Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Murder Most Frothy - Cleo Coyle

Murder Most Frothy
A Coffeehouse Mystery
Cleo Coyle
Berkley Prime Crime

Mystery - Cozy

Clare Cosi is a barista in a culture that doesn’t really recognize the skills that go into making a really good coffee. Usually, she’s found managing Village Blend, the Greenwich Village coffee shop owned by her former mother-in-law, Madame Dreyfus Allegro Dubois. Between the two of them, they’ve made the place into a landmark. One of their customers, multi-millionaire David Mintzer, is so impressed that he asks Clare to leave her job and manage his new coffee house in East Hampton, Cuppa J. Clare refuses, but counteroffers her services to train the staff. When David offers her a nice salary in addition to a room in his East Hampton mansion for the summer (on strictly platonic terms) she agrees.

As many in the Hamptons do, David throws a Fourth of July bash. Clare, Madame, Clare’s 21-year-old daughter Joy, and the staff of Cuppa J are all on hand to serve food and drink. Madame manages the kitchen while Clare creates her famous iced coffee drinks and corrals the staff. After the fireworks, Treat, a well-liked and flirty member of the staff, cannot be found. Convinced she’ll find him in some dark corner with a girl, Clare goes looking. She finds him in the master bathroom, shot dead. David had gone to bed in the adjoining master bedroom with a migraine hours earlier and says he heard nothing.

Clare initially assumes that the killer, who shot from outside, must have mistaken Treat for David. But, as she learns that Treat was working his way through the female staff, and doing more than just flirting, she wonders if it was a case of mistaken identity after all. With her daughter and former mother-in-law on hand, Clare wants to clear the mystery up quickly, even if she has to do it herself.

While this is the latest installment in an ongoing series, there’s enough background information given for newbie readers like me to jump in easily. Clare is a great amateur sleuth, mixing intelligence and maturity. The Hamptons in summer is a great venue for a murder mystery, although the author does admit, through Clare, that the murder rate in East Hampton is almost nil. That doesn’t detract from the story, though. The pacing is quick and even, and the overall writing style is a cut above average. I’ll be looking for the previous books in this series, and looking forward to the next one.

Rating: 7
August 2006
ISBN# 0-425-21113-4 (paperback)


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