Thursday, June 10, 2010

Latte Trouble

Latte Trouble
Author: Cleo Coyle
Berkley, 2005
256 pages

Here we are with the third Coffeehouse Mystery (preceded by On What Grounds and Through The Grinder) and I'm starting to feel like a regular at the Village Blend. One evening our favorite fictional coffee house hosts a private party for a group of fashionistas who are celebrating the opening of Fashion Week and a new line of coffee-themed jewelry designed by Village Blend regular Lottie Harmon. This is a sort of comeback for Lottie, who rose to fame in the 1980s after designing a hit line called Spangles. It's also special for the Village Blend: it was there that Lottie got the inspiration for the new coffee jewelry. It was also where she serendipitously met marketing genius Rena, who was instrumental in Lottie's resurgence.

Just as the party's getting started, Tucker (talented barista and budding actor/playwright) sees his old flame walking in with a flirty new lover. This gets Tucker agitated, and he starts to get a little careless in his work. When he's asked to make a special latte for Lottie (love the word play here), Tucker decides to deliver the drink himself. But as he walks across the room, his ex takes the latte off the tray and starts drinking it, sharing it with his new pal. Suddenly, both of them become very sick, and Tucker's ex collapses and dies. When the police arrive, they quickly determine the cause of death as cyanide poisoning, and since Tucker had made such a scene earlier, he's taken into custody.

Village Blend manager Clare Cosi knows Tucker couldn't hurt a fly, and she sets out to prove his innocence. Besides, Clare is certain that Lottie was the intended victim - not Tucker's ex. When Rena is found dead a few days later - also after drinking a cyanide-laced latte from a Village Blend cup - she is absolutely certain someone else is the murderer. But who? And why?

As Clare unravels the mystery, she meets some very interesting (and twisted - and sad) people who work in the fashion industry. She's also reunited with an old enemy, a scheming slimeball of a businessman who seems to want nothing more than to destroy the Village Blend. Despite the plethora of suspects and motives, it's never really obvious what's really going on until the last few pages. Once again, Cleo Coyle delivers.

Oh, yeah -- Detective Quinn - who reminds me of a young, sexy Colombo - returned in the latter part of the book. But he may be too late as a potential romantic interest for Clare, because she and her ex-husband and business partner Matt have - shall we say - rediscovered each other. Clare and Matt are going to have to unite to do some parenting, anyway, since adult daughter Joy appears to be hanging with the wrong crowd. Matt has new plans to take the Village Blend to the next level as a business, so we can be sure that there will be a fourth book. And a fifth. And a sixth, etc. I'm still planning to drink them all.