Grab a cuppa and settle in as Amanda Hampson entertains with the latest novel in her Tea Ladies Mystery series. 

Find a comfy seat and be transported back in time to Sydney, 1966. A time when Manly was considered an easily accessible holiday destination, people still received letters in the mail and the work day was brightened by the rattle of a trolley as tea ladies made their rounds through offices and factories to deliver freshly brewed tea and biscuits. This delightfully nostalgic setting is where Hampson sets the scene for mystery and mayhem. Her cosy crime story offers a fun dose of escapism, momentarily releasing readers from the busyness of our world today.  Hampson’s novel is well-researched, adding authenticity to her setting and enhancing the novel’s appeal as the reader is drawn back to a seemingly simpler time. 

Amidst this glorious backdrop, we meet amateur sleuths Hazel and Betty; two tea ladies who are enjoying a well-deserved holiday over the Sydney summer. In search of another crime to solve, the two friends turn their attention towards the guests at the Bellevue Hotel, meticulously noting any peculiar behaviours. With a penchant for people watching and keen observation skills, the two women ensure that trouble is never far away. With that, the tone is set for a clever and charming read.

So, when fellow tea lady Irene Turnbuckle receives a cryptic letter from her husband Fred, adventure is imminent. With only a handful of clues to go off, the women set out to solve the mystery of where Fred may have hidden the ill-gotten gains of a burglary committed many years ago. 

Back at the harbour foreshore, the Sydney Opera House is still under construction and the building project is riddled with problems. In the bustling urban laneways, there is an even bigger problem afoot. The world is changing and workplaces across town face a new scourge: the automated Café-bar. A machine offering instant tea and coffee on tap threatens to invade offices and factories across the city. And the tea ladies at Empire fashion wear are not immune.  With their livelihoods jeopardy, the tea ladies must band together and take action to save their jobs.

With the outlandish plot set, the shenanigans begin and there are plenty of laughs to be had. In true cosy spirit, there are plenty of twists and turns that keep the pages turning, with a little romance thrown in for good measure. The characters are captivating and endearing. Each tea lady has her own foibles, which adds a good dose of humour throughout the novel. The friendship between these affable tea ladies adds another layer of enjoyment, celebrating the acceptance and support these women offer each other. 

The Cryptic Clue is an easy, entertaining read. It goes beyond the usual cosy conventions to ignite a yearning for an intangible golden age where people knew their neighbours, most of life’s problems could be solved with good chat over a warm cup of tea and there was comfort in believing that in the end, everything would turn out just fine. 


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