Sunday, March 25, 2012

Murder Most Frothy by Cleo Coyle

13. Murder Most Frothy - book 4 in the Coffeehouse Mystery series
by Cleo Coyle
mystery 2006
third book for the Foodies Read 2 Challenge 2012
Nook book, 1
finished 3/12/12

Honestly, with every book I read I become more enamoured of this series. The books are so refreshingly different from any other light mysteries I've read. First of all, the writing is really excellent. Secondly, the locales are so well researched and well presented. In fact to my mind, the only series comparable in terms of setting the scene is the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series by Deborah Crombie. Those books are more serious, with more intense themes, but the settings are equally strong in both series. Thirdly, the characters are really great people, especially the 'star,' Clare Cosi. And lastly, there is the coffee, which is why I include the books in my readings for the Foodies Read 2 Challenge.

There is a wealth of information provided in each and every book.
Yes, Brazil is the largest coffee producer in the world, and much of it comes from lower-grade Arabicas and Robustas grown on massive plantations. And yes, these coffees are flat and average, many of them ending up in mass-marketed blends - the kind you find canned on grocery store shelves. But Brazil is a huge country with a wide spectrum of conditions and quality. In recent years, its growing associations have been working to recreate the image of its coffees. Small farms, like the one Matteo found in the south of Minas Gerais, use higher quality harvesting and processing methods to produce specialty-level coffees that really sing in lighter and medium roasts.
And speaking of medium roasts, I wonder if you thought, as I did, that dark roasts offer more of a zing, in terms of caffeine. Well, it's not so.
… I feared my energy levels would spike and then fall, which was why I'd chosen the Breakfast Blend. I had many other more complex and robust-tasting blends on hand, but the medium roast had more caffeine than the darker Italian or French roasts.
Writing of Africa,
Mount Elgon is one of the tallest mountains in Africa, and the terrain is steep and treacherous with thick forest cover. According to Matteo, roads were less common than dirt tracks, which were often washed away during rainy season when gullies overflowed. Nevertheless, the Bagisu tribesmen who lived near the Sipi Falls had become experts at coffee farming, and they had a foolproof method of transporting their cherries
[What we call a coffee bean is actually the seeds of a cherry-like fruit. Coffee trees produce berries, called coffee cherries, that turn bright red when they are ripe and ready to pick. The fruit is found in clusters along the branches of the tree.],
even amid the challenging terrain. No, they did not use Hummers. They used donkeys.
And a description of the product of that African coffee which was made into a blend Clare calls Summer Porch.
A coffee taster trains the tongue and the nose to detect the faintest traces of every flavor. There were hints of star-fruit, pear, and red cherry behind the Jasmine tea like flavors of the Sipi Falls. And I'd roasted it light to really bring out the strawberry flavor (a darker roast produced a sort of black tea finish to the cup).
As in her other books, the author extols the virtues of Kona coffee
… that sweet, smooth coffee with buttery characteristics and hints of cinnamon and cloves, grown in the volcanic soil of Hawaii. (Many coffee roasters offer Kona blends, but for my money the single-origin experience is the way to go.)
And I agree. You may see the Kona that I buy in my second book report on this series.

The mystery in Murder Most Frothy takes place in The Hamptons on Long Island. If you watch the television show, Royal Pains, (which I love)

you know how beautiful this part of the country is, but the real estate is very, very expensive, and consequently it is pretty much the home (usually second or third home) of the rich and famous.

There are still some locals like the farmers in the book.
The Millers had been running this farm stand of impossibly fresh vegetables and fruits every summer for the last twenty-odd years - and before that, Bob's father had run it. They were "Bonackers," part of the local families that had been living out here for generations.
(At one time, "Bonacker" had been a pejorative term like hick or bumpkin. Its etymology was Native American, from the word "Accobonac," which roughly means "place where groundnuts are gathered." Such was the naming of nearby Accobonac Harbor and, consequently, the people who lived around it. These days people wore the name with pride. The East Hampton High School sports teams had even adopted it as their nickname.)
The Miller's land was located on the unfashionable side of the highway - the side away from the ocean - yet they'd been able to sell off just a portion of it for a small fortune. They'd kept the rest in the family and continued to farm it, just as they had for hundreds of years.
Clare is out there for the summer working for her friend, David Mintzer who has a ten-million dollar mansion, and a restaurant in East Hampton, making up 'frothy coffee concoctions' for his huge fourth of July party, and training baristas for the restaurant as well as creating coffee and dessert 'pairings.' Her daughter Joy is also working out there for the summer.

An unexpected occurence at the glamorous party is the murder of one of the young people working alongside Joy at the party. Because the victim was in Mintzer's bathroom and his profile was visible through the window, the thought is that perhaps the killer got the wrong person. Clare finds some shell casings and flipper prints out in the dunes.

It is also suspected that David has been poisoned (not killed, just ill). One of the suspects is a neighbor who is angry that David has spoiled her view with the tall trees he planted. He can't believe she would want to kill him over this.
If there's a Hamptons pastime more common than suing your neighbor, I don't know what it is. People file in civil court as often as they file onto tennis courts.
The reader learns that
"They're razing our brilliant, off-beat architectural history like Motherwell's Quonset hut, and replacing it with mock shingle-style cottages. … It was bulldozed in 1985. You know why? The new, wealthy owner wanted a more conventional structure for his summer weekends."
The man speaking is passionate about what is happening.
"It's a bankruptcy of creative design. Most architects are sick about it, but they want to be successful, and these people with money don't have the sense of adventure the modernists did. They're simply desperate to fit in. 'Build me something that looks like it's been around for one hundred years. And make it really, really big.'"
There's a lovely piece on Motherwell's house here.

The upside to the area is that it is protected from a lot of the sprawl we have become so accustomed to.
The place was a trip back in time, where neon was outlawed, scenic rural landscapes were preserved... filled with ponds, marshes, and hills.
In her inimitable way, Clare describes it as 'a dreamland. Trump meets Thoreau with an ocean view.'

Clare Cosi is spunky, feisty, intelligent. In this book, her ex-husband, Matteo tells her why he thinks she is so interested in sleuthing.
Matt recently accused me of having a Nancy Drew compulsion. He claimed it was a wish fulfillment impulse carried over from all the mystery novels I'd read in my formative years. He asserted this was my own personal version of an adrenaline rush.
There is lots more information about this wonderful series, along with coffee facts and recipes at the author's website.

You may notice that this is a Nook book. I still have my Kindle, and still buy books for it, but I recently bought a Nook as well. Not to be a conspicuous consumer, but to be a supporter of Barnes & Noble, which still has 'bricks and mortar' bookstores. I want to spread my book buying money between them, as well as my local independent bookstore.


  1. OK, first of all, I noticed that you said "Nook book #1" and I thought "Nook??". Glad you explained that. Do you like the Nook better than the Kindle? My girl has a Nook, which I'm sad about in a way because I can't lend her ebooks. she reads books so slowly though, the time would expire I suspect. It's just her way.

    I remember reading this book and I looked back to see when. March of 2007 to be exact. I remembered the Hamptons location. I love this series too and feel like I need to drink coffee all the time I'm reading one of the books. I also think the books should have scratch-n-sniff sections. LOL

    1. I like them equally. They are a little different in that my K. has a button to turn pages, and the N. has a button or I can just touch the screen.
      My daughter is just the opposite. She reads about a hundred times faster than I do. She just started the Hunger Games books.
      Wow, five years to the month!

  2. I'll look for Murder Most Frothy - I enjoy a light mystery now and then, with a cup of coffee, and I have read some of the others in the series! The setting sounds interesting.

    1. I love learning something new with each book, either about a place or an event.

  3. I have almost picked the first book up in the series at the library..your review has me requesting it from my library right now and to have it come up in the summer to read!! Can't wait!

    1. You'll like these books, I'm quite sure. Your cuppa methinks. :<)

  4. Fascinating that you have both Nook and Kindle -- I'd like to read more of your comparisons as you continue to use both.

    I love the Clair Cossi series and thank you again for telling me about it.

    1. Mostly the difference is that the Nook is a touch screen and the Kindle isn't. The N. has option to turn pages via tabs on the side as well. It is a little more square than the K. Both equal in my estimation. I just wanted to spread my money spending around.

  5. I read several in the Cleo Coyle series and thought they were good. Have a good week Nan.

    1. Thanks, and to you. I do find these books to be a great reading pleasure.

  6. Hi Nan,
    I have only just entered the world of the 'cozy' mystery, so haven't come across this series of books before, so here we have just another stack of boos to add to my ever-growing TBR mountain!

    I loked at the cover for a long time, trying to work out whether I actually like it or not and the more I looked, the more it grew on me.

    I actually love coffee, although I am no connoisseur and I bow my head in sham as I say that I might even prefer instant coffee to anything else, as I only ever drink straight black coffee.

    I have never caught any re-runs of the television show you mention, here in the UK, so I enjoyed reading the info amd following some of your excellent links.

    Thanks for an informative post and a lovely review.

    1. I'm not actually all that fond of cozies as a whole, but I do love these books. They are not formulaic or cutesy, although the covers make them look a bit like they are 'cute.'
      One of the ongoing funny things in the series is a cop who drank only the quick coffee becomes an aficionado of fine coffee from going to Clare's coffee shop!

  7. Thank you for another great review, I love it that you put so many pictures in it, it really makes me want to start on that series!

  8. I really must start this series!! You've written a wonderful review here, Nan. I need to go back and click on all the links you provided, but I wanted to send my comment first. I love the Kona coffee I bought in Kauai and would love to drink it all the time. It's a bit pricey, so I'll save future purchases for special occasions.

    I'm glad you're enjoying your Nook. Thanks for supporting B&N! :)

    1. The stuff I drink is available online.
      It is not cheap, but worth it to me as an occasional treat. Once a week I have it.

  9. Oh this makes me want some Kona coffee. I've only had it in Hawaii but I'd be more than happy to go there to have a cup. :D

    1. Though it is expensive, you could order it online from the address I listed above, and/or Les' link below. A little cheaper than a trip. :<)

  10. I haven't heard of any of these books, yet they look wonderful (I also just like the name 'Cleo Coyle').

    I don't have either a Nook or a Kindle... I've tried out a Kindle that belongs to a friend, and while it's easy to read off of, not holding a book doesn't feel right to me yet (there's also still a feeling of reading off a screen - and on a computer for instance I find I can't read long pieces, I need it on paper). I still like the attraction of having many books on an e-reader though. I'll have to think about it.

    1. The name CC is made up. The books are written by a wife and husband team - Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini.
      I originally got my K. because I had a shoulder problem from holding books in bed. :<) It is completely healed now.
      I still buy paper books and will as long as they are sold, but my ebook readers are great for that one purpose. Also, if one travels a fair bit, it would be so much easier to carry lots of books!

  11. Love, love, love these books. I've read them all and am eagerly awaiting the next one which isn't due until August!!! So I guess I will have to wait a little longer. I have to tell you, though, even though he is bad and married again, as well, I like Matteo better than Detective Quinn. I just think Matt is a more "alive" character. I wonder if he and Clare will ever get back together? Whatever -- the whole combination of coffee, Claire, and mystery keeps me coming back for more. And the coffee descriptions are great, too. I've learned a lot about the proper preparation of coffee from these books.

    1. Your enthusiasm pops right off the page!
      I haven't read that far yet, but though he may be more 'alive,' he is a little too alive with other women. :<) I wonder if he'll cheat on his new wife.
      I've learned a lot too. Great series.

  12. Barbara, I was just in Kauai and had the most delicious Kona coffee at this location. You can order some online. Not cheap, but well worth it, in my opinion.

  13. I succumbed!!! Ordered the first one, at least I think it'a the first one. Greenwich Village and coffee, couldn't resist any longer after reading your posts about them too.
    "Summer' here in the Cotswolds, weird but rather wonderful too, midsummer temperatures, I know it's bad but have to say, I'm enjoying it.

    1. I'm smiling! I'm quite sure you'll love these books. Great fun plus a lot of interesting info.
      Not so summery here. Bright sunshine but in the 30s (F.)
      People around here will often say, 'if this is global warming, I'm all for it.' Not so PC, but there you go.

  14. Nan: Before I forget, Barnes and Noble also has a great slew of the classics published in B&N hardcover designs that are often quite wonderful. (They also have remainder books at fabulous prices.)Just a thought. I like to spread my limited book budget around as well. :)

    Thanks for the update on this series. I have it on my list as well as a team drinking series by Laura Childs - both I've been meaning to get to, but reading needs must. Hopefully I'll be able to slip them in between other stuff I've promised myself to read this year.

    I don't mind learning a thing or two while I'm solving a murder. :)
    Especially if the thing or two concerns two of my passions: coffee and tea.

    I know the Hamptons from years ago when I still lived in the city and we used to go out to Montauk in the summers. It is a glorious place, scenery-wise and fun-shopping-wise. But you need lots of money and eventually we drifted away, unable to afford even a few days there.

    But I have fond memories and a few photos.:)

  15. I did get a couple of those years ago - Howards End, and The Country of the Pointed Firs. They are lovely. Thank you for the reminder to look some more.
    I've read a couple in that LC series. I am assuming you mean tea not team, but I must say the latter is quite intriguing.
    You can always watch Royal Pains for a taste of the good life. :<)

    1. And I think I may have mentioned a movie to you once called Dad's in Heaven With Nixon. The family had a house out there. It's a great film. I think you'd like it. On Netflix Instant.

  16. I will have to catch up - I enjoyed the first one thanks to your recommendation. I really like the cozy/light mystery genre so much.


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