If it's late summer/early fall, then I know it's time for a new installment in the Coffeehouse Mystery series by Cleo Coyle. I am a huge fan of the cozy mystery genre but sometimes they cross the line into "too silly" for me and just too fluffy. This series has been wonderful from the start, the quality has remained exceptional throughout, and none of the books have crossed my personal "silliness" line.
My first exposure to the series came in 2006 when I read the first three books in a two week period and LOVED them! Now, I eagerly look forward to the next installment, waiting to get my coffeehouse fix. I have to say that I open each new novel with a moment of hesitation, afraid that my love affair with the series may be about to end since it won't meet my hopes and expectations; it has yet to happen. As with all books, some I like better than others largely based upon the subject matter but they are all well-written and I rate them from very good to great. The quality is consistently high which is pretty amazing for a series ten books long. To cut to the chase, I was pleased again and impressed that this writing team has been able to keep it fresh and interesting over the years.
As with all the Coffeehouse mysteries, our main character is Clare Cosi, the manager and operator of The Village Blend, an independent coffee shop in the heart of Greenwich Village. Clare is a character with a bit more maturity (she has an adult daughter named Joy who is one of the characters) and it really helps keep these out of the silly arena. The time out, The Village Blend is providing coffee beans to be used in creating Mocha Magic Coffee which is being launched as an effective aphrodisiac. Blended with chocolate and herbs, not only does it taste very good, the impact on the love life have the developers convinced it will bring in huge amounts of money. It's going to be sold on-line as part of Aphrodite's Village, a web community catering to women. As in all murder mysteries, not everything is as it seems on the surface and people are being attacked and killed. Exactly who is committing the murders and why are important to Clare as the reputation and future of The Village Blend could suffer.
Each installment seems to be written with a slightly different twist (which is part of the success I am sure) and this one is a bit edgier and moves a bit more toward the Janet Evanovich style. The product that starts all this mess is an aphrodisiac so I will leave it at that for you to figure out my meaning. It also is interesting how periodically we are in the mind of the murderer to see how he/she is feeling and reacting to what is taking place. The identity remains a secret until the very end, but it is a helpful tool in adding some dimension to a genre that is often very linear. Also, the murders are a bit more graphic and happen "on screen" so to speak which is different from traditional cozies but it works well and adds action and variety. For folks who have complained before about the novels containing too much information on coffee, it is handled more lightly this time and there isn't as much in this book.
Bottom line: A great mystery with a plausible motive for the murder. A cast of characters that are evolving and growing. A strong sense of place and setting. In my opinion, another winner and remains the best series out there.