Decaffeinated Corpse~ A Coffeehouse Murder Mystery for Halloween, by Cleo Coyle. Review
Decaffeinated Corpse --- A Coffeehouse Mystery, by Cleo Coyle
Or Maybe the Title Should Be ~ Decaffeinated Corpses ~ ?
Because there are actually three murders in this book. One of them committed by a guy dressed as Zorro at a Halloween party, in front of the guests.
Only two murderers, though.
It all has to do with a coffee shrub --- "tree" is a misnomer, I learned from this book --- that grows beans that are already "decaffeinated".
There's no process. They just grow that way.
But, then, there's the weighty issue of paperwork in order to obtain a plant patent from the United States government.
And, what about that South American dictator, whose administration appropriated the Gostwick family plantation--- where the botanically decaf beans had been developed?
Decaffeinated Corpse: A Coffeehouse Mystery, by Cleo Coyle
Clare and her ex are still business partners and co-owners of the Village Blend Coffeehouse in Greenwich Village. They're also still parents of Joy, as well.
An old college friend, Federico Gostwick, is assaulted in the alley behind the Village Blend. He has developed a coffee plant that grows beans naturally low in caffeine. No need to process.
Clare and Matteo Double-Dated With Federico and Ellie in College
One afternoon, Clare empties garbage in the alley behind the Blend. She finds a guy knocked out in the alley. He turns out to be an old friend of Clare and her ex-husband, Matteo.
Clare is a little baffled when Federico (Ric) doesn't want to file a police report. Neither Ric nor Matt will answer her questions regarding what's going on.
Clare's friend, NYPD Detective Mike Quinn, said that when a person doesn't want to report a crime, it's usually because that person is also a criminal.
Ellie and Ric Never Married, Though
Clare was pregnant with Joy when she and Matt married. Their marriage lasted ten years. Matt cheated and gambled and took drugs during their marriage.
Ric tells Clare that their friend Ellie is helping him with the paperwork for what Clare thinks is a plant patent. Clare looks Ellie up, hoping to find out more about the plant. She still wonders why Ric doesn't want to make a police report, or get medical attention regarding the assault.
Clare and Ellie hadn't seen each other for over ten years. They converse a little over lunch. Clare discovers that Ellie perhaps has a bit of judgmental attitude toward Clare because of her "failed" marriage --- and a few other things.
Recipes and Tips From the Village Blend
A very nice resource in the back of each book in this series.
This particular one even has a recipe for "Carne Con Cafe" --- "Matt's Ragout" a braise or stew of beef made with coffee. And, why not use coffee as a braising liquid? Sounds delightful.
There's a little bit of information about the caffeine content of different drinks and things. I didn't know that an espresso actually has less caffeine than a regular cup.
Also, a recipe for a very nice coffee cake.
And, cappuccino muffins!
O'Henry's Introduction to The Four Million, His Second Collection of Short Stories ~~
~Not very long ago some one invented the assertion that there were only "Four Hundred" people in New York City who were really worth noticing. But a wiser man has arisen--the census taker--and his larger estimate of human interest has been preferred in marking out the field of these little stories of the "Four Million."~
The Four Million, by O'Henry, Kindle Edition
Big Adam's Apple-Bobbing for Halloween
One of the my favorite parts of this book is the very adept, respectfully accurate vignette of Halloween in Greenwich Village.
The authors' affection for the quirky rhythms of street life in Manhattan reminded me of O'Henry's The Four Million. (But, updated for a new century.) ~~~~~~~
"Sorry, ma'am. We can't be going any farther. There's craziness ahead."
I could hear exasperation behind the limo driver's Caribbean lilt. . . .
. . .
Madame sighed. "Very well, we shall walk from here."
Matt climbed out of the Town Car. Adjusting his Zorro hat over his black mask, he circled the car and opened the door. Madame lifted her hand. With a dramatic flourish, Matt tossed the ebony cape over his shoulder, pushed back his plastic sword, and took his mother's hand. Madame's elaborate red and white gown rustled as she exited the car.
"Welcome to the Halloween parade, Your Majesty," Matt said with a deep bow.
The Queen of Hearts curtsied, eliciting a smattering of applause from the spectators, many of whom were also in costume.
Madame's outfit was suitably outrageous. Her faux Elizabethan dress, with a large scarlet heart bodice, ballooned as she stepped onto the sidewalk, and the crowd parted to give her room to pass. She wore a tasteful tiara in her upswept silver hair and long red opera gloves on her arms. . . .
. . .
. . . I was to play that iconic First Lady, Jackie, O . . .
. . .
". . . the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade was in full swing. . . . Dancers, artists, musicians, and even circus performers strutted their stuff beside floats, live bands, and street theater troupes.
. . . everything from swing to rock and roll to traditional Tibetan chants. . . .
. . .
. . . We'd already waded through zombies, ghosts, ghouls, superheroes, politicians, and bugs (spiders, flies, and a pair of New York cockroaches) . . .
. . .
But a long chorus line of garishly clad transvestites stopped dead in their tracks to allow Madame to pass.
"After you, Your Grace," Carmen Miranda called, adjusting a headpiece made of waxed fuit.
"Jackie O, that dress is so divine," Tina Turned called in a voice much deeper than any recording of the Acid Queen I'd ever heard.
Jayne Mansfield whipped a white feather boa around her closely shaved throat. "Well, I never," he/she snorted.
"You don't really love Jack!" a gold lame-clad Marilyn Monroe called in a silky voice. "Set the President free so I can have him!"
A man in Yankee pinstripes waved a plastic bat at Marilyn. "I told you to stay away from those Irish boys. They'll be the death of you," the Joe DiMaggio lookalike complained.
These are the kinds of passages I really appreciate about Cleo books.
Cleo really captures the true rhythm of the amazing New York sidewalks. I appreciate that because I'm a geezer old enough to remember sidewalks.
More About Sidewalks
Sidewalks used to be a a part of life, even where I grew up, in Pittsburgh, a few blocks away from what used to be the Heinz Factory, right on the banks of the Allegheny River, right by the Sixteenth Street Bridge.
On days when they were making ketchup and vinegar there, you could smell it up on Troy Hill, my neighborhood.
The Authors Stay Out of the Way
In some mysteries, the plot is strong, but the narration can still be a little intrusive. Or, perhaps a little weak. The reader has to stop to ask how did we get into the kitchen. I thought we were out in the garden, planting bulbs. Or, how did it get to be World War II? I thought we were on a college campus in the 60's?
The Coffee House Mysteries never have these kinds of problems for me. Even though Clare breaks off the first-person narration sometimes to show a "flashback" or "backstory" --- or she narrates her way all through the drive from Here to There --- these directions are transparent. I never lose track of the story itself. It's as if there's a portal into the Blend's universe.
A universe inhabited by two very smart, handsome, charming guys.
Her new "friend" Mike Quinn and the ex-husband, Matt, are both there to protect her and Joy. Two very smart, handsome, charming guys, both fond of Clare ~~ Talk about vicarious enjoyment!
[Of course I realize it's a ploy to hook female readers. That's what I like about it :-) --- that, and the part where they're smart, charming, handsome, and protective.]
Reel Me In
Each chapter offers a little surprise and ends on a bit of a "cliffhanger". I kept thinking I'll stop reading at the end of this chapter, but, forget it. Had to keep going.
In addition to the story and the relationships among the characters --- even the baristas --- I found out some things about the history of Manhattan, and about coffee. Not just preparing and drinking it, but also growing, shipping and marketing it.
There's no scarcity of red herrings littering the beaches, either
The word that comes to my mind so often when I read this book is "generous". I felt that way about Holiday Grind , as well.
Art Deco Masterpiece
A Sense of Time and History
Chapter Seventeen starts:
Two nights later, the last thing I expected to see was a body plunging from the twenty-sixth floor balcony of a New York City landmark. . . .
Things started out well enough the night of the Gostwick Estate Reserve Decaf launch party at the Beekman. . . .
Built in 1928, the Beekman was one of the city's true art deco masterpieces, the fawn brown stone giving it a distinctive facade amid the gray steel of the city's more modern skyscrapers.
Don't Miss This One ~~ Definitely Recommended!
Reading them out of order like this has not at all decreased my enjoyment of these books. They are great as standalones.
I am really looking forward to finding out what came before, though. I'll definitely be reading this series all the way through, if these two books are any indication.
I love the characters. They're charming and a little weird.
I think it's very fun and homey that Clare co-owns the business and the building with her ex-husband. She lives right upstairs of the Blend, in a 100 year-old building. What could be better.
For A List Of All Titles in This Series . . .
Alice Alfonsi and her husband Marc Cerasini work together to write the Coffeehouse Mysteries under the pen name of Cleo Coyle. Berkley Prime Crime has been publishing this National Bestselling series of books...
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