On What Grounds by Cleo Coyle
Published by Blackstone Audio on June 7, 2011
Series: Coffeehouse Mystery #1
Genre: Cozy Mystery, Mystery
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Clare Cosi used to manage the historic Village Blend coffeehouse...until she opted for quieter pastures and a more suburban life. But after ten years and a little friendly cajoling from the owner (a fresh pot of Jamaican Blue Mountain was all it took), she's back to the grind.
With a sprawling rent-free apartment directly above the Village Blend, her cat Java by her side, and plenty of coffeehouse redecorating ideas, Clare is thrilled to return to work. Until she discovers the assistant manager unconscious in the back of the store, coffee grounds strewn everywhere.
Police arrive on the scene to investigate. But when they find no sign of forced entry or foul play, they deem it an accident. Case closed. But Clare is not convinced. And after the police leave, there are a few things she just can't get out of her mind...Why was the trash bin in the wrong place? If this wasn't an accident, is Clare in danger? And are all detectives this handsome?
On What Grounds is the first cozy mystery I’ve read in a long time, and one of the only cozies I’ve ever read. I’ve shied away from them in the past in favor of darker mysteries, but it’s nice to have a palate cleanser once in a while!
The story takes place in a Manhattan coffeehouse, but the Village Blend is no Starbucks. (No shade at all to Starbucks, as evidenced by all the $$$ I spend there weekly.) Clare Cosi was once the manager, but she gave up the job when she moved to the suburbs to raise her daughter. Now that her daughter is in college, divorcee Clare has returned to the city and her old job.
Early one morning before opening, Clare discovers her assistant manager, Annabelle, unconscious at the bottom of the back stairs. *cue opening theme to The Staircase* The police conclude that it’s an accident, but Clare isn’t convinced that the graceful dancer would have simply tripped and fallen.
Clare finds herself playing amateur detective alongside her ex-husband, Matteo, as well as actual detective Mike Quinn. Along the way, Clare dodges her ex’s flirtations and explores the possibility of new affections.
I enjoyed this book so much! This genre is perfectly named because I found something about the story comforting. There’s a mystery, but the details never become overly dark or gruesome—although there are some relatively disturbing parts to the plot.
My only mild complaint is that the book—published in 2003–definitely comes across as dated at times. References to a man’s Caesar haircut (hello, ER-era George Clooney) and Palm Pilots (the granddaddy of smartphones?) made me nostalgic and kind of cringey at the same time. Also, the author had an interesting way of sprinkling people of color throughout the book by describing them as “the Filipino orderly,” “the Chinese doctor,” “the African American businessman,” etc. On the one hand, props for having characters who are people of color…but on the other hand, I caught a whiff of tokenism here and there. I think the book could use an update, just in terms of the descriptors and ways that people of color are included.
All in all, I enjoyed the mystery, which also included a side of romance (and potential love triangle for future books in the series). The narrative is heavy at times on the technical aspects of gourmet coffee making, so if you’re a coffee drinker, you might find yourself craving a cup every chapter too.
I look forward to reading the next book in the series!
Rating: 4.5 stars