Author Laura Childs pens the Tea Shop series, treating readers to delightful, lighthearted mysteries featuring Theodosia Browning. This heorine is the crafty, clever owner of Indigo Tea Shop and in her spare time, she also happens to be an amateur sleuth. In the newest mystery, Agony of the Leaves, Theodosia stumbles onto the body of her ex-boyfriend, drowned in a tank at the local aquarium. The police think this is an accident, but she knows its murder. Today read an excerpt of this new release, and get the author's take on Theodosia's reaction to uncovering this aquatic crime.
From Agony of the Leaves, Chapter 1:
Theodosia clapped a hand to her mouth, horrified but unable to look away. Her rapidly darting eyes took in the entire bizarre scene of a man gently bobbing in the huge aquarium tank, hopelessly entwined in some kind of net. His facial expression was a death grimace. Then, a floating, almost disembodied hand seemed to slowly rise up and scratch tentatively at the glass.
Oh no! Please, no!
Theodosia’s world suddenly lurched crazily on its axis. Because bizarrely, horrifically, she recognized the signet ring on the dead man’s left hand!
If she hadn’t, Theodosia wouldn’t have known it was her former boyfriend!
“Parker?” she gasped.
Her legs turning to jelly, panic coursing through her, Theodosia sank to her knees as the horror of what was happening closed in around her like a dank rag dripping with chloroform. Her respiration came in short, biting gasps, but the air didn’t seem to be getting to her lungs. She felt close to blacking out as a strange darkness, oppressive like a damp, threatening fog, threatened to overtake her.
Clawing at the glass now, Theodosia let loose a low moan as Parker’s body twisted in the netting that wrapped around him, scattering fish like frightened lemmings. Could they sense his death, too? Did they feel her shock and dread? Were they absorbing the sound waves of her desperate beating against the glass?
It was only when a moray eel made a lazy circle about Parker’s head that Theodosia thought to scream out loud.
Ooh, it gives me the creeps just re-reading this. And I’m the one who wrote it! But I wanted to make my first chapter eerily dark and filled with terror. After all, how would you feel if you saw the face of your ex-boyfriend bobbing in a giant aquarium? How would anyone feel?
Obviously, my main character, Theodosia, is horrified. And that’s a logical reaction as well as an identifiable emotion for readers of this murder mystery. Because fear and outrage are what propel the story forward. This horrific discovery sends my main character on a hunt for her own brand of justice.
Does she want to go after the killer? No, not really, because that’s quite a frightening prospect. But she is compelled to do so. The police think the drowning’s an accident, but Theodosia sees it differently. Which is what adds impetus and raises the stakes. That’s the tricky thing about writing a mystery. You always have to keep building conflict and throwing obstacles in the path of your main characters. And, believe it or not, you have to keep doing this throughout the entire book!
Agony of the Leaves is my 13th Tea Shop Mystery. And though the writing doesn’t get any easier, I’m having more fun building suspense and dropping dead bodies in chapter one than ever before!
- Laura Childs