Praise for Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse Mysteries ON WHAT GROUNDS
#1 Paperback Bestseller
Independent Mystery Booksellers Association
“The first book in Coyle’s new series is a definite winner! The mystery is first rate, andthe characters leap from the page and are compelling, vivid, and endearing. The aroma of thisstory made this non–coffee drinker want to visit the nearest coffee bar.”
“On What Grounds introduces Clare and the Village Blend. The setting is wonderful and New Yorkis portrayed with absolute accuracy. Clare is a character I would love to see more of. She ishonest but never brutal and her intelligence is what shines through. I will be looking forwardto the next book in the Coffeehouse Mystery series!”
—Cozies, Capers & Crimes
“A great beginning to a new series…Clare and Matteo make a great team…Plenty of coffee lore,trivia, and brewing tips scattered throughout the text (and recipes at the end) add anadditional, enjoyable element. On What Grounds will convert even the most fervent tea drinker
into a coffee lover in the time it takes to draw an espresso.”
The Mystery Reader—
“A hilarious blend of amateur detecting with some romance thrown in the mix…I personallyadored this book, and can’t wait to read the rest of the series!”
“A fun, light mystery. Recommended.”
“[A] clever, witty, and lighthearted cozy. Cleo Coyle is a bright new light on the mysteryhorizon.”
—The Best Reviews
THROUGH THE GRINDER
“Coffee lovers and mystery buffs will savor the latest addition to this mystery series…andfor those who like both, it’s a guaranteed ‘Red Eye.’ Fast-paced action, coffee lore, andincredible culinary recipes, brewed together with some dark, robust mystery, establish beyond adoubt that this one certainly isn’t decaf. All hail the goddess Caffina!”
—The Best Reviews
“Through the Grinder is full of action and murder with a little romance thrown in on the side.The ending is exceptional and completely unexpected.”
—The Romance Readers Connection
“A fascinating mystery…a brave, quirky heroine.”
“There were ample red herrings in the Through the Grinder story to lead the reader astray. I
did not guess the outcome until I had finished the book. This is a great mystery in theCoffeehouse Mystery series.”
“Anyone who loves coffee and a good mystery will love this story. Rating: Outstanding.”
“Cleo Coyle follows up…with another delightfully percolating and exciting mystery. Thestrength of this series lies in the characters who are drawn true to life.”
—I Love a Mystery
“A delightful series! Clare is a captivating narrator who offers lots of interesting snippetsof information and history behind New York landmarks. This is just one of the many pleasingaspects of these books, along with the many interesting coffee facts. The supporting charactersare well drawn…The action is fast-paced and there is a big twist at the end that you won’tsee coming!”
“With lots of tips on making a great cuppa Joe and some recipes at the end, this is a funmystery with a twist that you’ll never see coming…A delightful mystery.”
MURDER MOST FROTHY
“The latest Coffeehouse Mystery is a terrific amateur-sleuth tale that showcases the heroineat her best.”
Midwest Book Review—
“The author weaves a tangled web of distractions and complications and brings the story to aneat and satisfying conclusion. The author also provides a scrumptious-looking set of coffee-related recipes…Murder Most Frothy, like its title, is a light and lively blend.
“The interaction between Clare and her ex-mother-in-law is full of humor, and the interactionbetween Clare and her daughter is realistic. This is a quick read…Entertaining and as frothyas the frappés Clare prepares.”
“Exciting, delicious fun, with coffee trivia, recipes, a vicarious adventure for those of usat home reading of things we’d rather not face ourselves but understanding Clare Cosi’smotives and morals.”
#1 Paperback Bestseller
Independent Mystery Booksellers Association
“Great characters, smooth plotting, and top-notch writing, it’s no wonder these books arebestsellers.”
“Author Coyle displays a deep understanding not only of coffee…but also of coffee shopculture. She treats espresso-shop work as an honorable profession…Coyle knows her coffee sowell that even I have learned new coffee bits by reading her books. If you have not yetdiscovered the Coffeehouse Mystery series by Cleo Coyle, you should…I heartily recommendthem.”
—Eric S. Chen, BARISTO.net
Berkley Prime Crime Books by Cleo Coyle
Coffeehouse Mysteries by Cleo Coyle
ON WHAT GROUNDS
THROUGH THE GRINDER
MURDER MOST FROTHY
Haunted Bookshop Mysteries by Cleo Coyle Writing as Alice Kimberly
THE GHOST AND MRS. McCLURE
THE GHOST AND THE DEAD DEB
THE GHOST AND THE DEAD MAN’S LIBRARY
THE GHOST AND THE FEMME FATALE (available May 2008)
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin BooksLtd.)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (adivision of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)
Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division ofPearson New Zealand Ltd.) Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue,Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product ofthe author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons,living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Thepublisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author orthird-party websites or their content.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written.The publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may requiremedical supervision. The publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipescontained in this book.
A Berkley Prime Crime Book/published by arrangement with the author
Copyright ? 2008 by The Berkley Publishing Group.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronicform without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrightedmaterials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA)Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of PenguinGroup (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014. The name BERKLEY PRIME CRIME and the BERKLEYPRIME CRIME design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
This book is dedicated to Roy Snyder For his encouragement, thoughtfulness, unfailing good humor, and most of all for his sage
financial advice—a fundamental asset for any writer who’s crazy enough to believe that “a
room of one’s own” is achievable in one of the most expensive cities on the planet. Cheers to you, Roy, for keeping the dream in play.
CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGMENTS PROLOGUE CHAPTER ONE CHAPTER TWO CHAPTER THREE CHAPTER FOUR CHAPTER FIVE CHAPTER SIX CHAPTER SEVEN CHAPTER EIGHT CHAPTER NINE CHAPTER TEN CHAPTER ELEVEN CHAPTER TWELVE CHAPTER THIRTEEN CHAPTER FOURTEEN CHAPTER FIFTEEN CHAPTER SIXTEEN CHAPTER SEVENTEEN CHAPTER EIGHTEEN CHAPTER NINETEEN CHAPTER TWENTY CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO
CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX EPILOGUE RECIPES & TIPS FROM THE VILLAGE BLEND
While it is widely recognized that New York City is crowded, costly, competitive, andoccasionally downright dangerous, New York is also a foodie mecca. It’s the kind of town whereyou can attend an open-to-the-public culinary talk and find yourself sitting next to a youngCordon Bleu graduate while listening to legendary chef Jacques Pepin speak extemporaneouslyabout such things as butchering a chicken. The aforementioned 92nd Street Y restaurant panelalong with my two decades of speaking with restaurant professionals while dining out in NewYork were among the many experiences that contributed to the backdrop of this novel.
I would also like to acknowledge the gracious help of Douglas Snyder, general manager of BinFifty-Four Steak and Cellar. Doug is a consummate professional who chivalrously answeredcountless questions about running an upscale restaurant, while also giving me one of the finestdining experiences I’ve ever had.
A succulent shout-out additionally goes to Bin Fifty-Four’s executive chef, Andrew Bales, forgiving me an after-hours tour of his efficiently run domain, a professional kitchen thatconsistently produces the most delicious fire-grilled steaks being served in America today.
Dear reader, if you ever find yourself in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, do not miss the diningexperience at Bin Fifty-Four. And please be assured that the characters, situations, andmurders in this book are completely fictitious figments of my imagination. Although Bin Fifty-
scene for fabulous food and wine, it has never been ruled a scene!Four is thecrime
Joe the Art of Coffee and Murray’s Cheese Shop, both located in Greenwich Village, New York,have also been great sources of information. My sincerest thanks go out to them, as well. Ifyou are ever in New York’s West Village, these first-rate establishments are a genuine delightto visit—you might even see me there.
My special thanks also go out to editor Katie Day, executive editor Wendy McCurdy, and literaryagent John Talbot for making my job so much easier.
Last but in no way least, I’d like to thank the roasters at Counter Culture Coffee in Durham,North Carolina, for their inspiration, as well as their superior beans. If anyone knows andloves coffee, it’s the intrepid coffee hunter Peter Giuliano, coffee director of CounterCulture. To learn more about the coffees mentioned in this book and the art of making them,drop by my virtual Village Blend coffeehouse at:
www.CoffeehouseMystery.com Where coffee and crime are always brewing.
“You can tell when you have crossed the frontier…because of the badness of the coffee.”
—Edward VII (1841–1910)
“Food and sex…what else is there?”
STABBING flesh was no big deal. That was the way to think about it. The boy was just anotherpiece of meat…
From across the dark avenue, the killer stood, expression grim. There were three stories in theredbrick building, six apartments, a roofless porch. The boy was alone on the highest floor.Through bright windows, the killer watched him pacing. He looked like an animal, like panickedgame.
This wasn’t something the killer wanted, but the decision had been made. Now time was a slowfreeze and the waiting was unbearable on this dank, noisy street. Pub crawlers stumbled alonglittered sidewalks, Latino teens clustered amid grimy subway girders, and cop cars patrolledtoo visibly beneath the Number 7 line’s elevated tracks.
The killer hugged shadows, tried to stay hidden, maneuver some shelter from the pitiless wind.Glacial gusts continued to whip down Roosevelt, straight off the East River a mile away.Manhattan had been warmer, the killer thought. Queens was an ice cave, its buildings too low todull the lash.
Finally, on the street, an opportunity came: a take-out delivery for someone inside. The brown-skinned man in the bright green jacket buzzed the intercom. Behind three pizzas and a liter ofsoda, the killer slipped in.
Laughter exploded behind a thin door. Some kind of party. A game on TV.
Noise, thought the killer, noise was good.
There were thirty-nine steps to the third floor, thirteen to each landing. The door to theboy’s apartment was cheap, nothing more than flimsy wood. The killer loitered quietly in frontof it, one minute, two…
The breathing must be even, the killer reasoned. The hand must be steady.
The killer knocked lightly, like a neighbor, like a friend. The boy answered fast, expectingsomeone else. Confusion set in. There’d been no buzzer. No request for entry. His brown eyeswent wide. Anxiety. Dread.
“What do you want?”
“To explain,” the killer said. The smile seemed to help. “You might have gotten the wrongidea…about what you heard last night. Let me come in and talk to you.”
The killer’s right pocket was a holster now. Resting inside was the hard silver handle of theten-inch blade, which poked through the lining. The coat was long enough to conceal the threat,old enough to be discarded after.
“I can quit my internship,” the boy pleaded. “I don’t have to go back to the restaurant.Not ever. How about that?”
“Did you tell anyone, Vinny? What you heard last night?”
“No! No one!”
“Then let’s sit down and discuss it. You don’t have to quit. I’ll just explain everything,and you won’t have to worry anymore.”
“Well…” the boy said, glancing into the empty hall. “Okay…I guess you can come in.”
Gloved fingers slipped inside the coat pocket, grasped the silver handle. The French blade wassteel, high carbon and stainless, sharp as a surgical instrument, manufactured for the utmostprecision.
Precise, the killer thought, I must be precise. No flinching. No hesitation. Thrust down fast.Plunge hard and true…
Vinny turned his back, and the knife went in smoothly, past skin, through muscle, avoiding
bone. The flailing was minimal, the noise a weak howl. It was done now—over. And so was
Vincent Buccelli. The boy was just another piece of meat.
“UGH,” I murmured. “This coffee’s absolute poison…”
No, the lukewarm ebony liquid sloshing around my bone china cup wasn’t actually lethal, justbitter, old, and lifeless—the kind of adjectives I would have been mortified to hear utteredabout my coffee, God forbid my person.
“It can’t be that bad,” Madame said. “Let me give it a try.”
Sitting across from me at one of Solange’s linen-shrouded tables for two, my ex-mother-in-lawlifted her cup and sipped. “Oh, my…” With a frown, she brought a napkin to her gentlywrinkled face, closed her eyes, and discreetly spat out the offending liquid—a routine gesturefor an industry cupping, not for one of New York’s finest French restaurants.
Up to now, the meal had been astounding. My appetizer of oysters had been poached in champagne,lovingly sauced, and placed back in their shells with a flavor and texture that defineddelicate. My entrée of butter-browned lobster—artfully arranged around a flan of porcinimushrooms and earthy foie gras—had danced across my taste buds with savory succulence. And fordesert, a modern execution of a traditional tarte Tatin, with spicy-sweet cardamom-laced applesand a drizzle of ginger-caramel coulis, had been presented in a pastry so tender it melted onmy tongue like newly spun cotton candy.
The entire experience had been orgasmic, a seduction by color, taste, and sensation, with biteafter bite making me shiver. Not that I was a restaurant critic.
I, Clare Cosi, middle-class working stiff, was the manager of a landmark coffeehouse inGreenwich Village, and although my experience with food was long-standing—from my childhoodyears making stove-top espressos in my grandmother’s Pennsylvania grocery to my part-timecatering work and culinary writing—it was small-time stuff in light of this four-starestablishment.
In short, I was a cook, not a chef. I didn’t have the authoritative status to officiallydeclare whether or not Solange’s particular take on nouvelle cuisine deserved its placealongside Per Se, Le Bernardin, and Daniel, the highest-flying stars in the Big Apple’sculinary circus. But even a long-haul trucker could have judged that Solange’s food wasexquisite, while its coffee had all the appeal of Mississippi swamp mud.
“It’s like a seduction gone wrong,” Madame proclaimed. “A princely suitor who shows up withimpeccable manners, romances you all night, and escorts you gallantly to the door, then lungesat your breasts with octopus hands and breath foul enough to choke a horse.”
A knee-jerk cackle bubbled up in my throat; considering the mannered dining room, I promptlychoked it down. “Don’t hold back, Madame. Tell me what you really think.”
My former mother-in-law rolled her eyes to the chandeliered ceiling. “There’s no point inmincing words past your eightieth birthday. What good is being subtle when you might drop deadmidsentence? If you’ve got a point to make, make it, for goodness’ sake!” She lifted herhand, and our waiter instantly appeared. “Please take this away. I’m sorry to tell you, it’sundrinkable.”
René, a somber Haitian gentleman with a heavy French accent, bowed slightly. “C’est dommage.
I am profoundly sorry.” He snapped his fingers, and another uniformed staff member—a youngLatino man—swept in to remove the coffee service.
“Perhaps I can suggest a dessert wine,” René said.
Madame glanced at me, but I tapped my watch and shook my head. “I’ve had enough wine. Morewill just put me to sleep. I still have to lock up downtown.”
“Just another bottle of water,” Madame told René.
“Of course. Please enjoy it with my compliments.”
The young Latino busboy returned to pour our comped container of twelve-dollar water, and wesank back into the buffed leather upholstery to sip our palates clean again.