In Through the Grinder by Cleo Coyle, the Village Blend coffeehouse is losing women customers. Not because of its coffee, which everyone agrees is excellent, but through murder.
First to die is Valerie Lathem. On a Saturday morning, Valerie stops for a double tall cup of Village Blend coffee. Soon afterward, she heads for the subway to take the R train uptown. But Valerie falls from the subway platform and is killed by the oncoming train.
The media assume Valerie’s death was a suicide. But the reader suspects otherwise.
The reader has been privy to the thoughts of a self-styled “Genius” who stalked Valerie as she left her apartment and watched her get her coffee. The Genius then followed her to the subway platform with the intention to push her in front of the train.
All the newspaper stories about the presumed suicide mention the Village Blend. The tabloids have it on the cover. On Sunday morning, Valerie’s death is a hot topic of conversation among the customers and staff. For Clare Cosi, the manager, the conversation calls for more coffee: “Death isn’t something a person should face without a fortifying hit of caffeine.”
This is the second book in Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse Mystery series. In the first, On What Grounds, Clare struck up a flirtatious friendship with Detective Mike Quinn. Quinn confides to Clare that “something doesn’t sit right” about Valerie’s death. He thinks it was murder.
Quinn is convinced he is right when additional women die in circumstances made to look like suicides or accidents. The women are single and attractive — and Village Blend customers. Clare is worried that her 19-year-old daughter Joy might also be targeted.
Many of the single adults who frequent the Village Blend are looking for romance. Clare is not immune. But it’s hard to connect in New York City. Clare explores an online dating site and agrees to attend the Coffee Connection, a “speed-dating” group that has been meeting on the second floor of the coffeehouse.
After a while, Clare thinks she’s met “Mr. Right.” Unfortunately, Detective Quinn has connected the same man to each of the murdered women. Quinn considers him the prime suspect in the murders.
Clare, who won her stripes as an amateur sleuth in On What Grounds, sets out to prove Quinn wrong. Her ex-husband Matt reluctantly agrees to help her. If they find the real killer, they can also protect Joy.
Through the Grinder is an entertaining mystery, with more romance than the first book in the series. Author Cleo Coyle does a great job of keeping the reader guessing about the identity of the real “Genius” behind the murders. Various characters refer to themselves as geniuses. Coyle’s technique of periodically sharing the Genius’s internal monologue with the reader effectively builds the suspense.
The book also provides some beautiful descriptions of Greenwich Village and other neighborhoods of New York City, complete with historical perspective. As in each of the Coffeehouse Mystery books, the coffee lore and education are also worth the price of the book.
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