Roast Mortem – Cleo Coyle

Publisher’s Summary:
“After local firefighters pull Clare out of a blazing café, she happily comes to their rescue by teaching them the finer points of operating their newly donated espresso machine. But matters really heat up when somebody is torching cafes around the city and firefighters begin to die in suspicious ways…

Believing the two events are related, Clare investigates, staking out a five-borough bake sale and sniffing out clues in the pizza ovens of Brooklyn. When her detective boyfriend, Mike Quinn, is pulled into the fire of a false accusation, Clare is desperate to put out the flames. But will she be able to come to Mike’s rescue before someone tries to extinguish her?”

Roast Mortem is the 9th book in Coyle’s Coffeehouse Mystery series featuring amateur sleuth and coffee expert Clare Cosi. While it is not imperative to read the series in order, if you’re looking for a solid cozy and think you might like to give this one a try, I’d urge you to start at the beginning with On What Grounds.

When it comes to cozies and amateur sleuth mysteries, I’ve always believed that the would-be detective must be a strong, sympathetic character. How else could you forgive her or him for bumbling about, poking at the wrong people with a pointy, circumstantial stick, and generally doing irrational or questionable things? And even then you might find yourself asking: “Seriously? Did she/he really just [insert arguably stupid action here]?” Having spent countless pages in the company of Clare, I’m willing to forgive her bouts of faulty judgment because she is likable, and her heart is always in the right place. So that, perhaps, is the primary reason behind my devoted following of this series: I want to see Clare succeed, to see her happy, and to see how she gets out of her latest scrape with the bad guy.

Reason two would be the relationship between Clare and Detective Mike Quinn. And that is the reason behind my previous suggestion of starting with book one: The relationship develops over the course of the series. The reader is privy to every tentative step they take towards each other, every misunderstanding, every almost moment, and where they are now is so much sweeter for having been with them the whole way. For all that, though, the relationship is not the focus of each novel; it’s a wonderful bonus.

A first for the series, the murders in this particular installment got to me. Not because they were violent or gruesome – this is a cozy, after all – but because Coyle got the reader close to the victims through their interactions with Clare. Despite the fact that the victims’ thoughts are their own, and despite the fact that their presence in the novel was limited, I cared enough to feel saddened by their deaths. Wanting to ensure that the villain was brought to justice – as if I ever thought he or she wouldn’t be! again, cozy – meant that the pages turned quickly and almost without ceasing.

Along with the crime, the relationship(s), and the banter comes a healthy dose of coffee history and brewing techniques. Due to Clare’s position as manager of the Village Blend, the – sometimes long – paragraphs on flavor, grinding and so on never feel forced or out of place. These sections may make some readers’ eyes cross if they’re in it for the mystery alone, but I sort of find it fascinating, all the ways the “perfect” shot can go wrong, the different flavors beans from various regions of the world will produce. Like most mysteries with a food/beverage angle, recipes are included at the back of every novel.

This is one cozy mystery series I’ll throw my lot in with for the long haul.

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