Gemma Rose, owner and proprietor of the Oxford Tea Room, lets her best friend, Cassie, talk her into joining Cassie for Oxford’s May Day celebrations in Muffins and Mourning Tea by H.Y. Hanna. This celebration involves meeting at 5 am at the Great Tower to hear the Magdalen College Choir sing to welcome in the spring. With all the jostling by the crowd, Gemma gets separated from Cassie and ends up on the bridge that spans the Thames. Then, with the conclusion to the song, someone splashes into the river, causing everyone to smile over the student hijinks. But when the young man fails to surface, smiles turn to expressions of concern and soon panic as his dead body is brought up from the river. He must have broken his neck in the shallow river.
At least, this is what everyone thinks must be the case until the medical examiner looks over the body. Charlie Foxton has been stabbed with a kitchen skewer. Even more upsetting to Gemma is the fact that the skewer belongs to her chief baker’s best friend, Miriam Hopkins, who served as Charlie’s scout in Oxford. For the uninitiated (which means most of the world), an Oxford scout takes care of the students living in the dorms, even cleaning up their rooms and vacuuming each week. Sometimes a scout will actually do laundry for her or his students! With Miriam as both Charlie’s scout and the owner of the knife, she looks guilty.
So Dora, Gemma’s baker, begs Gemma to find the truth in order to free Miriam of suspicion. The four crazy old ladies who love to snoop and whom Gemma privately calls “The Old Biddies,” eagerly assume the role of detective once again. They drag Gemma to snoop on the room of Damien Heath, Charlie’s roommate, in a potentially disastrous trip to his college. Further, they enlist Gemma in a class in Krav Maga in which these old ladies send Gemma to the emergency room. The four of them and Gemma develop their own list of potential suspects. And in addition, Gemma notices her boyfriend, Devlin, the local Detective Inspector, keeping more and more secrets from her, making her wonder what is happening with her relationship and whether Devlin might be cheating on her. That just adds to Gemma’s personal distress.
This book is another fun, enjoyable book in the delightful Oxford Tea Room series. I especially enjoyed that this book had some great scenes with the Old Biddies. They really come to life in this book and made me laugh. And Gemma’s mom keeps giving her more exotic plants for her house. Muesli, the cat, even gets her own fun scene. It was fun to spend time with Gemma in Oxford again. The plot moved swiftly and kept me drawn to it. There were a number of Russians involved in the case, a nice addition of another culture to the book.
I liked Pearl Hewitt’s performance as narrator of the book. Her gentle voice sounds ideal as belonging to Gemma. Further, she makes the book enjoyable and seem so real.
Muffins and Mourning Tea is a great addition to the Oxford Tea Room series. I found myself worrying with Gemma about her love life and following her concerns about the case. I hope that the next book comes out on audio soon! I give this book five stars!
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