teenager than a grown woman. Townsend adds a touch of the paranormal with a mysterious cat named Morty who hangs around Sunny’s house, inexplicably appearing and disappearing, and scaring visitors. A bit implausible to this reader was the mayor’s decision to partner not only a newcomer to town, but a suspect in the murder, with the detective investigating said murder. All in all, an engaging read with certain aspects readers might find distracting or may choose to ignore.