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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Review- Roast Mortem

The heat of summer continues as we go to New York to catch an arsonist.  The latest in the Coffee House Mysteries was just released and it delivers.

Author: Cleo Coyle

Copyright:  August 3, 2010 (Berkley Hardcover) 368 pgs

Series: # 9 in Coffee House Mysteries
Sensuality: Medium Heat - nothing explicit
Mystery sub-genre: Amateur Sleuth
Main Character: Clare Cosi, Manager of Village Blend coffeehouse
Setting: Modern day, New York's historic Greenwich Village
Obtained book through: Publisher for an honest review
Clare and Madame are visiting Madame's old friend at his coffee house when a fire explodes through the after-hours caffe. Claire and Madame make it out okay, but Madame's dear old friend is in serious condition. Clare insists it was a bomb and starts investigating and passing along her intel to the fire investigator.

To complicate things a good bit, her boyfriend Mike Quinn (police detective) has a vindictive cousin on the Fire Dept and tries to come between Clare and Mike. Apparently Mike is the only cop in a fireman dominant family and there is definitely bad blood between these two and Clare is smack in the middle. More coffee house fires break out around town and one of the firemen that saved Madame is tragically claimed in one of those fires. Clare even receives a threat to her dear coffee house. Can Clare figure out who the arsonist is before her place explodes next and can she stay out the cousin's ploys to break her and Mike up?
Pacing is a tad slow initially, but don't be fooled - valuable information is being gathered and you will need it as the story progresses. The last half of the book really picks up steam - rolling along through the nail biting confrontation with the killer (yes three people end up dead).
Clare is a heroine that most can relate to, even if there are still those moments the reader is yelling "don't do it!" Det. Mike Quinn is distant in this story since he is pretty closed lipped about the feud between him and his cousin. He is more closed off to Clare in this one. Clare's ex, Matteo, is there a good bit (although now married) to lend a helping hand and Clare's right hand guy in the coffee house, Dante, goes "under-cover" at one point with Clare. I like this minor character and he shines in this installment.  
First came the sound, a monumental whoosh followed by a hissing roar.  The the white-hot concussion rippled through the air, the caffe's front window exploded outward and the blast washed over me.

My eyes were at the heyhole level while I worked the stupid stubborn lock, and the force of the firebomb knocked me right through the doorway.

Sprawled on my back on the debris-strewn sidewalk, I turned my head, stared the the carpet of glass shards.  Blood started pumping through my system so fast I could barely recognize voices yelling, a car horn beeping.  I was unhurt.  Small scratches maybe, a few bruises, a little bleeding - big deal - I was okay otherwise, and I focused on throwing off the shock.

Smoke rolled out of the caffe, the noxious fog billowing upward in succession of black, misshapen balloons.  Wheezing and coughing, I got back on my feet and scanned the sidewalk for the beer-filled barista.

"Dante!" I shouted, rushing to the caffe entrance.  "Dante!"
The coffee house fires and the personal schemes of  the Detective's cousin are closely interwoven. There were only two times when I thought a scene was a tinsy bit contrived which flagged me that there must be something important revealed. Overall the plotting is handled well and strong with several red herrings to mix it up. One big Kudo to the author, so often the heroine in mystery stories ends up needing rescued (shades of Nancy Drew), but in a nice twist Clare is the one who comes to Det Mike Quinn's aid! Nice touch there. The novel wraps up nicely and the culprit is probably not who you are going to think it is!
I started with the first few in this series a little while back and have missed a few in between then and this newest addition.  I first thought of these as cozy mysteries, but I think they have evolved more into amateur sleuth territory while still retaining some of the comforting feel of the cozy.
The back material has a guide to coffee roasting and several wonderful recipes.
This story features the Fire Department of NY quite a bit and you will gain a new appreciation for what fire personel go through in the course of this novel.

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Now for a Special Coffee Treat:
Coffee Bars
Yield 2 - 3 dozen
* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup milk
* 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules (alternate: decaf)
* 1/4 cup butter
* 1 cup white sugar
* 1 cup confectioners' sugar
* 1 egg
* 1 cup chopped almonds
* 3 cups confectioners' sugar
* 1/3 cup evaporated milk
* 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Combine flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt; set these dry ingredients aside.
2. Combine milk and instant coffee in saucepan, and heat at a medium low setting. Stir until coffee dissolves, and remove from the heat.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter or margarine with the white sugar and 1 cup confectioners' sugar. Beat in the egg, and then beat in the coffee mixture. Gradually blend in the mixture of dry ingredients, and fold in the almonds.
4. Spread dough evenly in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack.
5. To Make Frosting: Put 1 cup of the confectioners' sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat in the evaporated milk and vanilla extract. Gradually beat in remaining 2 cups of confectioners' sugar. Continue beating until of desired consistency. If consistency is too thick, add a little more milk; if it is too thin, add more powdered sugar.
6. Frost the bars with the icing.
Cut into large or small bars.
Or if you REALLY love coffee, use this for the frosting:
Coffee Frosting
* 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules (alternate: decaf)
* 1/4 cup milk
* 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
* 6 tablespoons butter
* 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 5 cups confectioners' sugar
Mix together; instant coffee or leftover coffee, milk, cocoa powder, butter or margarine, vanilla extract, and confectioners' sugar until of spreading consistency. Makes more than enough to frost a 13x9 inch sheet cake.
And now for a Video Treat...Coffee Art!

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Karen Russell said...

I liked this one, too -- and agree with you about Clare. Don't forget she also saved Dante and the firefighters were impressed! I wish more cozies featured strong women like Clare.

A.F. Heart said...


Absolutely correct. Clare is presented as a woman of action and thought in this. I appreciate that.

Thank you for your comment!!


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