The tea ladies by Amanda Hampson

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The tea ladies is a sparkling and often humorous cosy mystery set in Sydney in 1965. Tea lady Hazel Bates moves from the managing director’s office down to the factory floor of Empire Fashionwear carting her tea trolley and special biscuits and giving the workers a welcome tea break. She is friends with other tea ladies in the area, especially Betty and Irene and when she spots a young woman in a nearby bond store who writes something in an unknown language, the trio become embroiled in a world of gangsters and crooked police. At the same time, her job at Empire Fashionwear is in jeopardy because fashions are changing swiftly and the arrival of the model Jean Shrimpton and the short mini dress causes much controversy at the Melbourne races. Will the tea ladies be able to find out what has happened to the young woman in the building that was set on fire? Who killed the accountant? Will Empire Fashionwear weather the fashion wars? And what about the mystery surrounding Bob, Hazel’s husband?

For me the charm of The tea ladies lies in its background setting of the changes that are happening in the sixties. The idea of a tea lady may be strange to readers today but Hazel plays a key role not just in providing tea and biscuits, but also that of a peace maker providing useful advice to everyone. The change of clothing from frocks worn with hats, gloves and stockings to very short mini dresses is difficult for the older managers of the fashion house to understand. The Kings Cross area of Sydney and the crooks who wield influence there are also vividly described. And there is a murder and a missing person case for the tea ladies to investigate.

Fans of Richard Osman (The Thursday Murder Club) will delight in the role of older women solving crimes, while readers who can remember the 1960’s will enjoy the memories that the book brings back.

Themes: Cosy mystery, Murder, Tea ladies, 1960's, Fashion.

Pat Pledger