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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Review - Tempest in the Tea Leaves

This book is nominated for an Agatha Award under the Best New Novel category, so I took this opportunity to review it.  Check out the review and share your impressions with us.

Author:  Kari Lee Townsend

Copyright:  August 2011 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series:  1st in A Fortune Teller Mystery

Sensuality:  n/a

Mystery Sub-genre:  Amateur Sleuth, Cozy

Main Character:  Sunny Meadows, psychic

Setting:  Modern Day, Divinity NY

Obtained Through:  from publisher for an honest review

Sunny, at 29 years old, is just moving out from her smothering and controlling parents.  She moves from a Manhattan lifestyle to small town Divinity.  She got an old Victorian house incredibly cheap because it is reputed as haunted, but to Sunny it feels welcoming and like a sanctuary.  The ethereal white cat seems to have come with the house.  

Sunny gets her first customer, librarian Amanda Robbins, who in a matter of hours is murdered, making Sunny a prime suspect.  Detective Mitch Stone seems determined to lock Sunny up.  But Sunny surreptitiously reads his tea leaves, and sees the two of them together in a bad relationship. This causes Sunny to act unpredictably around Mitch, which thus adds to his impression that she is a flake and a hoax.

Sunny is a tough character, there are likeable parts and not-so-likable parts.  She is spunky and "sunny."  But she also overreacts around Mitch Stone as if she had never been around men before.  She is supposed to be "the real deal" with her psychic talents, but she has a chip on her shoulder about being accepted.  The paranormal cat, dubbed Monty, is great in spite of being a small supporting character.  Sunny's parents are condescending and I found them difficult to like at all.  Detective Mitch Stone is the grumpy token-cop-romantic-interest who is terrible, horrible, very bad match but the story still goes there.  Of all the characters, Mitch has the most potential for development and some depth.

The plot is loose and has some holes, such as the Mayor insisting that a psychic should be on the case, even though she is a suspect.  That Sunny, as a newcomer to a small town, quickly knows all the juicy gossip and intricacies.  Sunny manages to figure out some leads in the case when long term resident and cop Mitch didn't get those leads.  These are some significant issues with the book in my opinion. 

The Victorian house, nicknamed Vicky, is a great home for a psychic and adds a mischievous touch. The killer was a surprise until shortly before the actual climax, which was well done.  The wrap up sets up Sunny being an ongoing consultant for the local police, which promises some awkward moments with the Detective Mitch Stone.  For a debut novel, this has some rough spots in its plot logic and characterizations.  There is plenty of material for the next book in the series to recover and capitalize on the strong points and correct the issues.

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