At times, it seems so many of today's thrillers glory in violence, the grittiness, the gore of death. And, I do read some thrillers. But, my true passion is for the traditional mystery. This is only my opinion, but I think the best mysteries acknowledge violent death, but, instead of glorying in the violence, they make readers aware of the tragic loss of a life. How many thrillers treat death as a true tragedy? In thrillers, the bodies pile up, and the dead never seem to be acknowledged. But, in the hands of a gifted mystery writer, a Louise Penny, or a Cleo Coyle, each individual death is seen as a loss. Penny, one of my favorite authors, has been handsomely rewarded, and awarded, for her mysteries of humanity. Maybe Cleo Coyle hasn't been as recognized because her mysteries center around a coffeehouse, and they include humor and romance. But, Cleo Coyle's latest book, the tenth in the Coffeehouse Mystery series, Murder by Mocha, acknowledges every death as a tragedy, as a loss of humanity.
Clare Cosi's former mother-in-law, Madame Blanche Dreyfus Allegro Dubois, is her boss and friend. Clare is the manager and head barista at Village Blend, a landmark coffeehouse in Greenwich Village. But, Clare's a little concerned about the latest business deal Madame has put together. The Village Blend supplies the coffee beans, Voss Chocolate supplies the chocolate, and together with some mysterious herbs, they're combined to form Mocha Magic Coffee, an herbal aphrodisiac that's about to be released at a trade fair by a secretive businesswoman known as Aphrodite. But, Madame and an old friend, Alice Bower, one of Aphrodite's assistants, call on Clare for help with the police even before the trade fair starts. Clare dates Mike Quinn, a NYPD detective, so she knows some police officers, and is able to handle a few problems at a hotel, but it's only the start of problems connected with Aphrodite and Mocha Magic Coffee. Clare is a very observant witness, important to the police when they have to crash the launch party for the new product. It's a launch party that launches a series of murders, not just a coffee/chocolate aphrodisiac. And, it launches Clare Cosi into another mystery, one that involves secrets from Madame's past. This time, it's a mystery, and a business, that could destroy Village Blend, and people Clare has grown to love.
Murder by Mocha isn't all heavy drama. There's humor and light drama, some of it surrounding tryouts for a new play, Return to Munchkin Land. There's family reunions, when Clare's ex-husband returns with their daughter, Joy. There's love and romance for three generations of women. The story includes all the interesting characters that hang out at Village Blend. And, of course, there are the wonderful chocolate recipes to die for at the end of the book, and all the discussion of coffee and chocolate. There's even one of my favorite elements in a mystery, a cold case.
But, most of all, Cleo Coyle writes mysteries with heart. I mentioned that the best mysteries acknowledge the loss of life. One paragraph in this book made me realize that. It was the moment when Clare realizes the first victim had been waiting for "the man she loved," to come home. She was counting down the time. And, Clare knew if he returned, it would be for her funeral. And, when Clare had tears, a police officer said to her, "Sorry, Cosi. When bad guys win, I know it's hard to take. But that's the world we live in. Answers never come easy, and you can't expect miracles."
Traditional mysteries? They acknowledge the hurt, the loss. And, then they attempt to make the world right again, to find answers. Gifted authors, such as Cleo Coyle, and good mysteries, such as Murder by Mocha, try to find answers to the tragedies of violent death.
If you're intrigued by the review of Murder by Mocha, or you're a fan of Cleo Coyle's books, stop back this evening for the kickoff of this week's giveaway. I'm running a contest for personally inscribed copies of Murder by Mocha and Cleo's Roast Mortem. Complete details tonight!
Cleo Coyle's website is www.CoffeehouseMystery.com
Murder by Mocha by Cleo Coyle. Berkley Prime Crime. ©2011. ISBN 9780425241431 (hardcover), 384p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The author sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.