Review: A Brew to a Kill by Cleo Coyle

A Brew to a Kill
Cleo Coyle

Product Description (from

Coffee. It can get a girl killed.

A shocking hit-and-run in front of her Village Blend coffeehouse spurs Clare Cosi into action. A divorced, single mom in her forties, Clare is also a dedicated sleuth, and she’s determined to track down this ruthless driver who ran down an innocent friend and customer. In the meantime, her ex-husband Matt, the shop’s globetrotting coffee buyer, sources some amazing new beans from Brazil. But he soon discovers that he’s importing more than coffee, and Clare may have been the real target of that deadly driver. Can ex-husband and wife work together to solve this mystery? Or will their newest brew lead to murder? Includes recipes.

My Thoughts

Cleo Coyle’s new Coffeehouse Mysteries have been coming out in early August for the last couple of years, which means I always use birthday money to buy them for myself. A Brew to a Kill was one of the best birthday gifts I’ve ever received. :)

This new installment of the caffeinated adventures of Clare Cosi and company incorporates two nifty modern trends, social media and cupcakes, and adds a mystery that introduces us to an old colleague of Mike Quinn’s who might be almost as cool (but only almost) as well as new friends, but rest assured the entire gang from the Village Blend is well represented, in all their slam-poetry and art-creating glory, and ex-husband Matt and his mother Madame are both deeply involved in the mystery that involves Brazilian coffee, Asian cooking, drug trafficking, class snobbery, and a mobile version of the Village Blend (if only there was such a coffee van in my neighborhood – Starbucks should deliver, at least in suburban Texas).

Of course there’s a secondary storyline about the ongoing romance between Clare and Mike, but their relationship gets a new twist thrown into it in this book. To borrow a phrase from a favorite character in a totally different genre and medium, “Spoilers, Sweetie.” Translation: I don’t do plot reveals – you’ll have to read the actual book.

What I love about Coyle’s characters is that in both the Coffeehouse Mysteries and in the Haunted Bookshop series (which next installment cannot come soon enough) the protagonists are adults. Clare is in her forties, and Penelope is a single mother. They both have multi-dimensional lives with jobs, homes, and friends, and come across as completely real people. The men, too, are very vivid. Both Mike and Matteo are guys who could easily step off the page. (I confess, however, that in my mind’s eye Mike Quinn is played by Chris Noth and Matteo is played by Michael Sheen, who is Welsh, yes, but has that dark, curly hair that is generic European).

And then there are the recipes. I’ve tried several of the recipes in the Coffeehouse books (the Donut Shop Muffins are a favorite) and not only are they well written, but they never fail to please. For someone who is notorious for having a book with her at every meal, the fact that the author gives us the ability to reproduce key foods makes the books live longer.

A Brew to a Kill was an excellent read, and I’m excited to know that another Coffeehouse Mystery is due out before Christmas. Long live Cleo Coyle! Long live the Village Blend.

Goes well with: a double cappuccino and anything chocolate (I read my copy while enjoying chocolate raspberry birthday cake).

Review: Murder by Mocha

Readers Imbibing Peril (art by Melissa Nucera)

Murder by Mocha
Cleo Coyle

Description (from
The national bestselling author of Roast Mortem serves readers a fresh new Coffeehouse Mystery.

Includes chocolate recipes!

A divorced, single mom in her forties, Clare Cosi is a coffee shop manager by day, an irrepressible snoop by night. When something is wrong, she considers it her mission in life to right it, and murder is as wrong as it gets.

Can coffee enhance your love life? Clare’s Village Blend coffee beans are being used to create a new java love potion: a Mocha Magic Coffee that’s laced with an herbal aphrodisiac. The product, expected to rake in millions, will be sold exclusively on Aphrodite’s Village, one of the most popular online communities for women. But at the product’s launch party, one of the website’s editors is murdered. Clare is convinced someone wants control of the coffee’s secret formula and is willing to kill to get it. Can she stir up evidence against this bitter killer? Or will she be next on the hit list?

Murder by Mocha

I’m not entirely sure what prompted me to start reading Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse Mysteries, but I fell in love with her work pretty much instantly. Why wouldn’t I? I’ve been a barista, and I am a coffee snob.

In the most recent addition to this series, Clare Cosi is getting more and more serious with her police detective boyfriend Mike Quinn, and there are two separate murder cases. One’s Clare’s baby, and involves the company funding Mocha Magic, the chocolatey coffee aphrodisiac for which her beans are being used. The other’s a cold case that involves Mike’s colleague (and Clare’s daughter’s lover) Franco.

As always the dialogue is snappy, the descriptions of place feel three dimensional, and the plot is gripping without being too bloody or too silly. It was nice to see Clare’s ex in a helpful role this time, and I get a big kick out of her (former) mother-in-law, as well as the staff of the Village Blend Coffeehouse.

Cosi’s books are always a great way to fall into a season of Autumn mystery reading, and this one marks my first official entry in the 2011 R.I.P. celebration of dark literature.

Goes well with: a salted caramel mocha.

Murder by Mocha
Cleo Coyle
Berkeley, August 2011
384 pages
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Review: Roast Mortem, by Cleo Coyle

Roast Mortem
Roast Mortem
Cleo Coyle
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I cannot begin to tell you what the best colon cleansing pill might be because as a woman who was literally weaned on espresso, I’ve never needed one. Speaking of espresso, I’ve just finished reading Cleo Coyle’s latest coffee house mystery, Roast Mortem, which was also the first Kindle book I actually paid for.

As with all of Coyle’s coffee house novels, Roast Mortem is the perfect blend of coffeehouse coziness, romance, and mystery. This far into the series, we’ve met all the main characters – Claire Cosi, manager of the Village Blend, her ex-husband and business partner Matt Allegro, and his incredibly wealthy mother, the various baristas and their friends, and of course NYPD detective Mike Quinn, whose relationship with Claire has a new sense of stability, even (dare I hope?) permanence.

But it’s another Quinn, Michael Quinn, a NYFD chief, who is one of the stars of this novel. We first met him a couple of books ago, when he fished Ms. Cosi out of some frigid water, and his animosity-laden relationship with Detective Quinn, is first cousin, came to light, but in this book, which involves a serious of explosive-started fires at various coffee houses, we learn more about him, and we also – finally – find out why the cousins don’t get along.

Of course Claire is in jeopardy more than once, and ends up leading the NYPD to the murderer (and the NYFD to the arsonist), and of course there are all sorts of coffeehouse recipes scattered through the book (and listed at the end for those of us who love to cook at home), but even though these novels are fairly formulaic, they’re also so well written that the predictability doesn’t matter, and the stories remain compelling because Coyle is so good at setting scene and creating characters.

While the coffee house mysteries can be read as stand-alone novels, they’re much richer if you read the series in order, so you can watch relationships develop from book to book. Either way, however, I recommend Roast Mortem to anyone who loves a good mystery, and a great cup of coffee.

Goes well with a doppio espresso and any kind of chocolate baked good.

Mini-Review: Decaffeinated Corpse

Decaffeinated Corpse
Decaffeinated Corpse
by Cleo Coyle
Berkley, 288 pages
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Let’s face it, the recipes in the backs of Cleo Coyle’s coffeehouse mysteries are not exactly keys to quick trim weight loss, but the reality is, as much fun as the recipes are (and I’ve actually tried some of them) it’s the cozy Village Blend coffeehouse and the adventures of cafe manager Clare Cosi that keep us reading.

In Book 5 of the Coffeehouse Mysteries, Clare is investigating her husband’s friend, a coffee grower and playboy from Costa Gravas, who just happens to be the breeder of a decaffeinated coffee plant – as in, no need to water process the beans. There are, of course, corpses in the story, and the mystery this time seemed a bit trickier than the first four novels, but I also read this one out of sequence, since I reviewed another of Ms. Coyle’s books, Holiday Grind in All Things Girl over the holidays.

In that book, the relationship between Clare in NYPD Detective Mike Quinn had become pretty solid; in this one, they shared their first kiss.

As always, Ms. Coyle’s blend of romance, mystery, intrigue, and coffee suits me perfectly when I want light reading.

Reviewed Elsewhere: Holiday Grind, by Cleo Coyle

Holiday Blend

From the moment I first picked up a Cleo Coyle novel, I knew I’d found a kindred spirit – two really – one in Ms. Coyle herself, and the other in her lead character Clare Cosi, who cooks with an Italian flair and has espresso running in her veins.

Recently, I read Ms. Coyle’s latest coffeehouse novel, Holiday Grind which features cafe owner and amateur detective tracking down the person responsible for killing her customer (and friend), Alf, who spends his winter days as a street corner Santa Claus.

If you’ve never read a coffeehouse mystery, you should know that all the books are the type of cozy mysteries that go best with froufrou espresso drinks, chocolate dipped biscotti, and the crackling sound from Amish fireplaces.

Look for my review of Holiday Grind later this month in All Things Girl.

Teaser Tuesdays: Holiday Grind by Cleo Coyle

On Teaser Tuesdays readers are asked to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between 7 and 12 lines.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given.

My teaser this week is from Holiday Grind, by Cleo Coyle. I’ve been reading it from my cozy house, where it finally feels like November (49 degrees at 6:41 PM) and taking breaks to mock the people across the street who don’t seem to know how their moving truck works.

If you don’t know the Coffeehouse Mysteries, you should seriously check them out. Anyway, here’s the teaser:

There was nothing like walking through the Village on a snowy winter night. The few vehicles on the slippery street crept along no faster than horse-drawn carriages. Every surface appeared flocked with white; the pungent smell of active old fireplaces floated through the air; and bundled couples hurried past dark storefronts, eager to get back to their warm apartments or inside a cozy pub for a glass of mulled wine or mug of Irish coffee.

As I passed by St. Luke’s churchyard, the whole world seemed to go silent, save the icy flurries that still pecked at my parka and the crunch, crunch, crunching of my winter boots. At one intersection I stood alone, watching a traffic light provide a signal for crossroads that had no traffic. Hands in pockets, I waited half amused as the bright red light flipped to green in an unintentional
Christmas display just for me.

from Holiday Grind, chapter 3, by Cleo Coyle.

Review: On What Grounds, by Cleo Coyle

On What GroundsOn What Grounds
by Cleo Coyle
Get it at Amazon

In the first of the Coffeehouse Mysteries, a cozy series set in the fictional Village Blend coffeehouse in Greenwich Village, we met Claire Cosi, divorced writer, coffee addict, mother of a daughter going off to college, and ex-daughter-in-law of the woman who owns the coffeehouse, whom we come to know simply as “Madame.”

Madame, it seems, is dissatisfied with the most recent manager of the coffeehouse, and she has dangled in front of Claire a carrot that cannot be refused: live in the furnished luxury townhouse above the cafe, and resume the management position she left after divorcing her daughter’s father, Matteo, while earning shares of the company.

Claire agrees, and is reflecting upon all of this as she drives into the coffeehouse one morning. Upon arrival, she finds one of her employees lying near death on the floor, and – convinced it was not an accident – becomes an amateur sleuth in order to find the truth. Along the way, she strikes up a friendship with police detective Mike Quinn, and drags Matteo (who has been offered a similar arrangement, but without the management duties) into her investigation.

The plot is fast-paced, the characters representative of the regulars you’d find in any urban coffee bar, and there is enough espresso lore woven through the pages to make anyone crave a venti skinny vanilla latte while reading. To cap it off, author Coyle has included recipes at the back of the book.

This is the first in the series.
Other titles I’ve read in this series include:
Through the Grinder
Latte Trouble
Murder Most Frothy

Goes well with: A classic cappuccino and a biscotti or two.