On What Grounds by Cleo Coyle (2003, The Berkeley Publishing Group)
I started to like Cleo Coyle a few years back when I first read “Through the Grinder“, the second book in her Coffeehouse Mystery series. Aside from the mystery story, lessons about coffee and a few tips and recipes are found in the book. I was hooked! So when I found the first book in the series in a local bookstore, I immediately bought it.
The story centers on Claire Cosi, a manager of The Village Blend, a coffeehouse in New York City. It was written in the first person point of view and started the story when she arrived at the Blend and found her assistant sprawled on the floor unconscious. With the coffee grounds scattered all over the floor, the police dismissed the case as an accident. In short, Annabelle Hart, a graceful dancer, tripped over and lay unconscious on the floor due to a “misstep”.
However, Claire noticed that a trash can that shouldn’t be there. So Claire believed that it was not an accident, it could be something more than that. And while Annabelle was in the hospital, characters were introduced. Detective Mike Quinn came in just to make sure that the scene has been investigated thoroughly. And what was thought of as an intruder happens to be Claire’s ex-husband, Matteo Allegro, the son of The Village Blend’s owner and importer for the coffeehouse. So there’s a tension-filled love triangle angle that was worth entertaining.
The plot thickens when Annabelle died and found to be pregnant. So Claire has to deal with the prospect of being sued, with the intrigue surrounding Annabelle’s past, and with maintaining the business now that the owner, Madame Blanche Dreyfus Allegro Dubois, was thought to be dying of cancer.
This is the kind of mystery story that centers on a non-detective and entertaining enough to spin a yarn and start a mystery series. Come on, with coffee and crime brewing, you’ll love reading this with a mug of hot coffee beside you.