Authors: Amanda Cooper
Tempest in a Teapot
“[A] well-written, charming novel with endless possibilities. Sophie is a smart, young protagonist . . . Cooper does a nice job of corralling the suspects and forcing a killer’s confession at the end.”
RT Book Reviews
“This mystery had me completely stumped until the end. With corruption and bribery between the town council and local developers, everyone had secrets and everyone looked suspicious. I can’t think of a more delightful way to spend an afternoon than with a cup of tea, a scone, a copy of this book, and a cat . . . of course!”
—Melissa’s Mochas, Mysteries & Meows
“The mystery was complex and well plotted, and I enjoyed trying to fit the clues together.”
Book of Secrets
Tempest in a Teapot
we are introduced to a charming and quirky cast of characters. This includes our feisty protagonist, Sophie Taylor . . . This lighthearted mystery becomes a page-turner of a read that I could not put down. It is well plotted and kept me wanting to find out whodunit.”
“Amanda Cooper writes an engaging mystery in her first book in this new series. With intriguing characters and a delightful setting, I can already tell this series is going to be a firm favorite. For tea drinkers all across the world I highly recommend this series.”
Cozy Mystery Book Reviews
Berkley Prime Crime titles by Amanda Cooper
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
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SHADOW OF A SPOUT
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright © 2015 by Penguin Group (USA) LLC.
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eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-61048-0
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / April 2015
Cover illustration by Griesbach Martucci.
Cover design by Diana Kolsky.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written. The publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision. The publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipes contained in this book.
This cozy mystery is lovingly dedicated to all the grandmothers—and grandfathers!—out there who introduce their grandchildren to tea (liberally laced with milk, of course) and the lovely ritual that attends the beverage. I hope you know your grandkids will cherish the memory of the time you spent with them having tea parties.
In memory of my own grandmothers Tena Phillips, who gave me my first tea mug, and Charlotte Simpson, who always had a strong pot of tea on the stove!
A Cup of Tea
When the world is all at odds
And the mind is all at sea
Then cease the useless tedium
And brew a cup of tea.
There is magic in its fragrance,
There is solace in its taste;
And then laden moments vanish
Somehow into space.
And the world becomes a lovely thing!
There’s beauty as you’ll see;
All because you briefly stopped
To brew a cup of tea.
he dark-paneled meeting room of the Stone and Scone Inn was full on the first afternoon of the annual August convention of the New York State division of the ITCS, the International Teapot Collectors Society. Rose Freemont should have been listening to the speaker, but instead she examined her treasure. It was a homely thing, the metal teapot, battered and beaten, like a raggedy old man who has been buffeted about by the elements and fallen on hard times. But like that raggedy old man, it had a past, a purpose, and meaning. She turned it over and over in her hands, examining the patina, caressing the dent on its round belly and hugging it to her. There was something about the size of it and the intricacy of the decoration that hinted at a noble history.
That was what had inspired her to bring it to the convention in Butterhill, New York. She wanted to know more about it, and hoped to find some answers. In the past Rose had to attend without Laverne Hodge, her best friend and sole employee at her business, Auntie Rose’s Victorian Tea House, because someone had to keep the place open. They alternated years going to the convention and never got to enjoy it together, as such good friends ought. But this summer she and Laverne were attending with some of the other Silver Spouts, her teapot-collecting group in Gracious Grove, a small town nestled in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. She could thank her sweet granddaughter, Sophie Rose Freemont Taylor, trained restaurateur, for this time with her friends.
Sophie was still feeling the sting of the failure of her New York garment district restaurant In Fashion, but helping her grandmother at Auntie Rose’s was proving to be just the elixir she needed. It had put the spring back in her youthful step, and in return she had brought a zest and vigor to the tearoom that was dragging it, as Laverne said, kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century. She had added items to the menu that were bringing in a new crowd without alienating the old crowd, an ideal situation for the tearoom.
Though some of her nonfood ideas were radical, like redecorating the entire chintz-and-roses tearoom—Rose cringed at the thought of the expense and work and business days lost—she liked her granddaughter’s enthusiasm. When Sophie first came back to Gracious Grove, Rose worried that the girl was too beaten down by defeat to care. But she was rebounding, and it was a revelation that having Sophie around was putting the spring back into her
She sighed as the voice, a background to her wandering thoughts, droned on. The lack of effective air-conditioning meant the room was getting stuffy, and she was far too old to go without air-conditioning for long on a hot August day. She nudged Laverne, sitting next to her. “Do you think she’s
going to stop talking?” Rose whispered. The “she” who had monopolized the meeting so far was Zunia Pettigrew, president of the New York State division of the ITCS.
“Never,” Laverne snapped. “Loves the sound of her own voice too much.”
“So in short,” Zunia finally said, straightening to her whole five-foot height and completely missing the humor inherent in her words, “welcome to our annual convention.”
“That woman wouldn’t know short if she ran over it,” Laverne groused.
Laverne’s father, ninety-something Malcolm Hodge, who sat on the other side of his seventy-year-old daughter, snorted. “If she wants to know what short is, she
look in the mirror,” he murmured, in his dry-as-dust tone.
“I would like to introduce at this time Walter Sommer, our distinguished International Teapot Collectors Society president!” Zunia finished, and led a round of applause that was brief and scattered, as Walter stood, shook the creases out of his trousers and approached the dais.
Josh Sinclair, wide-eyed and at sixteen the youngest member of the Silver Spouts and likely the youngest member the ITCS had ever had, smirked at the exchange among his elders, but then pressed his lips together and sobered immediately. Rose smiled at his earnest demeanor. It was his first convention and required him to take a day away from his summer college courses, but how could his mother say no when he was a straight-A student? He not only kept up his grades but was in an accelerated course at high school, was the recording secretary of the Silver Spouts, and held down a part-time job editing digital content for the Gracious Grove newspaper.
He was one of those rare souls who knew from the age of five what he would become: a historian with a specialty in object conservation. He had already begun writing on the topic for the
Gracious Grove Gazette
, with a piece on the history of the Sinclair crest he found on a teapot left to him by his great-grandmother. Sophie had a lot in common with him in having an early determination to pursue a particular line of work. She had always known she wanted to be a chef. She called Josh an old soul in a new body and they had become somewhat unlikely friends.
As always deliberate and measured in his pace, Walter cleared his throat, examined his notes, collected them together into a neat pile, harrumphed and cleared his throat again. He then tapped the microphone, which squealed in dismay. The mic was hardly necessary, since the conference room of the Stone and Scone was a mere thirty feet long and twenty wide, more than adequate for the twenty-five or so attendees at the conference, but Walter liked to make a production out of his yearly appearance.
Walter Sommer, tall, slim and slightly stooped, had unusual green eyes and a thatch of white hair that lay obediently in a wave across his forehead. He was the president and one of the founding members of the ITCS, which had grown to include twenty-five regional or state divisional chapters that were in turn made up of local groups. Walter and his wife, Nora, another founding member, lived in Schenectady, and the New York State convention was considered by some as the “home turf” for the entire society. The only collectors club from the state that wasn’t there was the New York City society, Big Apple Teapots, whose membership was too big to stay comfortably at the Stone and Scone. They boycotted the convention every year, preferring to hold their own chapter convention in New York City. Walter would also attend that event, since he was originally from the city himself, along with Zunia, state division president, and her husband.
He began to talk, welcoming each and every attendee and setting out the plans for the weekend. There would be three seminars, two the next day and one Sunday morning, on the history of tea, silver hallmarks as they pertained to silver teapots, and the development of tea vessels, form versus function. Saturday evening Walter and Nora would guide a group through a local art museum where art depicting teapots was on display. Sunday afternoon the convention would draw to a close in time for folks to get back to their homes before dark. Informal group gatherings over dinner in the inn were optional, with some folks preferring other area restaurants.
After introductory remarks he launched into the meat of his talk. He blathered about his year, traveling to the different chapter meetings of the ITCS, his and Nora’s trip to England to visit a teapot enthusiast with a vast collection, and his continuing passion for the hunt for new treasures. He launched into a detailed explanation of what the next year’s meetings would look like, how they would be organizing future conventions to coincide with special events in the upstate New York region.
The crowd was restless, but his wife, Nora, shot a warning glance at those who checked their cell phones, rustled around in their purses for a mint or chatted quietly. It was a silent look, but effective. A hush fell once more, a kind of drugged, weary stillness as Walter droned on and on and on.
* * *
helma Mae Earnshaw shifted in her seat and pulled her polyester dress away from her legs, where it stuck to her diabetic stockings and overheated skin. A late August heat wave and an under-air-conditioned conference room had her grumpiness ratcheting up to dramatic levels. Why in the good Lord’s name had she wanted to join the danged Silver Spouts so badly? Until three months ago she and Rose Freemont hadn’t spoken more than a few muttered words in sixty-some-odd years. Maybe she should have kept it that way, but now here she was a member of the teapot-collecting group. This little excursion took valuable time away from her tearoom, La Belle Époque, and forced her to leave the business in the inadequate hands of her sole employee, Gilda Bachman.
She looked around. There was Rose, beau stealer, one row ahead of her. Even though they’d made up, Thelma would always contend that she’d seen Harold Freemont, Rose’s late husband, first and had dibs. Sitting next to her was golden girl Laverne Hodge. Thelma wished sad-sack Gilda could be more like Laverne, who was steady, smart and a workaholic, even if she was on the shady side of seventy. Thelma’s granddaughter, Cissy Peterson, said she was too hard on Gilda, but Cissy was what the youngsters called clueless. Clueless; what did that mean? Without a mystery board game? She snickered and caught a dirty look from some frumpy-dumpy woman who put her finger to her lips like a librarian.
Her attention drifted to the others. Distracted once again, Thelma surveyed the group, wondering how she’d gotten mixed up with such an oddball assortment of folks. Who would think so many people in their small town of Gracious Grove would collect teapots? Her own collection wasn’t near as big as Rose’s, but she didn’t pay the earth for them, either, not like
folk with more money than brains—not naming names, of course, but if the flowery name fit . . . She tried to get her achy back more comfortable, and the chair creaked and squawked. Every eye in the place fixed on her, so she mumbled an apology as that Sommer fellow droned on. Back to teapots . . . Thelma figured if a spout was chipped or a lid was cracked, you just turned that side of the teapot to the wall.
She sighed. This place was hotter than a bordello on nickel night, like her daddy used to say just before her mama shushed him. Thelma wished she were up in her room lying down on the clean white coverlet with the window open. Most of the Silver Spouts club had decided to come and she was stuck rooming with that SuLinn Miller girl, a Gracious Grove newcomer and barely thirty, if she was a day. All she did was text on her phone and listen to music on her headphones. No conversation at all, so far, in the few hours they had been here. Except now she was sitting up bright and perky listening to that Walter Sommer fellow drone on about who knew what.
To distract herself from the boredom of listening to a fellow with the voice of a bumblebee, she examined the other Silver Spout members in attendance. There were the two old men—Laverne’s father, Malcolm Hodge, ninety-plus but still full of spit and vinegar, and Horace Brubaker, a vigorous ninety-seven. Rounding out the group was that young fellow, Josh Sinclair, who had a little single room down the hall. Since Thelma had just joined it was all new to her, but Rose and Laverne had explained that there were three other collecting groups besides the Silver Spouts in attendance at the New York State divisional convention: the Niagara Teapot Collectors Group, the Genesee Valley Tea Totalers and the Monroe Tea Belles. There should have been another but they were mysteriously absent, so far. Some were staying in the inn, while others were rooming with local collectors.
Thelma shifted in discomfort as Sommer groaned on. The room had rickety seating, dark paneling and no ventilation to speak of. If things didn’t get going soon at this danged convention she’d call Gilda and tell her to bring the car and pick her up. She regretted not coming in her own vehicle, but Cissy was beginning to make faint noises about Thelma not driving by herself anymore, so she had come with SuLinn. As if a couple of fender benders were such a big deal. Or a traffic ticket for going too slow—how stupid was that? Too slow was better than too fast. And who didn’t have a parking infraction or two? Or three. A ticket for parking facing the wrong way on a street? It just seemed silly to her that the driver had to park so they had to get out of the car into traffic. Why shouldn’t she park so she could get out of the car on the sidewalk, like a civilized person? What difference did it make on a quiet side street in Gracious Grove?
A couple of the folks were whispering to each other. Looked like a sweaty fellow in the front row and the New York division president were arguing about something. Thelma strained her neck to see, but was blocked by Rose and Laverne and the rest in front of her. Darn it, but they had stopped. That Zunia woman, the chapter president—Rose had pointed her out as they took their seats—had moved to sit away from the feller she’d been arguing with, but now she was shooting poisonous glances at a pretty red-haired girl who sat near the door, all alone and lonesome. She was Irish-looking, with that reddish hair and freckles all over. Poor kid sure seemed downhearted.
Thelma glanced ahead at Rose again, still clutching that dumb metal pot that she had bought at some dealer’s shop in Ithaca. You’d think it was solid gold or something, the way she mooned over it! Rose had told them all that there was going to be a “Stump the Expert” portion at the end of today’s talk; she was presenting her new prize to be looked over by Zunia Pettigrew. Rose said the Ithaca antiques dealer had told her it was likely Chinese, but Sophie, Rose’s granddaughter, had done some research and didn’t think it was.