Review: Death by Bubble Tea by Jennifer J. Chow

Description (from cover): “Two cousins who start a food stall at their local night market get a serving of murder in this first novel of a delicious new cozy mystery series by Jennifer J. Chow, bestselling author of Mimi Lee Gets a Clue.

When Yale Lee discovers her cousin Celine is visiting from Hong Kong, she is obliged to play tour guide to a relative she hasn’t seen in twenty years. Not only that, but her father thinks it’s a wonderful idea for them to bond by running a food stall together at the Eastwood Village Night Market. Yale hasn’t cooked in years, and she hardly considers Celine’s career as a social media influencer as adequate experience, but because she’s just lost her job at her local bookstore, she feels she has no choice.

Yale and Celine serve small dishes and refreshing drinks, and while business is slow, it eventually picks up thanks to Celine’s surprisingly useful marketing ideas. They’re quite shocked that their bubble tea, in particular, is a hit–literally–when one of their customers turns up dead. Yale and Celine are prime suspects due to the gold flakes that Celine added to the sweet drink as a garnish. Though the two cousins are polar opposites in every way, they must work together to find out what really happened to the victim or the only thing they’ll be serving is time.”

My Thoughts:

Oh this book. I really wanted to love it. The characters are well-developed, the story line is cute, the Chinese-American food culture is intriguing and interesting; however, the mystery fell flat. Yale Lee is a loner. She eschews technology for books and she is just floating through life her way until she is laid off from her job at a local bookshop. Not knowing what to do next, she turns to her father who owns a restaurant for income. Her father has a great idea for Yale to lead the food stall branch of the restaurant and gives her free rein to do as she pleases with this new business venture. She is surprised when her cousin Celine flies in from Hong Kong under mysterious circumstances and her father pushes the two of them to work together. Yale is a little concerned as her cousin is a well-known Instagram influencer and has a completely different outlook on life. Just trying to make the best of it, Yale placates her cousin and just goes along with the flow.

All is well until one of the customers at the food stall is found dead by Yale later that evening after the night market has closed. The murder weapon is suspected to be Yale and Celine’s bubble tea that was served to the victim earlier that evening. When the police begin investigating, they hone in on Yale and her cousin as the prime suspects. Yale is determined to clear her name and that of her father’s restaurant and sets out on her own investigation. Celine is eager to help and Yale and Celine begin their investigation much to the police’s chagrin.

I had problems with this mystery. At times the clues were so obvious and the characters were clueless as to what to do with them. I felt like I was screaming at them in my head to get it together. That was frustrating to say the least. However, I loved the premise of the storyline. This is a quirky new cozy series featuring food and the LA food scene that has a lot of potential. The characters are well-developed, engaging and it is easy to like them. I am not ready to throw in the towel on this series, as it has a lot of promise. I will wait to read the next in the series, Hot Pot Murder, which appears to be coming in June 2023. I am hoping that this is a case of the debut blues and that the series will continue to emerge and engage the reader moving forward. Not the best cozy debut, but this series has so much potential to be a delightful cozy series.

Overall Rating: 3.5 stars

Author: Jennifer J. Chow

Series: LA Night Market Mystery #1

Publisher: Berkley

Publication Date: July 5, 2022

Pages: 300

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Get It: Amazon

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review. I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.