In the opening chapter of Latte Trouble by Cleo Coyle, the Village Blend’s best barista, Tucker Burton, is not happy. “Men are pigs. They should die!” he exclaims in the middle of a Fashion Week party being hosted in the coffeehouse. And within a matter of minutes, one does, apparently poisoned by a lethal latte that Tucker served him.
Tucker, of course, becomes the prime suspect in the poisoning death, especially when the police learn that Tucker and the victim, fashion writer Ricky Flatt, had a relationship that recently went bad. The police arrest Tucker at the scene.
But Clare Cosi, the manager of the Village Blend, knows that the gentle Tucker is not a murderer. Clare also suspects that the victim of the poisonous latte was not the intended target. Tucker had made the latte for the party’s hostess, fashion designer Lottie Harmon. Ricky snatched the latte off the tray as Tucker went by.
Clare vows to prove Tucker innocent and to find out who was really trying to kill Lottie. Not incidentally, she wants to preserve the good name of the venerable Village Blend, the coffeehouse that has been a Greenwich Village institution for a century.
Set during New York’s annual fall Fashion Week, Latte Trouble is full of colorful characters from the fashion world. There is no shortage of potential suspects among them.
Lottie Harmon herself is both colorful and mysterious. Lottie was a hot designer in the 1980s. She faded from the scene for decades, but recently (during a meeting at the Village Blend, in fact) she conceived of a new coffee-themed jewelry line, “Java Jewelry.” Lottie’s jewelry is being featured at one of Fashion Week’s top runway shows at the end of the week. With her scarlet-dyed hair and trademark laugh, Lottie is the toast of the town.
But she has at least one enemy, too — a murderous one who, Clare worries, may try again. So, as she has done before in the first two Coffeehouse Mysteries, On What Grounds and Through the Grinder, Clare becomes an amateur sleuth. With lots of caffeine to fortify her, she follows her hunches, develops leads, and connects the dots.
Clare’s investigation takes her from her familiar milieu of baristas to the exotic world of the fashionistas. Along the way, she receives enthusiastic help from Madame Dubois, her former mother-in-law and the longtime owner of the Village Blend, who is equally convinced of Tucker’s innocence. Clare also enlists the aid of her ex-husband and current business partner, Matteo Allegro, even as she tries to resist his continued attempts to win her back.
Latte Trouble by Cleo Coyle is another solid entry in the popular Coffeehouse Mystery series. Readers are kept guessing along with Clare about the motivation and identity of the murderer. Meanwhile, the story paints a colorful picture of New York’s Fashion Week and takes readers on a mini-tour of some New York landmarks and locales.
Latte Trouble also delivers the coffee tips, recipes, and information about the coffee business that are the trademark of the Coffeehouse Mystery series. After reading the book, you’ll know how to prepare a proper café brulée or a caramel-chocolate latte, and you’ll definitely want to be on the lookout for a wet-processed Harrar coffee from Ethiopia.
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