Wednesday, April 02, 2008

French Pressed - Cleo Coyle


French Pressed
A Coffeehouse Mystery
Cleo Coyle
Berkley Prime Crime

Mystery

Clare Cosi, owner and operator of the Greenwich Village coffeehouse, Village Blend, has mixed feelings about her daughter, Joy’s, internship at Solange, an upscale Manhattan French restaurant. On the one hand, it’s a prestigious internship for a young woman just out of culinary school. On the other hand, Clare finds nothing even remotely positive about Joy’s relationship with Solange’s executive chef, Tommy Keitel. As if sleeping with the boss isn’t bad enough, the boss also happens to be fiftysomething, and married with kids. To keep the peace with Joy, Clare has reluctantly agreed to a “butt out” policy on the whole matter.

That policy doesn’t stop her from eating at Solange, with her ex-mother-in-law, however. The food is exquisite, but when Clare ventures into the kitchen to see Joy, she’s shocked to find Brigitte Rouille, the executive sous-chef, screaming at Joy, breaking plates, and brandishing a kitchen knife. Apparently, this is all de rigeur for an evening in the Solange kitchen, especially since Tommy has practically abandoned the place to Brigitte’s care. One of Joy’s friends from culinary school, Vinny Buccelli, was so overwhelmed by it that he’s risked his continued employment by calling in sick.

Joy promises her mother that she’ll talk to Tommy about the situation with Brigitte, but, understandably, Clare is less than comforted by this. To her sadly practiced eye, it looks a lot like Brigitte may be using drugs to cope with the frantic pace and the huge responsibility of running the restaurant. All that takes a back seat, though, when Joy calls in a panic. She’d stopped by Vinny’s place in Queens to check on him. What she found was her friend, dead, and a lot of blood. The coroner estimates death took place only a few hours prior to the call, making Joy a first suspect. Unfortunately for her, Vinny was killed with a chef’s knife, solidifying those suspicions. Clare knows she has to act quickly to save her daughter, and another murder ups the stakes considerably. She manages to find a way into Solange by offering to create a custom coffee blend.

While this is the latest installment in a series that includes DECAFFIENATED CORPSE and MURDER MOST FROTHY, new readers will have no problems jumping in here. The necessary background is dispensed with in a few well-chosen sentences, leaving readers free to enjoy the current mystery. Clare’s ambivalence about her daughter’s choices not only rings true, it makes Clare a more complex and sympathetic character. A busy restaurant kitchen presents an interesting and lively set of characters. There are plenty of people who might want to commit murder on a nightly basis, and it’s fun watching Clare work her way through the tangled web of lies and deceit to solve the mystery. For the foodies, there are recipes for everything from coq au vin to a decadent chocolate dessert.

Rating: 7
April 2008
ISBN# 978-0-425-22049-8 (paperback)

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