Review: Tea Cups and Carnage by Lynn Calhoun. Kensington Books: Lyrical Press Underground.

“Is family defined by blood or it is more than that?”

Thus does this story begin, featuring Jill Gardner, whose shop Coffee, Books and More is a popular gathering place in the “perfect tourist town” of South Cove. California. As I live near the mid-California coast, I felt immediately at home with this setting.

Jill’s world centers on her coffee/book shop and also importantly on her relationship with handsome police detective Greg King. At the start, this story seems to be a study of daily life in a quaint, bustling seaside town. But ripples soon appear in the charming pool, starting with the addition of blonde Texas beauty Kathi Corbin to the South Cove business community. She immediately charms a business gathering (particularly the men) with her plans to start a new tea shop called Tee Hee. (OK, the title’s a little cute, but typical of businesses in this particular tourist-friendly setting).

More ripples soon appear: problems with bank deposits and the new bank teller, the sudden absence of antique shop owner Josh on undefined personal business, an unidentified motorcyclist who repeatedly tears through the little town causing noise problems and ruffled nerves before speeding away. Circumstances soon rises to another level when Jill’s aunt Jackie sprains her ankle in her haste to avoid a collision with the speeding cyclist. Soon after, a body is discovered at a local motel, and now we have a murder mystery.

Ms. Calhoun skillfully builds her story. Kathi’s family and history appear to be involved in the emerging problems, but how? Why are relations between Kathi and her sister so strained? Who is this rampaging motorcycle rider? What happened Jill’s large bank deposit? Why is Josh so secretive about his actions?

Jill’s becomes engrossed in finding answers to these questions; Greg deals with the police side of things while trying to keep Jill away from harm. But Jill’s curiosity does not stop, and she keeps pressing forward for answers, which ultimately brings her into a dramatic confrontation.

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