In Billionaire Blend, the thirteenth Coffeehouse Mystery in the best-selling series by Cleo Coyle, coffeehouse manager and amateur detective Clare Cosi gets an explosive introduction to the world of super-rich tech entrepreneurs.
It’s a luxurious world of apartments with breath-taking views, chauffeured Bentleys, yachts, and private jets. Money is no object, even when searching for the world’s best cup of coffee. But as Clare learns first-hand, this high-stakes world can be full of danger too.
At lunchtime on a cold and blustery January day, the landmark Village Blend coffeehouse is packed. Among the crush of coffee drinkers, one customer stands out.
The thirty-something man with the Yankees cap and superior attitude has been coming into the Village Blend every day for two weeks, asking for exotic coffee drinks. The baristas have dubbed him the “Quiz Master” and have gotten annoyed at his game of “Stump the Barista.”
This time, assistant manager Tucker Burton confidently takes on the Quiz Master. But the man orders a drink that Tucker has never heard of, and Clare steps in. She is convinced that the customer is testing her baristas’ coffee knowledge in order to poach her staff.
In Clare, the Quiz Master has met his match. She knows every coffee drink he challenges her with and suggests other exotic drinks that he might want to try. From the Antoccino to the Bombón to the Guillermo to the Zebra Mocha — Clare knows them all, and the customer is impressed.
He thanks her for her patience with him and says he’d like to make her an offer. But before he can, a massive explosion rocks the Village Blend. The Quiz Master is badly injured. Clare tends to his wounds and shields him when a second blast rips through the air.
Unbeknownst to Clare, the Quiz Master is Eric Thorner, a tech billionaire. The explosion was caused by a bomb planted in his car outside, killing his driver.
In gratitude to Clare for coming to his aid — and probably saving his life — Eric buys her a top of the line espresso machine for the Village Blend. And when Clare hears the offer he had been about to make, she’s intrigued.
Eric offers Clare and Matt — Matteo Allegro, Clare’s ex-husband and business partner — a unique business proposition. The plan is for Matt to use his coffee-sourcing expertise to find the choicest coffee beans in the world, and for Clare to roast the beans to create the world’s most expensive coffee blend. Eric will spare no expense to produce the new blend.
This business arrangement brings Clare into Eric’s rarified world of tech wealth. In addition to trips to Paris and Miami’s South Beach, Clare is soon jetting around the globe with Matt and Eric to visit some of the best coffee producing regions in Asia, Africa, and South and Central America.
Meanwhile, as Clare gets closer to Eric and his software business, she is determined to solve the mystery of the car bomb. Who or what was the bomber’s target? Eric? His driver? Or was the bomb intended to go off in a different location, with the potential to cripple Eric’s business?
One of the pleasures of the Coffeehouse Mystery series is watching Clare develop and pursue theories about a crime in which she takes an interest. Often, as in this case, her initial theories don’t pan out. But her instincts are good, and she’s persistent. The reader knows that eventually she’ll solve the crime.
She has help, of course. Cleo Coyle has surrounded Clare with a recurring cast of likable characters, many of whom are on hand again in Billionaire Blend.
Clare’s boyfriend, NYPD detective Mike Quinn, is on special assignment with the Justice Department in Washington, but he still manages to give Clare some key assistance. Clare’s former mother-in-law, the elegant but feisty “Madame” Blanche Dreyfus Allegro Dubois, is on the scene again to lend a hand. And some of the baristas from the Village Blend join Clare’s amateur detective squad when needed.
Ex-husband Matt has always been reluctant to see Clare get involved in criminal investigations out of concern for her safety. But he’s learned to recognize that Clare will not be deterred, and he comes through for her as usual.
For coffee lovers, Billionaire Blend imparts a wealth of coffee knowledge, which is woven into the story in natural ways. When Clare has her first encounter with the “Quiz Master,” her descriptions of numerous coffee drinks educate readers as well as Eric.
The worldwide search for the best coffee beans then provides an opportunity to learn about several exotic coffees, like Black Ivory coffee in northern Thailand, and some of the premier coffee-producing regions in the world. As Matt and Clare educate Eric about the challenges faced by coffee farmers, readers learn about those challenges too.
No Coffeehouse Mystery would be complete without the recipes and drink-making tips that are included at the end. Billionaire Blend does not disappoint.
Among the mouth-watering treats in the recipe section are Clare Cosi’s Coffeehouse Billionaire Bars, Glazed Pumpkin Spice Latte Muffins, and Clare Cosi’s Italian Beignets. There are also instructions for making various coffee drinks, including the delicious-sounding espresso martini, “Matteo Allegro’s Espressotini.”
I’m definitely planning to try one (or two) of those. Maybe with a couple of Billionaire Bars. I may not be a billionaire tech genius, but with the help of these recipes I can eat and drink like one.
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