Cosy crime in 1960s Sydney: introducing your next great comfort read

It’s been barely a year since Amanda Hampson introduced us to the unlikely crime-solving team of Hazel, Betty and Irene — but for many readers, they’ll already feel like old friends.

For those who missed it: The Tea Ladies was a cosy murder mystery with a lovely nostalgic spin, steeped in the history of Sydney in the mid-1960s. It took us back to a time when the rag trade boomed in Surry Hills, “tea ladies” and their trolleys were an integral part of the company structure, and the introduction of the mini-skirt threatened to rock the industry to its core.

Fast-paced, eminently readable and refreshingly free of explicit violence, The Tea Ladies hit a sweet spot with the Australian public, staying on the national fiction bestseller charts for 12 weeks and building enormous buzz for the inevitable sequel.

The original novel introduced us to three feisty friends — each working as a tea lady in a different fashion business on Zig Zag Lane — who tumbled trolleys into a spot of hot water involving arson, kidnapping and a mysterious dead body.

With their knack for slipping in and out of important rooms unnoticed, these intrepid older women became successful sleuths and cracked the case, all during a tumultuous time when the traditional tea ladies were going out of fashion as quickly as below-the-knee hemlines. 

This comfortable blend of warmth, comedy and nostalgia — not to mention the decision to put older women in the spotlight — resonated wonderfully with the Starts at 60 Book Club Facebook group; members declared it ‘a great read’ and ‘thoroughly entertaining’.

Think it might be your cup of tea? Click here to read an extract of the first novel.

For those who have already read and loved the book, the just-released second volume in the series takes the ladies even further out of their comfort zones. 

In The Cryptic Clue, Hazel and her friends once again find their jobs at risk — this time by a machine that can automatically make tea and coffee. 

Meanwhile, Irene’s safe-cracker husband sends her a mysterious coded message from his jail cell. Could it lead to the missing treasures of his final heist? And how does this tie into the mysterious goings-on of Hazel’s next-door neighbour . . . or the construction of the controversial new Sydney Opera House?

New readers can easily pick up and enjoy The Cryptic Clue as a standalone mystery, though fans of its predecessor will find even more to love as these much-loved characters continue their journey.

While both books are breezy, cosy comfort reads, they tap into powerful themes of resilience and finding a new voice later in life.

Author of the Tea Ladies Series, Amanda Hampson. Source: Provided.

After 20 years of novel writing, Amanda herself also found a new voice later in life after unlikely inspiration struck. While her previous novels centred around themes of love and friendship in far-flung European locations, this Australian-based mystery series became a runaway success. The risk clearly paid off. But what inspired the author to pivot her writing amid such an established career?

Surprisingly, her inspiration for The Tea Ladies began at a place few writers would consider “productive” to the craft: Facebook.

Reading the nostalgia page Australia Remembers When, Hampson found a picture of an iconic tea lady with her trolley of cups and saucers. Among the many affectionate comments beneath, a humorous line leapt out: ‘the tea lady knew where the bodies were buried’. 

A life-changing lightbulb moment followed: how would a woman trusted by everyone, from the highest management to the lowest-paid factory workers, put this skill toward a higher calling as an amateur sleuth?

Her desire to answer this question has already filled two books and enchanted thousands of readers in a remarkably short space of time. 

With a third volume already in the works, now is the perfect time to catch up on the Tea Ladies’ adventures so far.

A Wickedly Witty Cosy Crime Series

The Tea Ladies series by Amanda Hampson follows four tea women in 1960s Sydney who become accidental sleuths after a murder in their building. The books are fun, funny and perfect for fans of Richard Osman and Bonnie Garmus.

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