Murder by Mocha
A Clare Cosi, Coffeehouse Mystery by Cleo Coyle
Review: Coffee, chocolate, and a secret herbal aphrodisiac come together with murderous results in Murder by Mocha, the tenth mystery in this series featuring Greenwich Village coffeeshop owner Clare Cosi by Cleo Coyle.
A popular website for women is launching a new product called "Mocha Magic Coffee", which promises to enhance the love lives of those who drink it. Clare has been asked to contribute the coffee, another local shop the chocolate. The herbs that turn it into "magic" are a secret known only to a select few. Despite the potential for immediate success, there are significant disagreements within the ranks on how best to turn "magic" into "profit", and it isn't long before Clare finds one of the insiders floating dead in a reflecting pool. Soon thereafter another victim is found, and Clare quickly realizes that, though she may not have come up with the idea for "Mocha Magic Coffee", one of her ingredients is an integral part of it … and she may be a target herself.
After texturing the whole milk, I coated the bottom of a glass mug with our newest bar syrup — tempered bittersweet, turbinado sugar, a kiss of sea salt, vanilla, pure almond extract, and Mexican cinnamon — poured in the thick white milk-paint, stirred everything to blend the shades, and slid my drinkable masterpiece across the counter.
With a description like that, even the lactose-intolerant would likely be rushing down to the Village Blend for a cup of Clare's new chocolate steamer. But heavenly concoctions like these are not the problem here. In the first stumble — and it's by no means a serious one — for this series in quite a while, the underlying premise for the mystery to come makes no sense. It is highly unlikely, implausible really, that Clare would allow the established reputation of her coffeeshop — and that of Madame, its owner and Clare's former mother-in-law — to be associated with such a dubious new product. It's not at all clear what benefit she stands to gain from this relationship, and it's far more likely that something goes wrong than right. Of course, that's the whole point, else there wouldn't be much of a mystery to solve. But it still seems wildly out of character, as it were. Maybe it's wrong to read too much into this, but for a series character that typically acts in a reasonably rational manner most of the time — and for whom readers have come to expect a sort of level-headed behavior — this time she appears to be foolish and reckless from the get-go.
Setting aside the premise, the opening vignette introduces a mysterious character in a most intriguing light, and sets the stage for the murder mystery storyline that follows — still, the whole Sisters of Aphrodite aspect seems incongruous, though admittedly not entirely inappropriate given the setting. And it takes quite a long while before the main event — the murder — occurs. Even so, Murder by Mocha is an entertaining extension to this solid series, one that tends to bridge the gap between often innocuous chick-lit/craft-style cozy whodunits and literary-style crime fiction … magical mocha coffee notwithstanding.
An appendix features a large number of recipes, most too decadent to even consider making … though the simple and detailed step-by-step instructions make them look easy to do so.
Acknowledgment: the author provided a copy of Murder by Mocha for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Berkley Prime Crime (Hardcover), August 2010
ISBN-13: 9780425234594; ISBN-10: 0425234592
Berkley Prime Crime (Mass Market Paperback), December 2012
ISBN-13: 9780425255353; ISBN-10: 0425255352
Location(s) referenced in Murder by Mocha: New York City
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Murder by Mocha by Cleo Coyle — A Clare Cosi, Coffeehouse Mystery
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Publication Date: August 2011
List Price: $25.95