Why do I keep giving Cleo Coyle five stars?
In a recent Writer’s Digest article, an editor pointed out a hierarchy of needs as criteria for a book review. Just like people need food, water, and shelter to survive, a book needs certain elements to keep the reader engaged. Then there are those extras that can make a book fascinating and memorable. Cleo’s book has all the components of the hierarchy, including readability, clear language, varied sentence structure, flowing dialogue, and easy-to-follow plots. However—and this is what sets Ms. Coyle apart from many mystery authors—she adds an extra something that transforms her mysteries from good to great.
Cleo’s characters are charming, dimensional, and simply fun to be around. What is central to the story, of course, is the coffeehouse atmosphere, and Cleo gives clear and rich descriptions that make me feel as though I am right in the middle of a scene. In fact, I sometimes wonder if Matt will notice my staring or Madam will see my adoration of her. (Cleo must know that I adore Madam and has given me such a treat with this book, such as Madam’s delightfully naughty line while sitting at a table that sent me into grins and a cry for more.) Fortunately, the descriptions don’t end after chapter one. Throughout the entire story we are gifted with a rich, sensory narrative to see the room, feel the crowd, breathe in the scent of cinnamon-apple bread, or hear ambulance sirens outside. The other element that Cleo executes masterfully is character and plot intricacy. As the series progresses, the reader really gets to know the characters. We have loved with them, seen their mistakes, and journeyed with them as they grow and solve exciting new cases.
Just because a mystery falls perfectly into the “cozy” genre, it does not mean it lacks originality and innovation. Here is that extra something that Ms. Coyle delivers: trust. We know for certain how fun each fresh, new book will be. Readers trust Cleo Coyle to provide entertainment, surprises, memorable friends, and a well-plotted mystery, with an extra cup of recipe yumminess that sends her to the top of my favorites list. Always.
As Village Blend manager Clare Cosi fixes a date for her wedding, her ex-husband is making dates through smartphone swipes. Clare has mixed feelings about these match-ups happening in her coffeehouse. Even her octogenarian employer is selecting suitors by screenshot! But business is booming, and Clare works hard to keep the espresso shots flowing. Then one night, another kind of shot leaves a dead body for her to find.
Now Clare is “swiping” through suspects in her own shop–with the help of her globetrotting ex-husband, a man who’s spent his life hunting for coffee and women. Together they’re determined to find justice before another shot rings out.
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Earlier books in the series:
Details. I love the details in Cleo Coyle’s books. Not just how good the hot, cheese-covered ziti smells or how smooth the dark espresso is, but unobtrusive moments of character details: from Clare quietly squeezing Madam’s hand in reassurance, showing us it’s Clare’s turn to be in charge, to Sophia’s always well-manicured nails, showing us her affluent lifestyle and concern for appearances, to the way a minor character dabs his mouth with a dinner napkin, showing us his state of mind. Those moments give us information and insight into character and draw in the reader to connect to the characters. And these characters are intriguing, fun, and worth getting to know.
From Clare to Matt to Madam to Tucker to Quinn – everyone has a place, everyone is necessary, and there are plenty of well-placed lines that will elicit a chuckle, a gasp, and an outright hoot or two. The plot is always sound in these books, and the mystery itself is a good challenge of piecing together clues and enjoying the turns through “pay attention” alley. I also appreciate the mouth-watering descriptions of treats, and those recipes are gifted to us at the back of the book. A few times I quickly flipped to the back pages just to make sure the recipe was there after all the yummy teasing in the chapter.
And finally, along with the details and delights of these books, the authors themselves are a special reward. They are attentive to fans, responsive and open to feedback and conversation, and offer a newsletter filled with giveaways, videos, coffee info, NYC posts, and recipe sheets.
Maybe that’s why I read every word in these books. For the connection. Not just to the well-rounded, engaging characters within the story… but to the truly kind, warmhearted authors holding the pen.
Read on for more reviews of earlier books in the series.
Coffeehouse Mystery #15
The scene: My living room. Props: A cup of steaming Irish Breakfast tea, a fluffy purple blanket, a furry ball of terrier, and a clean fresh copy of the next Coffeehouse Mystery, Dead to the Last Drop. I was ready for another round of mystery, wit, and yummy recipes.
After the White House asks coffeehouse manager and master roaster Clare Cosi to consult on the coffee service for a Rose Garden Wedding, she discovers a historic pot was used as a CIA “dead drop” decades before. Now long-simmering secrets boil over, scalding Clare and the people around her.
After three sips, I noticed that this release has a different arrangement. Chapters alternate between earlier events necessary for setup, to present day activities and repercussions of those events. While at first I was caught off guard, Coyle skillfully divides the parallel unfolding to bring us up to speed on events leading to the final showdown. Notice how the initial scenes are longer and carefully paced. Then, the author skillfully quickens the tempo, shortens the coverage of the prior incidents, lengthens the present day activities, and then brings the two halves together like streusel on a muffin. Nicely done.
Although a different structure, many aspects of Coyle’s writing remain the same: fresh, new crime ideas, continuation of character arcs, and the detailed world of coffee. Above all, Coyle continues to deliver reachable characters and humorous dialogue. The care and attention she gives to the essence of each character, from the self-assured Mike to the vulnerable President’s daughter, Abbey, to the reliable and hardworking Luther (this guy can cook), allows me to gasp or chuckle right along with them. From the security guards to the white house staff to the First Lady, these people are alive and interesting. There was a truly lovely moment with Abbey playing jazz selections. I was caught up in the event so well captured and detailed that I almost stood and applauded along with the crowd. Just like the saying “make new friends but keep the old,” Coyle gives the right amount of attention to the new group without distracting from the main characters who remain the central part of the story.
Amid the escalation of events, swirling aromas, and mouthwatering descriptions of tasty treats we know will be included at the end, Coyle continues to maintain a perfect balance of suspense, involvement, and entertainment that I will always enjoy. I highly recommend this entire series for a very cozy evening at home. Such a treat!
And even more Cleo Coyle Coffeehouse mysteries:
Coffeehouse Mysteries #14
Step into this well-crafted cozy mystery at any book number and I guarantee you will go back to the first one to find out about this wonderful group of people at the Village Blend. While each book can stand on its own, the character development gently occurs over the course of the series. The writing is clean, smooth, and top-notch, and the characters are interesting, fun, and dimensional. Cleo Coyle introduces a new aspect to the central character and keeps it within the boundaries of believability. Scenes with Boris are a hoot, and the visions are so well done that one would assume the author had a few of those magic beans as well. (Madame must never find out about the hen and the scarf thing.) And who knew a papaya and a hot dog were related.
You may want to have your beverage at hand so you do not have to get up during a carefully constructed plot moment. Should you think sleuthing is too easy for the main character, continue reading. There are plenty of “oh no!” moments, plot twists, and re-direction of suspicion to increase your heartbeat. The resolution to the crime is delivered in a surprisingly delightful package.
The best part of this book is a tie between the funny yet very mama-wolf protagonist, the sensory-filled descriptions, and the last line “Don’t miss the next Coffeehouse Mystery coming soon.” Each release is just so delicious, from the liquid-brown eyes of Matteo to the smooth brew of the newest Ethiopian blend. With each tasty mention of a recipe in the story, I crossed my fingers hoping it was included in the back of the book. (It was!) I’m pretty sure Cleo Coyle added a dairy free treat in there just for me. Overall, this book was full of a great mix of ingredients, tantalizing aromas and flavors, and feelings of happily ever after.
Coffeehouse Mysteries #13
Clare Cosi knows her coffee, knows the culture of coffee, and knows the industry. She is also not afraid to use her Irish Cream Caramel Nut Fudge to its full advantage. I thought for sure I would find out who the murderer was before the end of my first pot of Ethiopian Blend. There was something different about Billionaire Blend. Maybe it was the taut sequence of events, the relevance to America today, or Clare’s maternal motivations. Get ready for a slow glide uphill, meeting people, drinking coffee, settling comfortably into the story, then – boom. Really. A very big boom shattering the walls of The Village Blend.
The stakes are high in this book, the crimes are realistic, and the careful research will leave you with plenty of notes on the IT world, details of the life of a bomb, and the pursuit of perfect coffee beans.
Weaving in and out of the plot is a strong thread of Clare’s maternal strength. I know I keep saying the most recent one is my favorite, but it’s true. Each release has character growth, new scenarios, new things to learn about coffee, and more devious planting of clues for this reader to figure out before the last chapter. But I didn’t see this one coming. Flipping back through the pages and re-reading where I clearly had been led astray through the author’s devious red herrings, I thought “Oh so clever Cleo Coyle you got me this time.”
I like these people and I care what happens, how they extricate themselves from situations, and how they grow after each book. This is a great read, perfect for the cozy genre audience, and not only will you adore the characters, you’ll love Cleo Coyle all over again for bringing these people into your home and giving you an evening of pure reading pleasure. Enjoy the caffeinated adventure!
Coffeehouse Mysteries #12
You are in for a freshly pulled, candy cane sprinkled steaming cup of java fun. This mystery is a real treat for a cozy night. Cleo Coyle’s Holiday Buzz whisks us back to the Village Blend, a welcoming coffee house inviting us to order the daily special, munch off the head of a gingerbread cookie, and take part in a cleverly devised murder mystery. I have read this entire series and each new release is surprising, well paced, and filled with scrumptious delights. Sure, there is a murder mystery to solve. Yes, there are clues cleverly planted in strategic places. (How does Coyle do that so well?) We are also gifted with holiday bustle, warm friendships, baked cookie aromas, and freezing New York winds. The descriptions flow and blend so well that I was sure I felt snow on my face. Our main character, Clare Cosi, not only is smart, headstrong, and makes her own pancake syrup, but she can fit into a dumbwaiter, and can intentionally skate backwards right into a pile of hockey sticks. Mike is cuddly, strong, and rather fond of handcuffs, and their relationship is sweet without sending us into diabetes. The moment I read that Madame was going undercover at the Evergreen Recreation Center, I found myself grinning in anticipation. I love Madame. I wish there were more scenes with her. There are also new characters introduced, and returning friends are given enough scenes to add background and depth to their stories. As Clare gets deeper into trouble and uncovers more evidence, my chuckles turn to gasps and, once again, I am reviewing my list of suspects. Then it happened. I sadly realized that in a few more pages I have to leave the Village Blend. Although the murders are solved and the book closed, I am left with a warm chocolate brownie feeling sprinkled with crushed candy canes and holiday cheer. Hurry with the next one, Ms. Coyle!
A Brew to a Kill
#11 in the Coffeehouse Mysteries
I love cozy mysteries that give you a taste of the location and local community and Cleo Coyle does not disappoint. As her characters move from one scene to the next, readers are once again treated to the sounds, smells and flavors of Greenwich Village, NY. Author Cleo Coyle has taken us from the aromatic On What Grounds to a steaming cup of A Brew to a Kill delivering mocha and murder all the way. Written in first person, Coyle manages to expertly peek into the other character’s thoughts by observing facial expressions, body posture, and tone of voice. I’m soon lost in Greenwich Village. We immediately are aware of Coyle’s love of coffee and her knowledge of the valuable bean. Drop into the series at any time as Ms. Coyle sprinkles exposition at the right times so you know who is who. But don’t get too comfortable on your chair. Pay attention. Before the crema dissolves, the first death is on the menu.
Her books open from the eyes of a cold killer, and we are pulled along as his or her plan is carried out. Then, like a dollop of cream, we are plopped right into the middle of Clare Cosi’s coffee house, amid whirring espresso machines and clinking of spoons. Clare’s ex is Mateo Allegro, her business partner and yummy morsel of a man who handles the coffee buying. Her new love is Officer Mike Quinn, who proves himself valuable to the plot of each book. While the relationship between Quinn and Cosi is believable and essential, the moments between Mateo and Clare are comical and oh so fun to intrude upon. In this book, we are introduced to Detective Buckman, a new cop in the series. Ms. Coyle manages to keep him from being a stock character and serves him up with background, dimension and empathy. In one scene, Esther, Dante and Clare assume the roles of mother, bride and groom to enter a Cantonese bakery to obtain information. As Clare walks ahead, we are teased with mouthwatering aromas, descriptions of fresh pastries and images of cupcakes and cookies. An ensuing scuffle provides comical fun as the trio attempts to extricate themselves from the scenario. For passionate coffee lovers, this series delivers facts, flavors and aromas, and the right amount of information to require a highlighter for future reference. In another scene, Clare and Mateo are sampling a new brew and we are rewarded with this: “First the brightness. A berry . . . there are notes of cocoa, … like a Belgian-style milk chocolate. …[A] caramel sweetness, but it’s more than just sugars caramelizing in the roasting process…. This is a toasty, buttery caramel, like a shortbread, rolling around the mouth with complexity….”
Before you can enjoy the second notes of the rich liquid, the reader is jolted out and into a much bigger problem. Really big. Enough to get Clare and Mateo flat on the ground of the coffee warehouse in handcuffs. We are soon treated to the many faces of Officer Mike Quinn as he deals with the mess they are in and the new loop in the plot. I like these characters. All of them. Even the seldom seen Madam Dubois, Mateo’s mother. Her grace and slight naughtiness is the tie that keeps Clare and Mateo unfortunately linked. But for us, it’s a good thing. Whether you start at the beginning, or settle in with this latest in the series, you’ll have enjoyed an intriguing part of town, been pulled along on a clever ride of murder, and met fully dimensional characters you’ll wish were at your nearest café. I miss everyone already and can’t wait until the next book is released! Until then, I’ll be on http://coffeehousemysteries.com/ enjoying the author’s recipes, message boards, and the latest news.