By Cleo Coyle; reviewed by Jeannette Hartman
After 10 years in the New Jersey suburbs raising her daughter, Clare Cosi is headed back to Greenwich Village to take over her former job as the manager of the Village Blend.
Founded in 1895, the historic, red brick coffeehouse has been owned by Clare’s former mother-in-law, Madame Dreyfus Allegro Dubois, since her early days as a post-war refugee.
The manager’s job comes with a furnished duplex apartment above the coffeehouse.
Clare hardly has time to unload her cat Java before she realizes something is wrong. Seriously wrong. The lights are on but the doors are locked and the “Closed” sign still up.
Then she finds 20-year-old Anabelle, one of her best workers, in a limp pile at the bottom of the basement stairs. And with that, this mystery is off at a boil.
The police first believe that Anabelle’s death was an accidental fall, but Clare points out details that convince them it was murder. Anabelle’s stepmother, Darla Branch Hart, is talking about filing a wrongful death suit against the Village Grounds. That’s when Clare discovers that the previous manager had let their insurance lapse.
There are plenty of people here who might have had malice against Anabelle. She was an aspiring ballet dancer and had just got a part in a show, leaving her rivals envious. She’d been overheard arguing with her stepmother over a loan Darla wanted paid back. She also had a boyfriend — Richard Gibson Engstrum, Jr., the son of a man who’d made a fortune in the tech boom and cashed out at the perfect time — whom none of her friends liked.
Author Cleo Coyle (actually, that’s the pen name of husband-and-wife co-authors Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini) has laid the grounds for a long running series in this book as well. Madame has offered Clare a contract that gradually gives her ownership of the Village Grind based on profits. But she’s done something similar for her son Matteo Allegro who is the coffee buyer and Clare’s ex-husband. There’s still heat between Clare and Matteo, even though his philandering 10 years ago killed their marriage.
There are also flickers of attraction between Clare and NYPD Lieutenant Quinn, who comes to investigate Anabelle’s death.
This is a classic cozy with no blood and gore. Clare’s persistence in trying to find out who killed Anabelle is entirely credible. The authors sprinkle their story with tips about coffee brewing, recipes for specialized coffee drinks and even coffee-flavored cocktails. Between customers, baristas and Clare’s extended family there’s plenty to like and keep calling you back to sample.
ON WHAT GROUNDS was followed by:
- THROUGH THE GRINDER
- LATTE TROUBLE
- MURDER MOST FROTHY
- DECAFFEINATED CORPSE
- FRENCH PRESSED
- EXPRESSO SHOT
- HOLIDAY GRIND
- ROAST MORTEM
- MURDER BY MOCHA
- A BREW TO KILL
- HOLIDAY BUZZ
- BILLIONAIRE BLEND
- ONCE UPON A GRIND
- DEAD TO THE LAST DROP
- DEAD COLD BREW
- SHOT IN THE DARK
- BREWED AWAKENING
- HONEY ROASTED
- BULLETPROOF BARISTA
The Author: Cleo Coyle
Cleo Coyle is the pen name of Alice Alfonsi and her husband and co-author Marc Cerasini.
The pair have written 20 Coffeehouse Mysteries, so far. Alfonsi, writing as Alice Kimberly has written nine Haunted Bookshop Mysteries.
Alice is a former journalist and writer of children’s books and popular fiction. Marc writes military nonfiction and thrillers. Both are bestselling media tie-in writers who have done projects for Lucasfilm, NBC, Fox, Disney, Imagine, Toho and MGM.