Next on my list of the most popular & recommended Cozy Mystery series is the Coffeehouse Mystery Series by Cleo Coyle. This very popular series is a New York Times Bestselling series for a reason! I probably should mention that Cleo Coyle is actually a husband and wife writing team, but I think it will be easier to just refer to the author as “her” in this entry. The duo also writes the Haunted Bookshop Mystery Series as Alice Kimberly.
On What Grounds is the first book in this very popular series, and it introduces us to Clare Cosi, an almost 40 year old manager of a historic New York coffeehouse, the Village Blend. As the book begins Clare is just about to finish moving into the apartment above the coffeehouse, having just returned to manage the Blend after a 10 year hiatus to raise her daughter in the New Jersey suburbs. She has returned as manager >>> lured by the promise of “Madame” (the aging owner) that she would get an ownership stake in the shop. Madame has also made a similar deal with her son (Clare’s ex-husband Matt). So Clare and her ex will be living in the same rooms above the shop, at least during a week or so every month when Matt, a coffee buyer, will be in town. (As an aside, why do most all good things come with at least one not-so-good?)
As Clare is arriving early one morning with the final things in her car from her move, she discovers that her assistant, Annabelle, has not opened the shop. When she takes a look around she finds Annabelle’s nearly lifeless body at the bottom of the stairs leading to the basement storeroom. I doubt I give too much away when I say that (of course!) Annabelle was not the victim of a tragic accident. Clare suspects foul play – and she won’t stop until she finds the culprit.
The detective in charge of determining whether Annabelle fell or was pushed is Detective Quinn. (Hmmm… As this is the first book in the series, the reader may wonder if Detective Quinn and Clare’s ex-husband Matt provide a romantic rivalry in the series? No spoilers here, but I will say I certainly hope so!) Also in Clare’s life is her daughter, Joy, who is also Matt’s daughter. Joy is attending culinary school in the city, which is one of the reasons that Clare was willing to come back to the Blend.
There are a lot of Cozy Mystery theme books that just provide the barest of background information related to the books’ theme. This book isn’t like those series. The making and drinking of coffee is woven throughout the book. You will no doubt learn what goes into buying coffee beans and even proper techniques to make a great cup. Also, the book contains many coffee recipes and tips. (I know I’m only discussing the first book in the series, but I want to interject that all of the Coffeehouse mysteries have recipes in them.)
Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse series takes place in New York City, but the author is able to provide a small community in the midst of NYC by making the coffeehouse into a small community. On What Grounds is a great start to the series with just the right combination of character introduction and sleuthing. The mystery is difficult enough to solve that I did not guess the ending >>> but looking back on it I think I should have! There were plenty of clues, I just missed them! Although there is a lot of discussion about coffee, the theme does not become overwhelming, and I would guess that even non-coffee lovers would still enjoy the book.
This is a Cozy Mystery series I’ve followed since its beginning, and I’m looking forward to the next one, which is scheduled to be published in January 2017. (Even though I haven’t caught up with it, I always like to hear there’s another on the way!)