Books Magazine

By Its Cover: Tea with Jam and Dread

By Brian Abbott

Tea with Jam and DreadIt’s scrumptious! What better way to market a culinary mystery than with something delectable on the cover?

Perfectly tying into the title, tea and jam are served up on a plate. The jam—is it raspberry, strawberry?—on toast looks absolutely mouth-watering. But what’s this? Is that jam or specks of blood at the edge of the plate? And one cannot miss the ghostly image of a skull in the tea as if it were waiting for an ominous tea leaf reading. It’s certainly an eye-catching cover.

One might suspect poison as the employed weapon here, but perusing the synopsis suggests otherwise.

In the latest Pennsylvania-Dutch Mystery (with recipes), Magdalena Yoder welcomes the Earl and Countess Grimsley-Snodgrass (and family) to her PennDutch Inn. Not only will she have to contend with the discovery of a mummified corpse in her elevator shaft, but “one of the Grimsley-Snodgrasses disappears over the edge of Lover’s Leap. Did he fall — or was he pushed?”

Magdelena is a pious soul with “a heart full of Christian joy”, but she is “not a happy woman.” Now, hopefully this next part isn’t too spoiler revealing for those who haven’t read previous books, but apparently Magdelena is dealing with the fallout from an incarcerated sister and an escaped serial killer who is not only her brother-in-law but also her biological half-brother! “In a way, it was the end of my world, because when Melvin turned into a killer his cult followers protected him wherever he went.” And this isn’t all that’s happened in her whirlwind life as she briefly recaps in the first chapter.

Then she meets with the sheriff. Can his name really be Felonius Stodgewiggle? Apparently, yes. Felonius stops by to let Magdelena know that Melvin has been spotted. He warns her about “aiding and abetting” to which Magdelena replies, “If you had done your homework, you would have discovered that the name Magdelena Yoder is synonymous with law and order here in Hernia.” She furthers states that her “reputation as sleuth has spread even beyond the borders of our county.”

This is the twentieth book in the cozy mystery series. Unlike some culinary mysteries, the included recipes are scattered throughout the text rather than included at the end, and unfortunately, there’s no index to them. They do, however, appear every fifth chapter. In fact, they are the chapter. For instance, a recipe for How to Make the Perfect Cup of Tea serves as Chapter Five and Fresh Fig Bread is Chapter Fifteen.  Chapter Thirty, the final chapter appearing after the epilogue, is for Gluten-Free Toffee Apple Cinnamon Rolls.

Reviews for this title have been mixed. Apparently it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. (I really couldn’t resist the pun.) However, the photorealistic cover having attracted my attention, I’m inclined to sample this long-running series.

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