Top critical review
Very distracting writing style
on June 17, 2003
First of all this book is set in Charleston, SC. The author takes great care to overpopulate this book with references to geographic locations in and around Charleston. There are many needless references to street names, suburbs, etc. which to me (as a non-Charlestonian) are just items to blip over. This was done to excess and distracted me from a lot of the story, which I ended up basically skimming through.
The second thing that distracted me was the constant barrage of product placement (although I don't know if authors are actually paid for this kind of stuff the way movie producers are). (Janet Evanovich is guilty of this, too.) The character Drayton uses a Mont Blanc pen. Theodosia drives a Jeep Cherokee, has a Scooby Doo cookie jar, wears Tod loafers (although it's misspelled in the book as Todd), and so forth. None of this is germane to the story line. This therefore is a bit glaring.
Lastly, the author is quite intent on explaining things to her readers. It is highly possible (and perfectly acceptable) that many tea-related things are explained in detail to the reader, since tea is the main focus of the book. I know a lot about tea, but there were still some explanations that I needed. Some on the other hand were a bit tedious. Where the writing really grates, though, is where the author introduces a concept and then proceeds to explain it all to us. Here is an example. Theodosia and Drayton are making spaghetti carbonara, which is a rich creamy-sauced spaghetti. Drayton is worried about the cholesterol content, and Theodosia explains that the wine will help counteract that. "'You mean like the French paradox,' said Drayton. He was making reference to the staple diet in France that consists of bread, rich cheeses, eggs, cream and lots of chocolate desserts. Yet, because of their almost daily consumption of wine, the French have an extremely low incidence of heart disease." Everything in the quote marks is totally dispensable and adds nothing to the story. I suggest that most readers would be able to understand the wine/cream sauce reference without a whole paragraph devoted to explaining it. There are lots of these throughout the book. Distracting and irritating.
That's why I only gave it two stars. The story is entertaining in a typical murder mystery way, and the characters are developed enough that you don't see a clear "bad guy" or "good guy" for most of it - although the characters aren't really people I ended up caring about (perhaps because I skimmed so much). Still, I bought three in this series at once, so I will probably end up reading all three. Perhaps Childs has dropped some of these annoyances in subsequent books.