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Carter Fielding
Murder in the Tea Leaves: A Blake Sisters Travel Mystery
Whitt and Finley Blake are heading to Sri Lanka, a place they have been before and couldn’t wait to return to. But this trip, someone is killing off people wherever the sisters go. Is it a coincidence? Is someone after them like they were in Morocco? Or are they after someone the sisters know? Whitt and Finley need to find out, and quickly, before the body count gets any higher. When Finley Blake, a young travel writer, gets a choice assignment to do a story in Sri Lanka, she snaps it up. Not only does it get her closer to Delhi, where Max, her former lover and ‘new’ boyfriend is working, but it also gives her some girl time with her sister, Whitt. She and Whitt had holidayed in Sri Lanka some years before and were enchanted by the picturesque countryside, the delectable food, and gracious people. But their idyllic vacation is interrupted by some strange monkey business and bodies that are hidden in the most unusual places. Follow the Blake sisters as they trek from the elephant sanctuaries of central Sri Lanka to the tea plantations of the highlands to the game preserves of Yala, finding bodies wherever they go, in the second book of their Travel Mystery series, a tale of suspense and murder in the tea leaves.
Fielding’s second mystery featuring the resourceful, well-heeled Blake sisters offers delicious escapism, focused as much on luxury travel and flourishing relationships than international crime. Finley Blake, high-powered attorney turned high-end travel writer, is eager to escape Manhattan for her latest assignment in eastern India, especially since it offers opportunity to continue her on-again romance with Max, who’s working on a rural healthcare project near Delhi. But her editor’s last-minute switch to Sri Lanka, Finley’s beloved “paradise on earth,” involves a longer stay, one she’ll use for quality time with her equally adventurous sister, S. Whittaker “Whitt” Blake, a development bank executive based in Manila.

Like the author, the Blake sisters are originally from South Carolina, and are the opposite of ugly Americans: these travelers are worldly, kind-hearted, and wear their wealth lightly. They’re habitués of boutique hotels, consuming carefully curated history along with upscale versions of local cuisine. Between wildlife safaris and walking tours, they shop for native gemstones and savor the tea grown on the Nuwara Eliya hillsides. During a plantation tour, the sisters are stunned by the mysterious death of a British woman, and begin to discern a connection between the odd behavior of their fellow tourists and the smuggling of multinational industrial secrets.

Other than David, the California-born Tbilisi wine dealer whose romance with Whitt progressed during their dangerous escapades in Morocco, Fielding brings back few characters from her debut, Murder in the Medina. But where the Blake sisters go, trouble follows, and no one less than Interpol inspectors should acknowledge their quick wits and logical deductions. This installment ends rather abruptly, and what seems like the set-up for an alluring criminal mastermind coming to naught. But a journey with the Blake sisters has its rewards. Confident and curious, these seasoned travelers epitomize a thoughtful kind of jet setter, never treating their surroundings like a selfie backdrop.

Takeaway: The second Blake sisters adventure will satisfy readers with its tasty blend of travel, romance and mystery.

Great for fans of: Jennifer S. Alderson’s Death on the Danube, Cynthia Baxter’s Murder Packs a Suitcase, and Marie Moore’s Shore Excursion.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: B