Once Upon a Grind (Coffeehouse Mystery)
by Cleo Coyle
Review by Gayle Surrette
Berkley Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425270868
Date: 01 September 2015 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Throughout the course of the Coffee House Mysteries, the characters and their relationships, strengths, weaknesses, and maturity have been evolving and changing with events that happen within the stories. I happen to enjoy visiting with this particular group of characters, sharing recipes and their hopes, fears, and camaraderie -- albeit vicariously through the written word.
In Once Upon a Grind everyone is busy with the various efforts that the Village Blend has been making to open up new markets. Currently, they are manning a coffee van, as well as keeping the Blend open as usual to prepare for the introduction of a new "magic" bean during the Fairy Tale Week in Central Park.
Clare Cosi, manager of the Village Blend, has been working extra-hard in order to keep things running smoothly at the Blend and get time off to visit her boyfriend, Mike Quinn, who is on detached duty from the NYPD in Washington, DC. Things are a bit tense as he wants her to move to DC and she's not sure she's ready to give up the Blend and all that it means to her. Meanwhile, Mike's ex-wife and his children are in New York and, while Clare loves the children, Holly and Jeremy, she doesn't get along with his ex, Leila, at all.
However, when Leila drops the children off with Clare at the park while she's working. Clare steps up to care for them until the nanny can take over. But, the nanny is also working, and the children disappear. Once thing leads to another and before she knows what's going on Clare's ex, Matt Allegro, is accused of murder. Clare is suspected of being an accomplice. One of her barristas is having relationship problems and another is leaving. Mike is putting on the pressure for her to make a decision about moving. And, it turns out, the new "magic" coffee beans cause hallucinations in some people -- one of whom is Clare.
Clare has to work fast to solve the murder and straighten out her life and assist helping those around her.
This is another good solid mystery with lots of side issues, some left to develop in future installments, while some from past stories are pulled together and tied off in this story. While there is a lot going on, there is enough back-story and information for new readers to just jump in with this story but, you'll probably want to then start at the beginning and move forward -- especially if you enjoy ensemble casts of characters that you can care about.