Honolulu has always had its “Waikiki Widow,” a rich and beautiful woman who presides over the city’s night life. This time it’s the newly arrived Lady Blanche Carleton, whose elderly British diplomat husband died shortly after the communists took over in China. But what is the source of Lady Blanche’s money? Rumor has it that her husband left all his money to his sister back in Sussex. Is tea broker Henry Hunter paying her bills in exchange for her favors? Is it only the widow’s great beauty that draws so many different men into her web? And what is her connection to “Dragon Well,” a highly sought after tea that is being smuggled out of China?
If Lily Wu and her Watson, novelist Janice Cameron, can find the answers to those questions, some of which go back to the royal palace of the last emperor, then they can solve the murder of Yao, a refugee Chinese servant, and restore the fortune of Madame Li, a family friend of the Wus, who withstood horrible torture before escaping to Hawaii from China. Aiding Lily and Janice are their Island Irregulars, the seven adopted teenage daughters of a former imperial palace eunuch.
This 1953 mystery is not only a vivid portrait of post World War II Hawaii but an entertaining and insightful look into the international tea industry. It is the fourth book of the Lily Wu quartet, mysteries that anticipated the arrival of the modern female sleuth by several decades. As Jon L. Breen wrote in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, the two women are “young and feminine but not dependent on men.”
“I have read all four of the Lily Wu series and they are among the most enjoyable mystery stories that I’ve ever read. This book is no exception. I’m just sad that there are no more Lily Wu vintage Hawaiian mysteries. I’d recommend this series to anyone; you can't help but love these books!”
—Cozies, Capers and Crimes
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