by Cynthia Chow
& Vicki Delany
This week we have a review of the latest Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery by Vicki Delany, and a fun tea related guest post by Vicki. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of A Scandal in Scarlet, and a link to purchase it from Amazon, and an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL.
A Scandal in Scarlet: A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery by Vicki Delany
Review by Cynthia Chow
After an exhausting day manning her uncle’s Cape Cod Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium, Gemma Doyle – well, her Cocker Spaniel Violet, to be exact – spots West London’s Scarlet House lit up in flames. As half owner of the adjacent Mrs. Hudson’s Tearoom, Gemma soon finds herself enlisted in helping to host an emergency auction in order to raise funds to repair the historical museum, as well as donating a copy of The Valley of Fear for the cause. The museum was already in disarray before the fire, though, with new chair Kathy Lamb modernizing Scarlet House in ways that alienated traditionalists and supporters of the previous board chair Robyn Kirkpatrick. Unfortunately, the auction is ended before the first bid is made when Gemma discovers Kathy’s body, strangled to death with an Emporium teacup craft.
Although Louise Estrada directly correlates Gemma arrival in town with the rise of the murder rate, the detective is beginning to accept Gemma’s remarkable observational and deductive skills. Also finally conceding to Gemma’s investigative talents is her boyfriend Detective Ryan Ashburton, who would prefer that she remain on the sidelines but also bows to her insight and conclusions. The manager of Mrs. Hudson’s Tearoom, Jayne Wilson, does her part to assist Gemma by reminding her that not everyone likes to be shocked by psychic-seeming declarations and lack of (time-consuming) social skills. Although Gemma was initially confident in leaving the investigation in the hands of the police, a taunt by her eminently unlikable nemesis Maureen Macgregor has Gemma once again donning her investigative cap to query ex-spouses, black widows, resentful volunteers, and angry heirs.
For some reason, anything related to Sherlock Holmes always reminds me of winter and Christmas. Perhaps it’s the wool coat. Whatever the season, this latest installment by the extremely prolific Vicki Delany delivers yet another entertaining twist on the Great Detective.
Gemma has learned to be a little more nuanced with her interrogations, although she still proves to be a little abrupt with an amused Ryan and rather forthright with her approach to suspects. Seeing Gemma become more adept with social interactions is always a delight, as is her knowledge and appreciation of Sherlock Holmes. Following her deft train-of-thought as she spots clues and human reactions is thrilling fun for readers, especially when conducted by such a likable and still very human heroine. This continues to be a surprising and always compelling mystery series, filled with humor and the perfect added dash of romance.
Helping out in Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room
By Vicki Delany
A kitchen is not a place in which Gemma Doyle is comfortable. But as co-owner of Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room, located next door to Gemma’s store The Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium, she is often asked to help out. Being a good sport (some of the time) Gemma pitches in when asked. After all, the other owner of the tea room and the head chef is Gemma’s best friend Jayne Wilson.
Mrs. Hudson’s specializes in traditional afternoon tea, but it also serves breakfasts and light lunches to the tourists who crowd the town of West London, on Cape Cod in the summer months.
All that keeps Jayne busy enough, but when she’s asked to use her skills to help out the community, she is always quick to agree. She then drags Gemma into helping. It’s not that Gemma doesn’t believe in giving back or in helping out, but Gemma’s not so keen on working in the kitchen. Any kitchen – including her own.
In A Scandal in Scarlet, the fourth book in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series, Jayne agrees to host a cream tea at Mrs. Hudson’s for the fundraising auction for Scarlet House, the West London Museum. Gemma is pleased that she’s not assigned to help in the kitchen.
She wasn’t so lucky in The Cat of the Baskervilles, the previous book in the series.
This afternoon, we’d be serving smoked salmon and cream cheese on wheat bread cut into pinwheels, finger sandwiches of thinly sliced roast beef with locally made mustard and fresh arugula on light rye, cucumber with a touch of cream cheese on white bread triangles for the vegetarians, and egg salad, also on thinly sliced white bread.
I liked making the sandwiches; it suited my orderly mind. I cleared everything off the back countertop and laid out the slices of bread in a long row. I went up and down the line following Jayne’s instructions: buttering the bread, laying on the filling, adding pretty herbs and fresh greens as required, putting the tops on, cutting them into the proper shapes with a careful eye for uniformity of size. Then I carefully placed the tiny, gorgeous sandwiches onto platters and covered them tightly in plastic wrap. Jocelyn ferried them to the fridge.
I made five hundred small sandwiches. I was rather pleased with myself, but Jayne, being Jayne, wouldn’t allow me to rest on my laurels. “Fiona’s overwhelmed out front. Jocelyn, take off your cooking apron and go and help. Gemma, you’ll have to finish the cupcakes.”
“Yes, you. They need frosting.” One hundred and twenty-five tiny, perfect coconut cupcakes were cooling on a high shelf. The kitchen, as I have said, is small. We were running out of room to put all the food. “The frosting’s made. All you have to do is use an ice cream scoop as a measure. One scoop on each cupcake. Don’t worry about covering the tops to the edges. When that’s done, give the frosting a little swirl with a knife to make it look pretty and sprinkle coconut on top.” While she talked, Jayne mixed the dough for the next batch of scones. I set about icing coconut cupcakes in the same assembly-line fashion I had with the sandwiches.
“A swirl, Gemma. Just a swirl,” Jayne said. “If you’re trying to make a work of art out of each one, you’ll be here all day.”
I studied the cupcake at hand. I hadn’t been trying to re-create the London office tower nicknamed the Gherkin in coconut icing, but it did bear a slight resemblance.
The Cat of the Baskervilles by Vicki Delany
Different types of tea require different brewing temperatures and steeping times.
A dark tea should steep for three to four minutes whereas a kukicha for fifty seconds. Many tea rooms have temperature-controlled kettles and separate timers for different types of tea. But, for the average home tea-drinker, just enjoy!
My personal favourite right now is Creamy Earl Gray from David’s Tea.
To enter to win a copy of A Scandal in Scarlet, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “scarlet,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 12, 2019. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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