Murder We Write

Murder We Write
SinC CCC members pose for a photo for the chapter's anthology

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Holiday Grind," a review by Chelle Martin

Brewing Up a Holiday Mystery
Chelle Martin

Who doesn’t enjoy a good cup of coffee? Whether your favorite is Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, or a small town coffee shop, as soon as you smell the coffee brewing, you can’t wait for that first sip.

Years ago I was browsing Borders and spotted a paperback called ON WHAT GROUNDS by Cleo Coyle. The story centers around a woman named Clare Cosi, her ex-husband Mateo Allegro, their daughter Joy, and a Manhattan coffeehouse called the Village Blend.

Clare's elderly ex-mother-in-law, Madame, owns the blend. She has turned over the running of the daily operations to Clare and her son, Matt (Clare's ex-husband). Clare and Matt feel the weight of the Blend's century-old legacy on their shoulders because Madame has made it clear that she's leaving it to them after she dies.
Matt is responsible for traveling the world to acquire their various blends, while Clare works as a barista and supervises a colorful cast of employees.
Coyle’s characters interact well together, not only in their daily lives and within each well thought out plot, but also in their personal growth with each new book.
Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of reading the 8th book in the Coffeehouse Mystery series. HOLIDAY GRIND is filled with wonderful sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Christmas. From the delightfully creative Fa-la-la-la Lattes featured in the story, to the descriptive passages of decorating, and the yearly repertoire of carols on the radio, to winter in New York’s Greenwich Village.
A Berkley Prime Crime novel, HOLIDAY GRIND opens with a slain Santa Claus who happens to be a friend of Clare’s and the father of a former employee. With the sleuthing skills learned in the first seven Coffeehouse Mystery books, Clare has become quite the investigator. After discovering her friend’s lifeless body, she surveys the area, noticing on the snow-covered ground a single trail of footprints leading away from the crime scene. Scorch marks on the man’s Santa suit indicate he’s been shot at point-blank range. The killer had forcefully ripped open the costume as well, causing a button to fly off—but where is the missing button?
Clare wonders what her friend was doing in a dark courtyard alone when the streets were desolate during a snowstorm. She notices her friend’s footprints had led to the back wall of the building to a Dumspter and several recycling bins. Scrape marks indicate a wooden crate had been dragged beneath a fire escape. Just what had her friend been looking for when he was attacked?

While all of the Coffeehouse Mystery books are filled with plenty of good sleuthing, this hardcover book also contains wonderful recipes like Clare’s Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies, Clare’s Mini Red and Green Holiday Biscotti, Clare’s Golden Gingerbread-Maple Muffins with Warm Holiday-Spice Glaze and Nonna Cosi’s Linguine with White Clam Sauce to name a few.
I especially enjoyed the gl
ossary of Coffeehouse Terms. Here you’ll learn the difference among a latte, an espresso and a cappuccino. Did you know there are two versions of cappuccino—wet and dry? What are the names for a more intensely or weaker flavored espresso?
Also included is a Guide to Roasting Terms, Tips For Being Your Own Barista, Coffee Drink Recipes, and Coffee Syrups.

You do not have to have read the prior books in the Coffeehouse Mystery series to enjoy HOLIDAY GRIND, but it may tempt you to check out the other books in the series. They would make wonderful stocking stuffers for those on your holiday gift list. HOLIDAY GRIND will be released on November 3, 2009.


Cleo Coyle is the pen name for Alice Alfonsi who collaborates with her husband, Marc Cerasini, to write the nationally best-selling Coffeehouse Mysteries as well as the Haunted Bookshop Mysteries (under the pen name Alice Kimberly). Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Alice and Marc now live in Queens, New York, where they have been writing books, independently and together, for several years. Alice enjoys running Cleo’s “virtual” Village Blend coffeehouse at , where she shares her research into the coffee trade via “coffee picks”, maintains a message board, and posts recipes, tips, and coffee industry news.

Alice and Marc have just been signed up by Berkley Prime Crime for three more hardcovers in their Coffeehouse Mystery series (officially that’s books 10, 11, and 12). Berkley has also signed them for three more books in their Haunted Bookshop mystery series, as well (officially that’s books 7, 8, and 9).

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