Saturday, August 20, 2011

On What Grounds by Cleo Coyle

53. On What Grounds - first in the Coffeehouse series
by Cleo Coyle
mystery, 2003
Kindle book, 31
eighth book for the Foodie's Reading Challenge
finished, 8/5/11

For a while now, I've been reading the Mystery Lovers' Kitchen blog, and recently I entered a contest to win the latest book in the Coffeehouse series by one of the blog's writers, Cleo Coyle. I thought I'd read the first in the series and bought it for my Kindle. This is one of the best starts to a cozy mystery series I've come across. Interesting, informative about coffee, good main character who didn't get herself into bad situations, and a fine mystery. Who could ask for more? And guess what, I won the book!

Clare Cosi used to be the manager of The Village Blend coffeehouse, but left the job and the city for the suburbs, a marriage, and a daughter. The marriage has broken up, the daughter has grown up and moved to the city, and Clare has been re-hired as the manager of the Blend by its owner, 'Madame.' She has been offered the apartment upstairs so has sold her house and moved back. And there's an interesting twist. Madame Dreyfus Allegro Dubois is Clare's ex-mother-in-law. They've always been great friends so this is not a problem. The problem is that Matteo 'Matt' Allegro, the son of Madame and Clare's former husband, is going to share the apartment when he comes back from coffee buying trips for a few days each month. From the first moment when Clare finds Matt in the apartment, the reader sees that there is still a lot of emotion between them. The breakup was caused by Matt's extra-marital affairs. Though she is naturally still annoyed and saddened, she is also still a little bit in love with him still and yet, will try her best to not get pulled back in to the relationship. They mostly get along, and are both very close to their daughter, Joy. This is a modern family that is making its way without a guidebook, and mostly it is working pretty well.
The Village Blend is a coffeehouse in Greenwich Village, New York City.
Situated on a quiet corner of Hudson Street, in the first two floors of a four-story red brick townhouse, the Blend had been sending her rich, earthy aroma of freshly brewed coffee into the winding lanes of Greenwich Village for over one hundred years.
The historic streets surrounding the place had once felt the footsteps of Mark Twain, e.e. cummings, Willa Cather, Theodore Dreiser, Edward Albee, Jackson Pollack, and countless musicians, poets, painters, and politicians who'd influenced American and world culture.
Within a few blocks sat the Commerce Street home where Washington Irving wrote Sleepy Hollow; the historic church of St. Luke in the Field, whose founding vestryman, Clement Moore, composed 'Twas the Night Before Christmas; and the off-Broadway Cherry Lane Theater, which was started in the 1920s by a group that included poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and decades later employed a young usher by the name of Barbra Streisand.
Well, with a description like this early on in the book, can you understand why I became excited about this series? Great description, setting, and writing are the hallmarks of On What Grounds. The mystery is a good one as well. A young employee who is also a dancer is found by Clare at the bottom of the basement stairs. The police are quite sure it was an accident but Clare feels that it could be attempted murder. While Anabelle lies in the hospital, her life waning away, Clare races to discover what really happened.

I'll just say that I've never been so enthralled by a first book in a cozy mystery series as I am by this one. Clare is a wonderful character, a woman you'd like to have as a friend. The rest of her family are just as enchanting and the reader quickly cares about each of them. The workers and clientele have smaller roles but are still strong and memorable characters. The policeman, Lieutenant Quinn who comes to investigate is an interesting and appealing fellow, and I wonder if he will be the investigating officer in the other books.

All of these factors would be enough for this reader, but there is more. This book is full of information about coffee; different kinds, ways of brewing, historical notes. I was fascinated. I'm not a huge coffee drinker. I have one cup in the morning. I drink it with no sugar, no milk, not black but with an almost equal amount of honey. No, I don't know anyone else who drinks it this way either.

Here's one of those 'who knew' informative moments in the book.
Take the great Kona scandal of 1996. A cabal of coffee producers, one of whom Madame had known rather well, had been caught rebagging cheaper Central American blends and transshipping them through Hawaii marked as that exceptional bean, Kona - ironically mellow for something grown in volcanic lava. As far as anyone knows, at least at this writing, Madame's friend is still in federal prison.
If I were a movie critic, I'd say two thumbs way up for On What Grounds. The book is intelligent and fun, informative with a touch of romance. I've already bought the second one and I have an idea I might read right through the series.

The website is a terrific companion to the books. It is filled with recipes, coffee tips, contests, and real coffeeshops. You could spend a lot of fun time there. And the Mystery Lovers' Kitchen blog includes many other writers whose work I am eager to read.

The Coffeehouse series is written by a wife and husband team, Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini. Alice Alfonsi also writes under the name Rosemary Grace, as well as writing The Haunted Bookshop Mysteries with her husband, as Alice Kimberly. Here's a video from last summer.

This is my eighth book for the Foodie's Reading Challenge. There are many great reviews of food related books from several genres which you may read here.

And because it is the weekend, and because coffee is a 'food' I am offering this post as a Weekend Cooking entry. You may read this weekend's postings here.


  1. I do love coffee and drink a lot of it - too much according to my husband. Well, what does he know? Anyway, this sounds like it has entertaining characters and decent plotlines - I'm sold.

  2. Barbara, there's a great conversation in the book about drinking coffee. Something along the lines of it has been part of life for 1000 years. This is such a good book.

  3. I just recently started reading cozies, and this looks like a good one!
    Here's My WC

  4. I'm not fond of all cozies, but I adore this one, Vicki!

  5. The only mysteries I read are cosys and I particularly like food-related ones. I'm always glad to find a new series, so thanks for this review. I am a tea drinker exclusively, but that wouldn't stop me from liking this one, particularly in light of the strength of the main character.

    Congrats on winning the book :)

  6. The Book Girl, do you read the tea shop mysteries set in Charleston by Laura Childs? I've only read a couple but liked them.

  7. I love coffee as well. This sounds like a book I'd like to read. I checked out her coffee website. It's fun and you can sign up to win coffee every week or so. :)

  8. I've read a few of Cleo Coyle's coffeeshop mysteries and always enjoy them. Glad you liked it.
    Book Dilettante

  9. Awesome entry to Weekend Cooking. I'm a coffee freak -- love it, love it, love it. And I love cozy mysteries. And I know exactly where the Cherry Lane Theater is! Ever since I first heard of this new series I've been wanting to read it. Thanks for convincing me to get started already!

  10. I'm a bit of a coffee addict, and I love mysteries, but I've had an uneven time with cozies -- I've loved some series, but been really annoyed by others. I think I will give this one a try.

  11. Glad you liked the first in the series, and congratulations on the win of this installment! Sounds like a good book to settle in with a few cups of coffee :)

  12. You find the best stuff - love the blog, going to interlibraryloan the book. Thanks, Nan!

  13. Sounds great! I sometimes get in the mood for a cozy series, and one set in GV sounds wonderful.

    Rose City Reader

  14. I might have to check this book out, too! Right now, I'm reading "Emily, Alone," and I'm enjoying it very much. As always, thanks for the great suggestions!

  15. I love the Coffee House Mysteries! Fun review :D

  16. This sounds like a terrific series. Thanks!

  17. I can't say that I have ever read a cozy, but you and Kay have both mentioned this series (I think it was Kay!) and it sounds like something I'd enjoy. The recipes on the blog look fabulous, too! :) Lovely review, Nan. Congrats on the win!

  18. Yvette, isn't it a great site! SO much to see there. A fun and intelligent book.

    Harvee, I so look forward to the others in the series.

    Thanks so much, Beth! Sounds like this is the perfect series for you!

    Col, that is exactly like me! I can't stand some of them because of the 'damsel in distress' aspect that seems to feature in many of them. And that damsel gets herself into those distresses far too often. I think you'll like this book, and Clare. Well worth giving it a try, anyhow.

    Dawn, I so enjoyed it.

    Thanks for you kind words, Susan. I'm betting you'll like the book.

    Rose City Reader, me too, and this was a perfect one to read.

    lgraves, I can't tell you how pleased I am that you picked up Emily, Alone.

    girlichef, I'm happy too. Loved this book.

    Joy, I'll let you know how I like the second one. :<)

    Les, I'll have to check with Kay to see if she read this book. She reads a lot more cozy series than I do.

  19. Nan, I read that book! I've read all the coffeehouse mysteries. Right now I'm reading the latest one, Murder by Mocha!

  20. I also read the Mystery Lovers Kitchen. They are a great group of writers/bloggers. I haven't read any of the books in this series but you make them sound like something I would enjoy. I really liked the video of the two writers. That made me want to know more about them.

  21. Margot, it is a delightful mystery! Very good writing and good characters.

  22. I've pretty much given up on reading cozies, but since I'm a coffee lover this is very tempting. (As I was getting reading to post this I read your answer to one comment, saying that cozies aren't really your thing eithler -- so now I'm even more tempted.)

    What a great prize!

  23. Sallie, I think it's worth trying this first in the series to see what you think. Intelligent, funny, good characters.

  24. Well done on winning the book. I really like all sorts of mysteries but I'm more of a gore than cosy girl. Having said that, this puts me in mind of the Strawberry Shortcake Murder so I'm probably going to download this and give it a go.

  25. Louise, I like 'em not too gory and not too cozy. :<) I did so enjoy this one.


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