Set in Charleston, So. Carolina, the mystery is centered around the Indigo Tea Shop, its owner Theodosia Browning, her master tea blender Drayton Conneley, and her pastry chef and tea sandwich maker, Haley Parker. (The first names of the characters seem to conjure up old, historical Charleston).
The book quickly immerses us in tea lore while also telling its story; Drayton, the tea connosieur, serves his customers unusual teas such as Royal Golden Yunnan, Dragonwell tea, Nilgiri tea, Chin Sun Oolong from Thailand, Mai Jiang green tea from China, African Redbush, Darjeeling, the "champagne of teas," and many more.
Theo uses only the best for her tea- Crown Dorset, Spode, and willow-pattern teapots, for example- and serves pastries, savories, and light lunches at elegant tables with linen napkins, silverware, and fresh flowers.
The plot thickens when she leaves the relative safety of her teashop to venture outside of Charleston to solve the murder of auction house owner, Roger Crispin, whose untimely death ruined her rose-decorated cake and the rest of the Poet's Tea at a local Heritage Society get-together.
Theodosia interviews people in the backwoods, avoids being run off the road, and narrowly escapes death by bullet and by quicksand.
She also finds a new love interest in this novel.
The contrast of the teashop setting in Charleston and the wilderness and swamps of South Carolina adds some heady spice to the last part of the book. The pace of the novel picks up at the very end of the book and saves Chamomile Mourning from being just a novel about tea making, hatmaking, interior decorating, and frivolous fashion.
Tea lovers, however, will have a good time reading about different varieties of tea and the foods they complement. They may also enjoy the book's bonus recipes for strawberry biscuits, cinnamon-apple scones, marmalade and cream cheese tea sandwiches, chocolate tea, and she-crab soup!