I can't think of a more appropriate book for a Sunday Salon than Cleo Coyle's mystery, Holiday Grind, since the story opens with Clare Cosi, manager and head barista at the Village Blend coffeehouse holding a tasting. And, before plunging into the mystery, Clare challenges her baristas, and the reader, with the question, "What does Christmas taste like?" She's putting together a tempting menu of holiday coffee drinks, but the reader is immediately tempted to take part in that memory trip.
Before the book becomes too cozy, though, Coyle skillfully sets the trap for Clare and the reader. Alf Glockner, a Traveling Santa, and the inspiration for the Village Blend's "Taste of Christmas," fails to show up for the party, so Clare goes looking for him. She's familiar with Alf's route as a Traveling Santa, but she doesn't expect to end up in a deserted alley, finding his body. And, it's evident this isn't going to be a cozy when Clare's first thought is, "Someone had mugged and murdered Santa Claus!"
It's too bad footprints were erased when police chased another mugger down the alley, running right over Clare. She knew there were clues, but the detectives that arrived weren't prepared to take her seriously. Fortunately, her boyfriend, Detective Mike Quinn, understands her need to find the killer of her friend, Alf. And, Clare has a few other allies in her search for a murderer.
Holiday Grind is the eighth book in Coyle's Coffeehouse Mystery series. However, I hadn't read previous books, and you don't need to have read them to enjoy, and appreciate, Clare, Village Blend, and the supporting cast of characters. Cleo Coyle expertly introduces Clare, her baristas, and her ex-husband, Matteo Allegro, who is a coffee broker, and buyer for the coffeehouse, and Cleo's partner in the business. And, her relationship with her ex-mother-in-law, Madame Dreyfus Allegro Dubois, is wonderful. Madame is Clare's boss, her landlord, her former-mother-in-law, the biggest champion of Clare's daughter, Clare's best friend, and, fortunately for Clare, a well-connected snoop. And, there's Mike Quinn, a police detective with a past that could spoil Christmas, and his own cold case that's heating up at the holidays.
Coyle's Holiday Grind includes tons of coffee hints, drink recipes, and other holiday recipes. But, it's not all sugarplums and cookies for Clare Cosi. Alf's death thrusts her into an investigation that turns violent. If you're looking for holiday reading that isn't all sweetness and light, Holiday Grind offers the perfect combination of Christmas atmosphere, a well-developed cast of characters, and a complicated mystery.
Cleo Coyle's website is www.CoffeeHouseMystery.com
Holiday Grind by Cleo Coyle. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2009. ISBN 9780425230053 (hardcover), 384p.
***FTC Full Disclosure - This was a review copy of Holiday Grind, sent by the author, in hopes I would review the book.