514bFkB6f0L._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_The GRIM STEEPER: A Teapot Collector Mystery

By Amanda Cooper

Berkley Prime Crime, Paperback

February 2, 2016


In Amanda Cooper’s third Teapot Collector Mystery, Sophie Taylor leaves behind her sous chef cuisine job in the Hamptons to help her grandmother with Auntie Rose’s Victorian Tea House. Shortly after she returns home, she learns that her former boyfriend, Jason Murphy, is in trouble. At a reception before a football game at Cruickshank College, Sophie finds out that the Board of Governors and alumni association were putting pressure on the dean to improve the athletic program at the college. The problem was the athletes were not doing well academically. The state education department was going to see to it that the academic standards were enforced in order for the athletes to be eligible for scholarships. One athlete, basketball player Mac MacAlister, had to score higher than a “C” or he wouldn’t be allowed on the team. Jason gave him a “D,” but the official transcripts said Jason gave him an “A” in one of his classes. This causes a social uproar and everyone has their opinions. Tara, a student in Jason’s Literary Migration’s course is also a reporter on the school newspaper. An innocent conversation between Sophie and Tara puts Jason in a bad light. Then, while at a tea convention at the college, helping to man her friend’s tea’s booth, Sophie overhears the Registar and his assistant talking about the tampering of Mac’s grade and how the dean wanted the “grade switching scandal” to end so it doesn’t affect fundraising. Sophie also learns that both the dean and his wife are having affairs. She hears the dean tell his girlfriend that he isn’t asking his wife for a divorce. She also learns from a kitchenware store owner that the college’s system’s engineer wants the dean’s wife to leave her husband and marry him. Mac’s parents might have also bribed someone to alter his grade so that he could play professional basketball.

During the Fall Fling, hosted by local business owners, the crowd broke up into smaller groups. The dean came into Auntie Rose’s Victorian Tea House to sample the tea. More than a little angry, he asks Sophie if this is her idea of a joke because the tea is too damn salty. It’s clear to her that the neighboring tea house was responsible for adding salt in the sugar. Jason then tells Sophie that he’s going to speak with the dean to clear things up so his job wouldn’t be jeopardized.

On that very night, Sophie sees Gilda, who works at the tea house next door, dragging out the garbage cans to the street. She remembers that she has to do the same thing. That’s when she finds the dean’s body and it clearly looks like he didn’t die of natural causes. She immediately calls 9-1-1 and that gets the mystery rolling.

Sophie knows more than how to dazzle with her cooking. She’s a smart cookie when it comes to solving mysteries. Now she has to figure out who the guilty party is. Could it be the Registrar, his assistant, the not-at-all grieving wife, or a jealous lover?

What did I like about the book? For one, the cover. It’s beautiful and captures your interest. You’re drawn to the steps of the tea house eager to peek in and see what wonderful teas they have for sale. The title is a great play on words. For the most part, the setting is either Sophie’s grandmother’s tea house or the college. The author provides a good description of both so the reader can visualize where they’re being led. A few of the characters are more developed in personality and background, but that’s how it is with most books. Did it keep my interest? The book focused a lot on who had a hand in altering the basketball player’s grades. All the drama and twists moved the plot along. Makes you wonder what kept the dean and his wife together, other than the incentive of not losing their marriage’s investments. Loose plot ends? I don’t think so. Though, it’s got me wondering if grade altering is possible. Have universities ever experienced this and what has been established to prevent it? As for the dean, someone settled the score, but it wasn’t exactly the one he wanted.

four collector teapots out of five

Denise Fleischer


March 22, 2016