Follow-up to the award-winning mystery, Corpse in the Soup, Seven Deadly Samovars is the second installment to the Silver Sisters Crime Caper series by real-life sisters Morgan St. James and Phyllice Bradner. The third book in the series, Vanishing Act in Vegas, is in the works.
Now, you might be wondering what a samovar is, let alone a deadly one. Prior to reading Seven Deadly Samovars, I had no clue. To me, seven deadly samovars sounded like a squad of android samurais, a hybrid samurai/ninja killing crew who, for whatever symbolical reason, only hung around in deadly groups of seven.
Man, was I ever wrong? Turns out, a samovar is actually a kind of fancy teapot or tea urn used in Russia and Eastern Europe and other places around the world where people drink a lot of tea. Often beautifully crafted, samovars can also be elaborate works of art prized by collectors, especially if they’re antiques.
And that’s where our story begins, in the Silver Spoon Antique Shoppe in Juneau, Alaska, owned and operated by Goldie Silver, an aging flower child and twin sister of Godiva Olivia Dubois, who couldn’t be more different than Goldie (more about her later). Goldie is trying to track down a lost shipment of imported Russian samovars, one of which is supposed to be a departing gift for a local retiring priest. Unfortunately, the priest’s replacement is murdered before the gift is ever delivered, becoming one of two big stories swirling around this normally quiet and peaceful community.
The second big story around town is the arrival of Goldie’s sister, Godiva Olivia Dubois, a wealthy and manipulative nationally-syndicated advice columnist from Beverly Hills, and her handsome celebrity-chef boyfriend, Cesar Romano, who arrive just as the lost samovar shipment reaches Goldie’s shop. The samovars, much more beautiful and elaborate than what Goldie had ordered, sell quickly and even more quickly earn their deadly title as one customer is murdered and the others are attacked and their samovars are stolen.
Despite what seems an obvious connection between samovars and the unusual crime spree, the police are not convinced and arrest an innocent local drunk who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. What follows is a clever and very funny adventure, from Alaska to Seattle to Los Angeles, as Goldie, Godiva, their eighty year-old mother and uncle, Flossie and Sterling, former vaudeville magicians, attempt to save an innocent man and warn the remaining customers (including Cesar Romano) who have no idea of the danger they face – not to mention picking up Flossie’s husband’s lifetime achievement award and meeting Godiva’s column deadlines.
What I really like about this book is the long list of zany characters who we meet along the way, a recurring motif about doubles and twins, and the fact that no one, on the surface, is who they seem to be.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Morgan St. James about her book and her life. Please take a few more minutes to read the revealing interview at Frank Mundo’s LA Books Examiner.