In Espresso Shot by Cleo Coyle, the seventh book in the author’s Coffeehouse Mysteries series, murder hits close to home for coffee expert and amateur detective Clare Cosi.
Clare’s ex-husband Matteo Allegro, who is also her partner in the Village Blend coffee business, is about to marry Breanne Summour, the editor of influential New York magazine Trend. At Matt’s request, Clare has agreed to create a gourmet dessert and coffee bar for Matt and Bree’s wedding reception at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She’s brought in her friend Janelle Babcock, an up-and-coming gourmet baker, to prepare the desserts.
The desserts and coffees will be the centerpiece of the reception, displayed around a sculptural fountain by Italian sculptor Nunzio that has never before been seen in the United States. Trend is planning a photographic feature story on the fountain, which will also showcase Clare’s coffees and Janelle’s desserts and provide national exposure for Janelle and the Village Blend.
But Clare has mixed feelings about the job. Although she is happy to accommodate Matt, there is no love lost between Clare and the beautiful, haughty Bree. And Matt’s mother, “Madame” Blanche Dreyfus Allegro Dubois, has been relentlessly trying to discourage the wedding.
Someone else seems to be trying even harder. Some of Matt’s friends from the coffee business throw a surprise bachelor party for him featuring a young dancer who is a Breanne look-alike. After the party, the girl is shot and killed while walking in the Village with Matt and Clare. Since someone also tried to run Breanne down with an SUV, Matt is convinced that the killer was targeting Breanne.
The police are sympathetic, but they don’t have enough evidence to warrant protection for Breanne. Clare’s boyfriend, Lieutenant Mike Quinn, suggests that Clare spend some time with Bree and look for signs of danger that could prompt the police to get involved.
The more time Clare spends with Breanne, the more she agrees with Matt. Breanne has made numerous enemies through articles she’s published in Trend. Several of them of made threats against Breanne. Is it too much to think that one of them actually wants her dead?
Murder makes a second appearance when Breanne’s former assistant at Trend is found dead. Clare steps up her investigation and actively begins looking for the killer. As she becomes more immersed in Breanne’s world, the suspects multiply, and so does the danger — not only to Breanne but to Clare herself. The wedding is only days away, but will Bree make it? Will Clare?
Espresso Shot is a strong installment in the Coffeehouse Mysteries series and an enjoyable read. Author Cleo Coyle continues to develop the central characters in the series: Clare, Matt, Mike, and especially Breanne. For readers who have been reading the books in order and have followed the characters, there are some surprises in store.
Coyle also treats readers to more local New York color and history, as she does throughout the series. This time around, there is a good episode set in an underground restaurant in Flushing, which gives readers a window into that hidden world and also takes us for a ride on the Number 7 train to Queens. Another scene takes place in the Mandarin Oriental, New York, a new (as of 2003) 5-star hotel in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle (where the fictional Trend offices are also located). Matt’s bachelor party is set at the historic White Horse Tavern. And the wedding itself takes Clare, and readers, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Upper East Side.
Of course, no Coffeehouse Mystery is complete without a few of Clare’s dissertations on coffee and coffee-making.
Early in the story Clare lists the coffees that she will be serving at the wedding: a small lot of Kopi Luwak, some 100% Kona Peaberry, some of the Village Blend’s signature espresso drinks, and best of all, the “champagne of the coffee world,” Esmeralda Especial. (The prize-winning Esmeralda Especial indeed sold for a world record auction price of $130 a pound on May 29, 2007.)
Later on, in the Trend offices, Clare makes espresso for Bree and Nunzio. She uses Bouchon House Blend beans from the Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center. She describes in detail how she grinds the beans, draws the espresso, and serves it in demitasse cups with a tiny slice of lemon rind. Naturally the Italian Nunzio loves the espresso.
Each book in the Coffeehouse Mysteries series also includes some “recipes and tips from the Village Blend.” Espresso Shot doesn’t provide any coffee drink recipes, but it has recipes for two of Janelle’s signature desserts, as well as a cocktail and two Peruvian dishes that were served at a pre-wedding luncheon. Everything sounds tasty, as usual.
If you like mysteries with colorful characters, you’ll enjoy Expresso Shot by Cleo Coyle. If you’re a coffee lover, you’ll like it even more. I’d suggest reading the series in order, but even if you start with this one, the story will satisfy you. You may even want another shot.
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