A shocking hit-and-run in front of her Village Blend coffeehouse spurs Clare Cosi into action. A divorced single mom, Clare is also a dedicated sleuth, and she's determined to track down this ruthless driver who ran down an innocent friend and customer. In the meantime, her ex-husband, Matt, the shop's globetrotting coffee buyer, sources some amazing new beans from Brazil. But he soon discovers that he's importing more than coffee, and Clare may have been the real target of that deadly driver. Can ex-husband and wife work together to solve this mystery - or will their newest brew lead to murder?
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Let me start by saying that I am a big fan of the coffeehouse mystery series. Despite this less-than-stellar review, I will still buy the next one. A Brew to a Kill didn't feel like it was written by Cleo Coyle but instead someone who tried to mimic her formula and over exaggerated. The result was a long, dull, drawn-out novel that I looked forward to ending. The book did have a few redeeming qualities, so let's start with those:
Pros: 1. The mystery was not about a murder. For once, Clare Cosi did not stumble upon yet another dead body. If you are a fan of cozy mysteries, you may have noticed that authors tend to have their protagonists find dead bodies monthly. Eventually, you start to lose that sense of coziness, because the serene environment -- whether a coffee house or New England historic town -- becomes a place of horror and death. You can't have that, so authors have to make sure all of their mysteries are not murders. Kudos to Cleo Coyle for understanding that.
2. There weren't so many mysteries and murders that I couldn't keep up. Cozy mysteries should not be overwhelming or confusing. This one wasn't. Everything tied together nicely.
3. The culprit was discoverable. What I mean by this is that Coyle did not spring an unknown new character on us at the end and say he/she was responsible for everything. Too many mystery writers do this, making it impossible for the reader to sleuth.
4. Rebecca Gibel's narration was once again brilliant. Although Clare's rival cupcake lady was annoying, Gibel's French rendition of "Chocolat...ooh la la...chocolat" had me cracking up every time she spoke the cupcake menu.
Despite the good things, there were too many counteracting bombs.
1. A huge portion of the book contained a history of New York City. Every time someone moved from point A to point B, we were treated to a lovely textbook recitation of each borough of New York, the names of the gangs, the history of China Town, the demise of Little Italy, etc. Every time Coyle launched into one of these history lessons, I rolled my eyes and mumbled, "Here we go again." It's one of those no-nos in writing. Too much back story, and in this case, very little to do with the actual story line. Coyle just decided to be our tour guide throughout New York. The problem with it, aside from the boredom factor, is that it's ineffective. People (like myself) who've lived in or frequently visit the tri-state area already know most of this information. And those who have never been to New York can't possibly grasp the historical significance. This, in my opinion, is what made the book incredibly boring.
2. The food truck apparently was in service months before they even painted it. Why? If you have a truck that is representing the finest coffee in New York, why would you let it roam the city without an equally professional design? To make it worse, Clare let Dante paint the truck without first consulting her on the design. The result was a horrific, tasteless graphic that sickened Clare's stomach. So what did she do? She let the truck drive around like that, because she was too busy sleuthing. Unrealistic. A good business woman would have never allowed it.
3. In Cleo Coyle's book French Pressed, I enjoyed the rap. Even though I thought the language was inappropriate for Clare's business, it was fun for that one story. However, it's getting old and not at all flattering to the coffeehouse environment. I love that they support artists, but the rap isn't promoting a positive image. In fact, when the rich woman refused to support Esther's grant based on her street image, I didn't blame her. At each coffeehouse installment, the Village Blend is becoming less artsy and more ghetto. Coyle needs to class up the place a bit more. Ease up on the rap and crap.
4. The drug angle had great potential, but it was poorly delivered. First of all, the topic did not come about until nearly halfway into the book. Second, no drug lord would send expensive drugs to a guy in another country who didn't want them. It's too big of a risk, legally and financially. The whole story arc was far fetched but could have been pulled off with better planning (i.e. send a shipment of coffee beans to his cousin through Matt).
5. Matteo has got to go. I like him as a coffee partner, but his presence in Clare's life -- and in her apartment -- is offensive to her character. She put up with his nonsense during their marriage before spending ten years on her own trying to raise their daughter. Now he waltzes into Clare's life as if nothing happened, and we, the readers, are expected to embrace him? I don't think he's cute no matter how well Coyle describes his butt. In A Brew to a Kill, the scenes with Matt, Mike, and Clare were sickening. Were they supposed to turn us on? Is Coyle writing cheap romances now? Seriously, I'm tired of reading about Matt as if he's Clare's lover. He's an ex. He has his own wife. Clare has another guy. Please, PLEASE, give Clare her dignity back and kick Matt the heck out of the picture.
6. The crime solution was too much of a stretch. The culprit was a good choice, but the way he went about it reminded me of one of those puzzle video games where you have to travel to the other side of an island to flip on a light switch. There are easier ways to commit a crime. Why did this one have to be so elaborate?
As I said, I'm still a fan. But I hope that the next book redeems this one.
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!!