The Grim Steeper by Amanda Cooper
The Third Teapot Collector Mystery
After a brief, and fairly disastrous, trip back to the Hamptons to work in an upscale restaurant Sophie Taylor returns to Gracious Grove and her grandmother, friends, and Auntie Rose's Victorian Tea House. While cooking again brings her joy, there is trouble in the Finger Lakes. Neighbor and fellow tea shop owner Thelma Mae is up to her old tricks, but worse than that her friend (possibly more than just a friend) Jason is thought to be involved in a grading scandal at the local college. Trying to help, Sophie sticks her foot in her mouth on more than one occasion, possibly exacerbating the situation. When the dean is found dead-right outside Auntie Rose's-Sophie knows she has to make things right and find the killer. Faced with a hotbed of collegiate intrigue and drama, Sophie will have to sort through what's relevant and what's not, especially if she wants Jason to stay in her life.
The Grim Steeper showcases the harsh realities of the academic life. Oftentimes it's a place where politics and publicity trump learning and athletics is valued over academics. Collegiate intrigue, shoddy reporting, a grading scandal, and the search for a scapegoat add to this volatile setting creating the perfect background for murder.
One of the most important things this book, indeed in the whole Teapot Collector Mystery series, tries to impart is the importance of doing what you love where you are loved. Sophie could work in an upscale restaurant making good money, surrounded by influential people. However, the reality is the stress level is astronomical and the majority of the people, influential or not, are egotistical jerks The stress, the pressure, and the negative people aren't worth the lifestyle for Sophie. Being the chef at Auntie Rose's gives her the flexibility to be as creative as she'd like in the kitchen surrounded by family, friends, and positive influences; something we should all keep in mind in our own lives.
Cooper really hits her stride in this third book in the series. The writing is crisp and taut, the action driven by Sophie's need to help Jason, yet there is still room for a dose of humor. The mystery is complex (are there two separate mysteries or two mysteries intertwined into one) with many good suspects. While I can't say that I like all of Sophie's friends, their faults make an interesting dynamic and I would still enjoy a drive to the Finger Lakes to enjoy tea at Auntie Rose's, while being thankful I don't add sugar to mine!
Recipe and Tea Tips included.
This book will be released Tuesday, February 2, 2016.