A Brew to a Kill (Coffeehouse Mystery Series #11)by Cleo Coyle
Greenwich Village coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi is rolling with a popular new trend, until someone close to her is driven to kill…
The Village Blend’s Muffin Muse coffee truck is all the rage. Clare’s premium drinks served with a sassy side of Esther’s Slam Poetry makes it a treat to track through all five boroughs. But a fatal/i>
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Greenwich Village coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi is rolling with a popular new trend, until someone close to her is driven to kill…
The Village Blend’s Muffin Muse coffee truck is all the rage. Clare’s premium drinks served with a sassy side of Esther’s Slam Poetry makes it a treat to track through all five boroughs. But a fatal hit-and-run, followed by a mysterious death at a food truck–catered wedding give Clare a clue that something bitter is brewing.
Then she opens a bag of imported coffee beans and finds ten pounds of rocks—the kind that will earn you a twenty-year jail sentence. Is her ex-husband and business partner smuggling Brazilian crack? Is her staff now in danger?
To clear up this murky brew, Clare must sweet talk two Federal agents, dupe a drug kingpin, stake out a Dragon Boat festival, and teach a cocky young undercover cop how to pull the perfect espresso—all while keeping herself and her baristas out of hot water.
Coffee. It can get a girl killed.
Includes coffee cake and muffin recipes!
"Coyle is not sitting back with the 11th entry (after Murder by Mocha) in her popular series. She has taken the coffeehouse on the road, cleverly incorporating the food truck fad and introducing fresh new characters. Newcomers to the series can easily pick up the storyline. A collection of astonishingly varied and drool-inducing recipes is included."—Library Journal
"A foodie’s delight, packed with information on coffee and desserts, along with appended recipes and a satisfyingly rich mystery."—Kirkus Reviews
"Fans of the Coffee House series will savor another serving of Clare’s pluck as she deals with her ex-husband, her imperious ex-mother-in-law, and her current beau, a police officer."—Booklist
"Coyle... lavishly details an ethnically diverse New York City in her lively 11th coffeehouse mystery featuring Clare Cosi."—Publishers Weekly
Read an Excerpt
This seems to be the basic need of the human heart in nearly every great crisis—a good hot cup of coffee.
—Alexander King, I Should Have Kissed Her More
“In times like these, Clare, failing to take a risk is the biggest risk of all.”
Across the café table’s cool marble surface, Madame Dreyfus Allegro Dubois pinned me with her near-violet eyes. “Don’t you agree?”
Of course, I agree. I wanted to shout this, scream it. Risk and I were old friends, and if anyone knew that, my octogenarian employer did.
“Investing in the new coffee truck was my idea,” I reminded her between robust hits of espresso. “I know it’s a smart idea.”
“Good. Now all you must do is convince him.”
Him was Mateo Allegro—due to arrive within the hour. An international coffee broker, Matt was the Village Blend’s coffee buyer, Madame’s only child, my ex-husband, and the father of my pride named Joy.
“Like I told you, I tried to convince him . . .” (Half a dozen e-mails worth of “try” to be precise. When text didn’t work, I placed calls overseas. Lengthy calls. Enriching AT&T hadn’t helped, either.) “The man doesn’t listen, and he’s still in a state.”
Beneath the mauve silk of her mandarin jacket, Madame’s narrow shoulders gave a little shrug. “What can I say? He’s his father’s son. All that passion, all that intensity, all that tenacity—”
“Tenacity?” I knocked on the coral-colored tabletop. “Matt’s head could break this.”
“I wouldn’t count on it, dear. For one thing, that’s Italian marble. Very old Italian marble. Old things tend to be stronger than you think.”
Sitting back in my café chair, I ran my hands along the thighs of my blue jeans and attempted to fill my lungs with a healthy dose of equilibrium. It wasn’t easy. The sun may have set, but our coffeehouse commerce was far from winding down. A line of caffeine-deprived customers hugged the espresso bar; and beyond our wall of wide-open French doors, laughing latte lovers still packed our sidewalk tables.
The city was enjoying one of those glorious stretches of early summer weather, before the high humidity hits, when afternoons are sunny and clear, and nights are pleasantly temperate. Madame and I were perched between the two—the warmth of midday and the chill of midnight, when the sun clocks out and a magical light seems to soften New York’s hard edges.
I tried my best to drink in that gentleness, that calm. All day long I’d been on my feet, dealing with bickering baristas, demanding customers, and low stock. With the arrival of my assistant manager, Tucker, I finally took a load off, along with my Village Blend apron, to welcome the coolness of early evening with warm sips of caramelized peaberries.
Unfortunately, a single shot would not be enough caffeine. I wasn’t aware of it yet, but something blacker than nightfall was headed my way, and before I knew it, the business troubling me would be murder.
At the moment, however, the business on the table (literally and figuratively) was coffee—and the question of how best to keep this business selling and serving it through the next century.
So far, Madame had seen things my way. And why not? Despite appearing as starched and restrained as a Park Avenue blueblood, Madame was a bohemian at heart, embracing the odd and offbeat. To her, authenticity mattered more than money. Flouting convention was a virtue; taking risks an asset.
“When you’re a war refugee,” she once told me, “you learn to take chances, to cross boundaries. If you don’t dare, you don’t survive . . .”
The woman had done more than toil when she’d arrived on Manhattan Island. New York City ground up polite little girls like beans through a grinder, and Madame quickly understood that working hard was not enough.
After her Italian-born husband died young, she learned how to maneuver and strategize. In order to ensure the survival of herself, her son, and this landmark business, she outwitted the scoundrels who thought they could swindle or crush her. And she’d won. This century-old business was still thriving.
As for me, I was no war refugee. I’d come to New York from a little factory town in Western Pennsylvania. But I shared Madame’s admiration for the virtue of daring—and she well knew of my long-standing relationship with the “R” word.
At nineteen I risked my future by quitting art school to have my (surprise!) baby. At twenty-nine I risked my security by leaving my marriage to an incurably immature spouse. At thirty-nine I risked my sanity by returning to my old job of managing this coffeehouse, which required working with said spouse. Since I’d turned forty, I’d risked even more to ensure the safety of my friends, my family, and my staff (a redundant mention since I considered them family, anyway).
Spending my energy reminding Madame of all that, however, would have been a waste of good caffeine, so I returned my cup to its little round porcelain nest and took a new tack.
“You know what I think?” I said.
“No, dear. I only read minds on weekends.”
“I think we’re missing the simplest solution.”
Madame’s elegant silver pageboy tilted in question.
“You’re still the owner of the Village Blend,” I pointed out. “You can break your son down with one firm conversation. Please. When he gets here, talk some sense into him.”
“I’m his mother, and he respects me. And I could do that—”
“But I won’t.”
“Because, my dear, I won’t be around forever—”
“Oh, no. Don’t start that kind of talk—”
Her gently wrinkled hand waved me silent. “One day you and Matt will own this building and this business. You must learn how to handle him.”
“Learn how to handle Matteo Allegro? I’ve been handling your son since I was nineteen!”
“You handled a boy, Clare, then a man. A lover, then a spouse. You managed your relationship through a divorce and even his remarriage. But handling a man as a romantic partner is not the same as handling him as a business partner.”
Ready to argue, I opened my mouth—and closed it again.
A single imperious head-shake from my former mother-in-law was reminder enough that further protests would be pointless. This I knew after having spent so many years being a part of this small but remarkable family (my daughter included): Matt wasn’t the only Allegro with a head harder than millennial marble.
“Just remember, Clare, conversations about money are never easy when emotion is involved, and in any long-term business relationship, emotion is always involved. But a good relationship isn’t about making things easier.”
“Then what is it about?”
“Making things better.”
Expelling a breath, I rose to fetch more caffeine. “You’ll stay for our meeting, at least, won’t you?”
Madame passed me the cup and smiled, an insightful little expression that implied her words carried more than one meaning.
“I’m not going anywhere just yet.”
“You must be crazy, Clare! Out of your managerial mind!”
Matteo Allegro’s Italian-roast eyes were wide with indignation, his voice loud enough to startle my baristas and disturb the peace of my late evening customers.
“You’re overreacting, Matt. Calm down.” I lowered my own voice an octave or twelve, hoping he’d take my cue. “This is simply an expansion. It had to be made.”
“You threw hard-earned capital out the window to purchase a food cart?!”
On a long exhale, I threw a desperate look his mother’s way. Help. Across the table, Madame allowed her gaze to meet mine in simpatico, but her jaw remained set. I warned you, dear. You want this business decision to stand? Prove it should. Handle him.
Shifting in my chair, I stared at the man.
Matt stared back—after swiping aside a dark swath of low-dangling fringe. For years, my ex had kept his hair cut Caesar-short. These days, he wore it longer than a Musketeer. With his return from this coffee-hunting trip, the locks were downright shaggy, plus he had face fur.
I knew Matt loathed shaving in hot climates, but now he’d finally pushed the “devilish rogue” thing too far. The trimmed goatee had sprouted into a caveman beard. Not that it was any of my business if he looked like he was about to plant a suitcase bomb, but I did think it time he made a date with a barber—or a Weedwacker.
While he’d let his hair go, I had to admit, the rest of his body appeared fitter than ever. Under an open denim shirt, his tight white T-shirt outlined his broad shoulders and sculpted chest. Encircling one wrist was a braided leather bracelet given to him by a coffee-growing tribe in Ecuador; fastened around the other, a costly Breitling chronometer.
Such was the recipe that defined Matteo Allegro: one part daring java trekker, one part slick international coffee buyer. Not that there wasn’t more to my ex, but that paradoxical blend epitomized Matt’s addictive appeal. At nineteen, I got hooked on the guy. By forty, I found him harder to swallow than a doctor-prescribed horse pill.
“I’m going to say this again. Try to listen this time, okay? What I invested in was a truck. Not a cart. A gourmet coffee and muffin truck—”
“Not only are you squandering capital, but you actually took on debt to seek out some magical customer base that might not even exist? That’s risky, Clare. Risky and reckless!”
Okay, that tweaked me. Matt never held back an opinion, especially a negative one, but a sudden aversion to risk? This from a man who thought nothing of traveling deep into lawless regions of Africa; trekking Central American mudslide zones, diving off the cliffs near Hawaiian volcanoes?
“The Village Blend coffee truck has been up and running for almost a month. And guess what? We haven’t lost our shirts—”
“Yet,” he said.
Pushing aside my empty espresso cup, I rested one arm on the marble tabletop (and yes, I was betting I could break it with his head).
“In this competitive environment, you either expand or perish.” By way of a truce, I rested a hand on his muscular shoulder. “I promise you, Matt, I’m trying to save the Blend, not ruin us.”
My soft touch appeared to have a favorable effect. The tension in the man’s body slackened, and his booming voice finally came down to a semi-normal decibel level.
“Clare . . . We tried expanding once. Remember my kiosks in high-end clothing stores? I do, and not with feelings of nostalgia, either. We lost a bundle.”
“So we failed once. That’s no reason not to try to expand our customer base again.”
“Did you consider advertising?”
“Ad campaigns are ephemeral. What the Blend needs is a long-term strategy for our modern market—although, technically, we’re post-postmodern . . .”
I handed him a spreadsheet of stats tracking profits since I’d resumed managing his family’s coffeehouse. With hard work and discipline, I was able to keep costs low and squeeze more profit from every ring of our register. The baristas I’d painstakingly trained were making higher amounts of sale to every customer, but the overall number of patrons was not growing.
“I considered opening a second store, but rents are outrageous. The truck solves the problem of choosing a dud location—or having a hot neighborhood go cold. If one area doesn’t produce a steady customer stream, we simply drive to a new one.”
Matt reviewed the data, exhaled. “What’s your strategy?”
Ignoring the man’s skeptical gaze, I mustered the same polite but firm tone I’d used on our paper cup supplier when he announced the third price hike in as many months and said—
“That’s a business strategy?”
“It’s a philosophy and a business strategy. We have faith in our Blend, in the quality of our coffee, the commitment to our customers, the century-old tradition of family ownership. We’re simply going to spread the word.”
I flipped to a customized map of New York. “There are five boroughs in the Big Apple, right?”
“Last I checked.”
“Well, there’s no way we can get everyone in New York to come to this Manhattan shop, even if it is a landmark business. So Esther and I worked out a day and time schedule for our Muffin Muse truck to go to them. We serve commuters during morning and evening rush. On weekends, there are parks, fairs, and flea markets. We track the revenue at each location, test new locations daily—”
“On paper, it seems reasonable . . .” The man actually sounded conciliatory.
I glanced at his mother. She slipped me a fleeting wink. Then Matt looked at her and she raised her demitasse, hastily hiding her pleased little smile with a sip of espresso.
“You could have tested this theory out some other way, Clare. A cheaper way. Did you have to invest in a food truck that cost nearly one hundred thousand dollars?” Matt’s shaggy head shook.
“Believe me, I did my homework on median costs and earning potential. You need to start trusting me on things like this. Have a little faith. You know I’m the one who’s a better judge of it.”
“Yes, me. We each have our strengths. I don’t tell you how to source coffee—”
“You don’t know how to source coffee—”
“And you don’t know a thing about managing at retail.”
“Now that’s a load of crap!”
The roar came back, and now he was turning on his mother. “Why are you so quiet tonight? Don’t you have an opinion? Can’t you talk some sense into her?!”
Ack. Little more than an hour before, I’d asked her to do exactly the same thing—with him.
For an agonizing minute, Madame sat completely still. My spirits began to flag. Is she going to take his side? Tensely, I watched as she set her demitasse down with a click.
“Clare is not wrong about your lack of experience on the retail end.”
Matt gawked. “I’ve worked in this shop since I was nine years old! Bussing tables, pulling espressos; you’re the one who taught me to be the best.”
Madame’s features softened at that, but her tone remained resolved. “You’re an exceptional coffee buyer and a fine barista. But Clare is a better shop manager. She’s constant and committed yet innovative; fair but firm with staff and suppliers. Clare is also an artist at heart, which means she knows how to see and how to listen.”
The effusive praise struck me numb for a moment. But only me.
“What you do is hear, Matteo; it’s not the same thing. Clare is also a genius at artful critique.”
“Artful critique?” Matt echoed. “What the hell is that—a neo-management term? Sounds like a cross between Vincent van Gogh and Donald Trump.”
“It’s to do with insight . . .” Madame exhaled. “My dear boy, you are an excellent coffee hunter, and you clearly adore circumnavigating the globe. But this little patch of ground needs a sovereign, not a Magellan. Clare is here, day in and day out. Business may be good at the moment, but each month brings new challenges—and the broader economic picture is far from stable.”
“I assure you, Mother, things are tough all over this planet.” Matt’s expression clouded. “I know that better than anyone—”
The passing shadow may have been momentary, but I knew my ex-husband. His words weren’t rhetorical. Before I could press the man with questions, however, an amplified voice interrupted him, a noise so loud it rattled the spotless glass of the Blend’s French doors and startled my evening customers.
“Chocolat! Ooooh la la—chocolat!”
Blasting at maximum volume was a musical cliché—the Francophile classic “La Vie en Rose,” rendered via tinny instruments, the usual lyrics replaced by an infantile caricature of a French woman’s voice reciting (hard to believe, but . . .) a cupcake menu.
“Straw-bear-wee! Lee-mon! Butt-tair-cream!”
All three of us stared as a long, rainbow-colored food truck came into view. Festooned with sparkling lights and capped by a Vegas-worthy Eiffel Tower, the vehicle made its turn off Hudson to pull up beside our sidewalk café tables.
Matt turned toward me. “What is that?”
I closed my eyes. How to answer? The phrase “my new archenemy” wouldn’t do much to back my argument here.
“Ooooh la la! Chocolat!”
Like a neon shark, Kaylie Crimini’s famous Kupcake Kart had arrived for its second, obnoxious feeding of the day. I told Matt as much.
“Feeding?” he repeated. “Feeding on what?”
It pained me to say it, but Matt had to know. “Our customers.”
What People are saying about this
Meet the Author
Cleo Coyle is the pen name for a multipublished author who collaborates with her husband to write the nationally bestselling Coffeehouse Mysteries. Although they did not meet until adulthood, Cleo and her husband had very similar upbringings. Both were children of food-loving Italian immigrants, and both grew up in working-class neighborhoods outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, before moving to the Big Apple to begin their postcollege careers: Cleo as a journalist and children’s book and media tie-in author; and her husband as a magazine editor and writer. After finally meeting and falling in love, they married at the Little Church of the West in Las Vegas. Now they live and work in New York City, where they each write books independently and together, cook like crazy, haunt local coffeehouses, and drink a lot of joe. Among their many coauthored projects are the Haunted Bookshop Mysteries, written under the pen name Alice Kimberly.
Cleo enjoys hearing from readers. Visit her virtual Village Blend coffeehouse, where she also posts recipes and coffee industry news: www.coffeehousemystery.com.
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A Brew to Kill is the eleventh book in the Coffeehouse mystery series. Clare Cosi might think her life will settle down after all the mysteries she has solved, but she once again finds herself involved in some questionable circumstances. After a hit-and-run accident-turned-fatal, and when Clare discovers what might be smuggled crack, the coffeehouse heats up a lot faster than a shot of espresso. Cleo Coyle once again stays true to readers and doesn’t disappoint or falter in this eleventh installment. Coyle has a knack for developing quick-witted characters which become familiar and loveable. She has the ability to blend mystery and social interactions that will leave readers wanting more. The descriptions of the different coffee blends throughout the novel don’t hurt either. You might need to brew your own cup in advance to satisfy the craving Coyle leaves you with.
This is a light read, but a fun one. Easy to pick up on the characters and feel like the coffee house, it's owners and staff are friends. One of the "comfort reads" that I enjoy.Of course, it helps that I am a coffee lover. Clare Cosi is a well fleshed out character, and I am hoping this comes out in audio book soon.
Loved this one in the Coffeehouse series. As a social media consultant, I loved how she so cleverly worked in Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. It's a testament to how current her writing is and how up to the moment the story lines are. These books have everything - suspense, romance, great food . . .
A hit and run. Drug smuggling. Food truck wars. This is what faces Clare in her latest adventure as I quickly turn the pages in this tour de France around the boroughs. Clare is up to her eyeballs in sleuthing as well as keeping the two men in her life civil towards one another. Set at a fast and fury pace, this engaging and entertaining mystery did not let up from the first sip of java until that last drop. I could not put this book down as the author did a good job in keeping me in suspense with plenty of twists and turns to throw me off track. Clare is at her best tackling the many obstacles that will keep her and her friends safe in their search for the perpetrator. What truly outshine is this delightful series is the relationship that Clare has with those that come into her life, even if briefly. Boasting a lovable cast, lively conversations including Clare’s own snippets and a great city to venture out in, this was a terrific read and I’m looking forward to more exciting exploits with Clare and her friends.
I've been waiting for Clare Cosi's newest adventure for what seems like forever! When I saw on my library website that 'A Brew To Kill' was finally released, I couldn't get on the Amazon website fast enough to order my copy! (the best part is, I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas so if I want to re-read it, I'll never have to go looking for my copy again) Right from the beginning, it grabbed me, and through out the whole book, never let go. I kept thinking I knew what the plot was going to be, and then: BAM! A change in direction! I had in mind who I thought the killer was, and again, I was proven wrong. The romantic twist in Clare and Mikes relationship, their temporary long distance separation, the reunion of previous characters, all add up to making this one of the best books that I've read this year. Keep them coming, Cleo.....Now, excuse me, I have to go find a great cup of coffee!
Truly the best cozy series around! I especially love the audio versions of these books as the narrator adds so much to an already terrific story. In this book, 40 something NY Village Blend Coffee shop manager, Clare Cozy has invested in a the newest big fad --a food truck. Fortunately, or maybe not, Matt, her ex and co-manager of the Village Blend, has just returned from Brazil where he purchased a new exotic, and very expensive, coffee bean. While they are discussing each other's new enterprises with a friend of theirs, a van runs down and seriously injures the friend. But who was the real intended victim? Food truck competition, artistic expression, imported contraband, Chinatown, and the continuing love lives of the characters of the Village Blend continue to regale my mind with mystery, foodie fun, interesting facts, and a terrific story. I love the idea of destiny that happens in this book too. Two more books before I catch up with the authors. Please write faster!!
Great addition to a great series. I can't wait for the next installment.
Excellent Read, I recommend all 12 books
This book was far from the quality of the previous ones.
I have read the entire series of the coffeehouse mysteries, and I have enjoyed each and every one !!!! Cleo Coyle never fails to provide fun reading for the reader ! This one is no exception. The "usual characters" are there..plus the addition of a few more to entertain you. The story line is done well as usual. So...do yourself a favor. Curl up on the sofa..or in your favorite chair...with a cozy throw.....and a coffee of course, and enjoy A Brew to a Kill !
You have to read this book. It is a great cozy mystery. Cleo Coyle just keeps writing wonderful books. It is a book you won't be able to put down until the end. You will love the humor yet the store line will keep you reading.
Cleo Coyle always delivers with her Coffee House Mysteries, and A Brew to a Kill is no exception. Really liked how Matt's character was front and center in this book, and the dynamics between Matt and Quinn are well done.
I'm a relatively new reader of Cleo Coyle's coffeeshop series, but it has everything I like about cozy mysteries: family, romance, small business, food and smart investigation. It also has plenty of coffee trivia and New York City ambience and in this case, food trucks, along with a dose of city politics and rivalry! The Village Blend decides to branch out with a coffee and dessert truck, which causes internal strife before Clare and her ex-husband Matteo, as well as external strife when her rival sees her as stiff competition. When her friend gets run over outside the Village Blend, it gets personal and Clare takes on a new mission to hunt down the hit and run driver, which includes posing as a wedding cake buyer. Once again, this series stays extremely current while also giving us insight into the Village Blend's and New York City's past, and ups the intrigue and personal drama between Clare, Matteo and Clare's partner Mike Quinn, when the three have to share living space. This is a fast-paced mystery with an amateur sleuth who proves she's tough but also has quite a heart, one that foodies especially will enjoy.
Another winner in my opinion! I couldn't put it down (as usual)! The only problem that I have is that I have to wait another year to be able to read the next one. The way the characters interact with each other is hilarious, touching and just plain entertaining. Definitely a 5 star!
Cleo Coyle comes through again with the very best book in this series yet! You will not grind your way through this book, more like you will espresso you way to the end and have quite the jolt when you get there!! From the beginning you are swept back into the lives of Clare, Mike and Matt, old friends who cannot wait to tell you their latest adventure. The Barista crew is just waiting downstairs to fill you in on the details the others might have left out and Madame will be there as well with her quiet strength and wisdom to oversee it all. This story grips you from the very beginning and leaves you gasping for air at the end. I highly recommend the Coffee House Mystery series and a Brew to a Kill is the best one yet!
Well Ms. Coyle is at it again, this time with the most exciting book of her series. Mateo is losing his cool again and new characters are abounding everywhere. This book will have your heart pounding (I needed o get up and walk around from time to time) and romance is in the air. All your favorite charters are back in one way or another. Tucker is as cute as ever. This book includes action on the rising drug scene that befalls all of us and coffee?...wow what I wouldn't give for a cup of their new brew! This is a hit and run book. Once you hit it you're off and running! Too much suspense to lay it down you're going to want to know how this twisted mess is settled right away. Everytime you think you've got an idea of whodunit you realize you have no idea. Great writing! Cleo Coyle never lets you down!