Tea and a Good Read — “The Bookseller” by Mark Pryor

Carrying on in the tradition of others who combine writing about tea and good books to read, I present my take on the latest book recently to pass before my eyes whilst slurping up that tasty liquid. This one is The Bookseller by Mark Pryor. It actually took several pots of tea to read all the way through the book, not because the book was in any way tedious or boring or overly long, but just the opposite. I tend to drink tea faster when a book is exciting. Gulp…read…slurp!

A good book, a big slice of blueberry pie, and some delicate, planty Dragon Pearl tea — ah! (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)
A good book, a big slice of blueberry pie, and some delicate, planty Dragon Pearl tea — ah! (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

The Teas

  • Golden Heaven Yunnan (my review) — One of the highest quality teas available from the Yunnan Province of China and known as one of the world’s great teas. Delicious and outstanding with milk and/or sugar, as I can personally attest, since both bring out the tea’s malty character. The dry leaves are tippy, neat, wiry, and well-made, and this tea is characterized by its color, aroma, and malty taste. The liquid is bright reddish with a brisk, fragrant aroma.
  • Dragon Pearls (my review) — Made from the top two leaves and bud of new season growth and hand rolled into small pearls, they put on a show when you steep them, unfurling as they soak up the hot water. You may even see some small “hairy down” on the bud of the leaves, showing high quality and gentle handling during processing. A sweet and floral aroma and a pale green liquid spell heaven in a cup.
  • Formosa Oolong (my review) — A more highly oxidized oolong. (Oolong teas are semi-oxidized, while green teas are unoxidized and black teas are fully oxidized.) The stout leaves are greenish with reddish edges. This version is smooth and slightly sweet, with a touch of dryness.

The Book

Overall, The Bookseller is better than I had originally expected. It’s the first in a series, so I felt sort of obligated to read it if I wanted to dive into the follow-up novels. While the book is not a standout, it is certainly a page turner. The book’s plot elements are sure to make it a hit: Parisian setting, international intrigue, hint at Nazi involvement, drug dealers, hunky hero, gorgeous spunky female…yada yada yada. Nothing new. Not being harsh here, and I realize that it’s tough to come up with new plot elements, so I’ll focus instead on treatment.

Actually, these plot elements were treated quite well. The writing was crisp and competent. The love scenes were handled in a manner that was not intended to be salacious but also not prudish — a tricky balance to achieve and one which many writers fail to do, either because they cave to editorial pressure for more “juicy parts” to boost sales or because they are too timid to put in anything other than “they kissed.” The hero manages to avoid being a cartoon as does the gorgeous yet spunky female love interest. The action is competently written, but at times I had wished my map of Paris had been at hand to follow their movements through the city. There is a smattering of French used throughout the book, but don’t worry, it’s just there for a bit of flavor, so you won’t miss anything important if you don’t know what it means. The ending was led up to in a very competent manner, with no odd surprises at the end. However, I did miss, even with my interest in the classics of mystery, one item near the end that should have been obvious. My only excuse is that I probably had an empty teacup when reading that part. Makes it tough to focus!

I may just have to check out the next book in this series, but for now it’s time to steep more tea.

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