It has been awhile since I read this series. The last was Roast Mortem (click here.) Let's see how the most recent book in this popular series stacks up. Let's visit New York during the holidays for glittery parties and murder.
Copyright: December 2012 (Berkley) 385 pgs
Series: 12th in A Coffeehouse Mystery
Mystery Sub-genre: Amateur Sleuth, Cozy
Main Character: Claire Cosi, manager of Village Blend Coffeehouse
Setting: Modern Day, New York City - holiday season
Obtained Through: from publisher for an honest review
The book begins at the Great New York Cookie Swap where pastry chefs bake up their very best for charity. Clare is in charge of the beverage service. Clare and the owner of a bakery share an employee, Moirin Faigan, who disappears during the event. Clare later finds her murdered beside the broken down carousel. Naturally the police feel there is a connection with a serial "attacker." Normally Clare works well with the police, but her boyfriend Mike Quinn is working in D.C. these days and there is a new cop, egotistic Detective Fletcher Endicott, who places all his faith in forensics only. Clare quickly decides she will have to do some asking around and do the police's legwork. Clare soon realizes that she knew very little about the real Moirin, some good and some bad. But was any of it worth killing her over?
Clare has nearly taken to doing the policework in this addition to the series. She checks backgrounds, questions witnesses and acquaintances etc. Which gives an odd feel to the story. Even the snobbish Detective Fletcher Endicott eventually just starts turning to Clare. This is the improbable part of the storyline. I have missed a few books since the last Coffeehouse mystery I read, but Clare seems like a different character. The good side is she is game to go in disguise and investigate, which brings a certain level of daring adventure to the plot. The bad side of that coin is she thinks nothing of hunting a killer. Additionally, her life has begun to revolve around Mike, yet he is gone for most of the story. She bases many decisions on how Mike might handle things, or what Mike would like. Her number one barista and Assistant Manager Tucker is the best sidekick. Tucker has become my favorite sidekick in this series and I am thrilled he is getting more involvement in the plots. Madame goes undercover at the Evergreen Recreation Center, which is a great chapter, but is essentially the only time we really get with Madame.
Mateo's character doesn't have much left to offer in his philandering self-absorbed personality, which is why their divorce remains so plausible. Mike was never a favorite of mine and I was okay with his being only a part-time character. The surprise character was the aging ex-rock star. I can't reveal more without saying too much.
The setting of New York during the holidays is depicted with a mix of glitz and realism that has become a trademark of this series. I like how the author can give us the good and the bad of New York without the reader feeling like they have been to the Bowery.
Sometimes this series gets a bit more gritty than a standard cozy, while other times it remains solidly in the cozy arena. This book remains squarely in the cozy field, which works perfectly for a holiday themed mystery. The pacing is pretty steady and keeps your interest. Just as you think this is beginning to drag a little, something happens and you are engaged again. Although the killer was not a complete surprise to me, the motive took some pieces to be revealed as Clare dug up information before the reader could figure it out. That worked well to keep the readers interest also.
The climax was exciting including a fight with the killer. The wrap-up was a touch bittersweet. This book has a heady mix of an aging ex-rock star, two "Real Housewives" divas, a nursing home, a casanova hockey player, and even Irish mob influences for an enjoyable mystery.
Of course there are the many amazing recipes too!
Rating: Good fun read - Enjoyed it! But not the best in the series to begin with if you haven't read this series before. Followers of the series will not want to miss this one, but bare in mind it is a lighter holiday plot than others.