By D. Elliott, Amazon Vine Voice, Top 500 Reviewer, January 23, 2014
Murder Mystery?- 5 Stars
A possible genre for this book could be `murder mystery' and certainly there are plenty of murders, but in fact `Tea Cups & Tiger Claws' is much more - it is a family saga, it is a romance, and it is a historical societal commentary. The book is divided into 3 parts - first is `Sisters' covering identical triplet girls where Abbey and Judith are adopted by a rich `Duchess' and the third triplet Dorthea is brought up in squalor and poverty by her natural parents. In the second part, `Cousins', Dorthea shows her true colours and sets out to usurp her sisters where pious Abbey turns to religion and spoilt Judith enjoys living in luxury and as upper class. Both have baby girls, cousins Sarah and Veronica, who are brought up quite differently and have very different temperaments. Vindictive Dorthea adopts a young boy Ernest and embroils him in her scheming to supplant his cousins - and everything comes to a head in the final section, `Enemies', where new liaisons form with friends and foes co-existing for a frenzied roller-coaster finale.

The setting is a small town, Prospect Park, where the divisions of social class are real barriers between trash at the bottom of the hill, increasing respectability part ways up, and high society literally at the very top - though all is never what it may first appear and these generalisations cleverly mask undercurrents. Author Timothy Patrick skilfully employs homilies to explore concepts of honesty, sincerity, privilege, regret etc. and he introduces concepts of love and loyalty as well as jealousy, hate, misery, suffering etc. plus insights to domination, control, revenge etc. `Tea Cups and Tiger Claws' is a complex novel, and as such some events are perhaps not fully explained, and there is a degree of implausibility in Dorthea's wielding of power - but it all makes a great story. Narrative is easy to read and comes across as spoken by a raconteur, with much humour in the dialogue and commentaries which at a serious level highlight differences between American white-trash and the old money class. Dorthea herself makes good financially but cannot overcome snobbery, inbred superiority and authority of those living on top of the hill. The final chapter queries what has changed within the family, and more importantly what remains the same in the wider community of Prospect Park.
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