A Fatal Twist of Lemon

A Fatal Twist of Lemon: A Wisteria Tearoom Mystery (Volume 1) Paperback July 31, 2012 - Patrice Greenwood
This was an odd series. On the one hand, I never warmed to the protagonist; she has some irritating habits that became more annoying as pages passed. Well, actually, I couldn't stand her. Her situation is an excellent example of one of the things I hate most about cozies and comfort reads in general: she went from sitting around in aimless depression to highly successful owner of a gorgeous teashop, with half a dozen employees, in no time flat and with hardly a hiccup. This does not happen In Real Life – or if it does it's too annoying to contemplate.

The murder happens quickly, which is somewhat unusual in a murder mystery. And then follows a good deal of huffing by Our Heroine about the cops in and out of her teashop and all the inconvenience this is bringing her. Poor her, always all alone, "on my own. As usual." – except for all the tremendous amount of help she received from the murder victim and others in getting the teashop up and running. Oh, and her staff.

It's interesting that in a first-person narrative that first person, er, person comes off so unlikeable. She refers to one of her employees – and one she trusts with a fair amount of responsibility – as "the goth", and thinks it ironic that "the goth" is the only one who wasn't there when the murder occurred. Death… goths… What a … pity? She works closely with her small staff, but sniffs about being extremely unwilling to "yield to modern informality" and let them call her by her first name. She not only calls them by their first names (or things like "the goth"), but uses nicknames.

She stereotypes constantly – there's that goth, the cop, all cops, the Hispanic, those darn teenagers, Catholics (at least twice she feels she needs to make the point "and I'm not even Catholic") – oh, and motorcycle riders: "I really, really dislike motorcycles. They're noisy and obnoxious, and so are a lot of the people who ride them. They disobey traffic rules and endanger pedestrians and I just don't like them. It's a failing of mine, a prejudice. Sorry, Miss Manners, but some things just can't be helped." Yes. Yes they can.

Which made it utterly ridiculous when she came out with the line, "'What is it with everyone? Yes, I wear jeans, yes, I drink coffee. Give me credit for a little dimension.'"

One bit of stereotyping was kind of hilarious: "The waiter appeared, a young man dressed all in black, which made me look twice. I thought he might be one of Kris's crowd." Kris, of course, is the oft-cited goth. But … don't waiters often wear all black?

And her staff follows suit: "'He doesn't look like the chamber music type,' Kris observed." You'd think she'd be tired enough of being pigeonholed that she'd try to avoid it.

The main character's prejudices are married to a haughty snobbishness that just grated – and which her background and standing don't seem to justify, if such an attitude can ever be justified. She's just clueless. "We'd even talked about trying a high tea eventually, though with Julio's talent and flair it would be a far cry from the traditional hearty evening meal of a British laborer." Who would ever expect to come into a tea shop expecting a "traditional [laborer's] hearty evening meal"? That's a whole different take on tea, and not what is advertised in this place. (At least "flair" is spelled correctly.)

One note I made to myself when the murder occurred and the police descended was: "Oh please don't let this be the love interest". "Officer Arrogant", Our Heroine's nickname for the cop whose real name is Aragon, comes into the So Pretty setting of the teashop like … well, Mythbusters proved that bulls really aren't that dangerous in china shops, so let's skip the simile and just say he's obnoxious, unpleasant, belligerent, loud, and – despite being (of course) smokin' hot – all around unlikeable. What's her name – Ellen, if I may be so bold - doesn't like him. I don't like him. His rehabilitation into Love Interest never quite made sense, no matter how many justifications for his behavior came along. Bad first impressions really are hard to overcome.

I mean, he lighted into her for "removing evidence": she tried to resuscitate the murder victim, and removed an article of jewelry. Trying to save her life. I thought he was going to arrest her.

The Heroine's efforts at investigation were hard to swallow. As she begins to flail for a motive for the murder, she ponders how "It seemed unreasonable to commit murder over a house". It's badly worded: for the specific situation here it might be unreasonable, but there have probably been plenty of murders committed over houses: homes, or investments, or inheritances. It's a strong motivation. "Could you remind me of the sort of terms that might be in the deed?" she asks. The response is, "Sure." Uh, no – the correct answer to that would be "I can't tell you that, are you insane?"

And I initially really, really disliked the ghost thing. It's just another box checked off on the Cozy Mystery Checklist: woman who owns her own too-successful business; cop investigating Her First Corpse evolving into love interest; ghost. But I have to give the author credit: this was handled better than I expected. Basically, anything short of a phantom discussing the situation with the budding amateur detective is going to be a positive…

There was no real sense of the very specific setting, despite constant place names and occasional Spanish being used. It was a tea shop, almost like a British embassy: England within those walls, and irrelevant what was outside them.

Still, the writing, except for the tendency toward stereotyping and generalization, was readable. I never intended to continue with the series, but they cleverly tacked on a generous sample of Book 2 at the end of this one, and out of laziness I read it. And then sighed and bought the second one.

One thing I have to compliment highly is the title. It's very clever indeed – I like it.