Book Review: The Cryptic Clue (A Tea Ladies Mystery)

Apr 12, 2024

The Cryptic Clue – A Tea Ladies Mystery
by Amanda Hampson

Sydney, 1966: Hazel, Betty and Irene are back to hone their amateur sleuthing skills in The Cryptic Clue.

This charming “cosy crime” book (the second in the Tea Ladies series, though it comfortably stands on its own) is set amidst the rich backdrop of the mid-sixties fashion revolution and the saga of the controversial new Sydney Opera House under construction.

Once more we join Hazel, tea lady at Empire Fashionwear. Hazel continues to play the role of peacemaker within the business, handing out advice along with the tea and biscuits she supplies twice a day for the staff.

With the tea lady role being phased out of the workplace, the camaraderie with the other tea ladies from surrounding businesses is on display when they meet in the alley behind their offices for lunch breaks. The book follows their plans to try to save their jobs as they also work together to solve a few mysteries that delightfully come together later in the book for a fun reveal.

Written in an easy-to-read style, this book is a wonderful walk down memory lane, full of memorable and believably imperfect older women.

The social landscape of the 1960s is brought to life through the role of the church and the family dynamics of the characters, making this book a delightful step back in time.

With a healthy dose of artfully implemented social commentary on class (the machinists get plain biscuits while ‘upstairs’ staff get cream biscuits), and the demise the tea lady as a fundamental part of the workplace (to be replaced by machines!), this book appeals to those looking for a more impactful message as well as those after a light read.

The Cryptic Clue is a captivating portrayal of the mid-1960s in Sydney, exploring themes of friendship and just how it feels to live in rapidly changing times — with some good old fashioned detective-mystery-solving thrown in for good measure.

The book delivers on a real sense of place and time with a hefty dose of nostalgia.

Older readers will delight in reading The Cryptic Clue. Whether you’ve read the previous book or not, it’s an endearing lighter read, easy to pick up and even easier to finish.

The Cryptic Clue by Amanda Hampson can be purchased here.
Learn more about The Tea Ladies, the first book in the series, here.

Amanda Hampson is the author of ‘The Olive Sisters’ (2005), ‘Two for the Road’ (2008), ‘The French Perfumer’ (2017), ‘The Yellow Villa’ (2018), Sixty Summers (2019), Lovebirds (2021) The Tea Ladies (2023), The Cryptic Clue (2024)

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