“Three Cups of Tea” by Jeff Somers is the classic story of a murderous sex doll. Look, we’ve all had sexual intercourse with dolls, and yeah, it’s true that sometimes these dolls kill people for seemingly no particular reason. That’s life, man. “Three Cups of Tea” begins with a man named Spencer calling upon the help of Philip K. Marks, who is—according to the author’s website—“an alcoholic former writer who investigates weird, strange situations”.
Well, Spencer certainly has a weird, strange situation on his hands, so seeking the help of Marks was probably the best thing he could have done. You see, up until recently, Spencer had taken a non-English-speaking gentleman by the name of Hideki under his wing. When Spencer introduces Marks to Hideki, Hideki is sitting at a table across from who Marks initially assumes is a pretty young lady.
Marks soon realizes two things: one, Hideki is dead, and two, that pretty young lady is nothing more than a common sex doll.
According to Spencer, despite what looks like a suicide, the reality is Hideki has been murdered—murdered by his own sex doll, no less. How? Who knows! That’s why he’s called the great Philip K. Marks to solve the case. And what a bizarre case this is.
Reading the story, I couldn’t help but wonder what my own reaction would be if one of my friends called me up one day and tried to convinced me a sex doll had murdered someone in their house. I think I might immediately be suspicious of anyone who claimed to be my friend, not to mention the fact that they assumed I might be able to help crack the case. Half the time, I can barely find my own car keys, even when they’re in my hands.
But I am no Philip K. Marks, no sir.
Philip K. Marks is one hell of a character who has appeared in a number of short stories I am now eager to devour, including “Sift, Almost Invisible, Through”, “A Meek and Thankful Heart”, and “Howling on for More”. “Three Cups of Tea” was my first story by Jeff Somers, and I doubt it will be my last. There are many aspects of this story that sold me right away, including the strong, realistic crime fiction dialogue, which glowed with admiration of Elmore Leonard and Richard Price. But mainly, what Somers did best in this story is he kept me on my toes. From the very beginning, he made it clear that I needed to stay alert, because this was a world where a sex doll could potentially poison its owner. And it only gets weirder from there.