In the upcoming Chanukah edition of CitySpirit Magazine (available here in L.A. within the next week or so), you’ll find reviews of four books either authored or illustrated by local L.A. talent. Any of them would make perfect gifts for Chanukah for kids. The books I reviewed for CitySpirit (with links to their pages on Amazon) are:
If you’re looking for a Chanukah gift for a teen or an adult reader, why don’t you check out Libi Astaire’s newest The Tempest in the Tea Room. The Tempest in the Tea Room is a light, entertaining mystery of the cozy sub-genre. Despite the Regency England period setting and details, this book is more like an Agatha Christie than like a classic by Austen or even a Georgette Heyer romance. Each character–including our eventual suspects–is introduced slowly, one-by-one, at the beginning of the novel. The setting is articulated in well-researched detail that lures you in before two mysteries develop. First, a string of poisonings hits London, then a valuable bracelet is discovered missing. Finally, Mr. Melamed (Libi Astaire’s amateur detective from two previous novels) must discover the perpetrator.
Unlike most mysteries, there are no actual murders, all relationships between the genders are entirely modest, and the secrets revealed during the investigation are nothing that would scandalize a reader. This makes the book a perfect selection for teens or readers who prefer not to read the violence and explicit detail prevalent in mysteries. The details about Jewish life are handled so they are a part of the text and don’t overwhelm the characters or plot, making it accessible even for non-Jewish or secular readers.
Ms. Astaire writes her characters to be both humorous and sympathetic, and leaves just enough clues along the way to hint at the ending…but not so many as to entirely give the solution away. Unfortunately, that solution is wrapped up perhaps a little too quickly. A slower pace with more suspense in the last third of the book, perhaps with more false solutions or a greater threat of arrest to the innocent suspect, would have improved the book. Nevertheless, The Tempest in a Tea Room is a fun little mystery to while away a rainy day or a train ride.
I recommend The Tempest in the Tea Room for readers (especially but not exclusively ladies) 12 years old through adult. It’s available through Amazon, for Kindle or in a print edition.