Book Review: ON WHAT GROUNDS by Cleo Coyle



Series: Coffeehouse Mystery, #1
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Released: September 2, 2003
Source: Purchased from Amazon

Ten years ago, Clare Cosi left an unhappy marriage along with a job she loved: managing the historic Village Blend coffeehouse in New York’s Greenwich Village. For a decade, she was happy raising her daughter in the quiet suburbs of New Jersey; but now that Joy is grown and gone, life has gotten way too quiet for Clare. With a little cajoling from Madame, the Blend’s flamboyant, elderly owner, Clare agrees to return to her old job, and right from the start she gets one heck of a jolt. On her first morning back as Village Blend manager, Clare unlocks the front door to find her beautiful, young assistant manager unconscious in the back of the store, coffee grounds strewn everywhere. As Anabelle is rushed to the hospital, police arrive to investigate, but Detective Mike Quinn finds no sign of forced entry or foul play, and he deems it an accident. Clare disagrees; and after Quinn leaves, there are a few questions she just can’t get out of her mind, like why was the trash bin in the wrong place? If this wasn’t an accident, are her other baristas in danger? And are all NYPD detectives this attractive?


A decade ago, Clare Cosi left her job in Greenwich Village as manager of The Village Blend for the suburbs of New Jersey to raise her daughter. Though she loved working there, she was more than happy to distance herself from her cheating ex-husband Matt (the shop’s coffee buyer). Now at 39, Clare moves back to New York and accepts the manager’s position once again at the insistence of the coffeehouse’s flamboyant owner Madam (her ex-mother-in-law).

Clare arrives at the shop one morning to find her assistant manager Anabelle lying at the bottom of the basement stairs unconscious and badly injured. As Anabelle is rushed to the hospital, the police arrive to investigate, including the serious (and handsome) Detective Quinn. After a thorough investigation, the police determine that Anabelle’s tumble down the stairs was an unfortunate accident. But Clare is not convinced. How could a graceful young dancer like Anabelle be so clumsy?

With a little help from her sometimes irritating yet charming ex-husband, Clare sets out to investigate. Each person questioned reveals additional clues that tell her Anabelle’s mishap was no accident. Clare and Matt are determined to uncover the truth before she becomes the guilty party’s next victim.

There was much I enjoyed about ON WHAT GROUNDS. I loved the setting being a historic coffeehouse in New York City. The author painted a vivid picture of the people and places in Greenwich Village. (There was a very touching scene when Clare remembers the outside wall of St. Vincent’s Hospital after 9/11). Throughout the book, there are detailed descriptions of various coffees and brewing techniques. As a coffee lover myself, I found that interesting, though it slowed the story down a bit.

My favorite part of the book was the cast of characters. Each one had a distinct and memorable personality, and the witty dialogue between them was fun to read. It was great to read a book where the female lead was 40-ish. Clare had the traits of a great amature sleuth – smart, stubborn, caring and nosy. Yes, she was a major coffee snob, but I liked her. There was a great scene with Clare and Matt, their 19-year old daughter Joy and her new beau Mario. I loved watching two stubborn alpha males butt heads while Clare tried to keep things civilized for Joy’s sake.

How did two ex-spouses work together as a detective team? One thing I don’t like is making an attempt at humor through bickering, and luckily this never happened. Despite the fact that Matt was once an unfaithful husband and so-so father, he was actually very likable. Perhaps in his case absence makes the heart grow fonder, because it seemed like he really wanted to make ammends. Of couse, Clare was smart enough not to simply run back into his arms. But, they did make a fabulous detective team.

ON WHAT GROUNDS is an entertaining cozy mystery with some nice twists along the way. The wonderfully crafted characters will draw you further into the story, and all of the java talk will make coffee lovers swoon. Recipes from The Village Blend are located at the back of the book. I’m looking foward to more from this series.

Rating: 4 Stars