Thursday, November 26, 2009

“On What Grounds” by Cleo Coyle

This book starts out with a quote from the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot: “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons”. I remember a college English professor of mine reciting that quotation with a look of rapture on his face. He often spoke about that poem, but oddly enough never made us read it. And to this day I still haven’t read it.

“On What Grounds” is the first book in the Coffeehouse mystery series featuring female-sleuth Clare Cosi. Clare is 39, divorced and living in New Jersey while raising her daughter Joy. Clare supports herself by doing several odd jobs, one of which involves writing a small column in the local newspaper called “In the Kitchen with Clare”.

But now her 19-year-old daughter has just gone off to college in Manhattan and Clare finds herself suffering from empty-nest syndrome. So when Clare receives a call from her former boss and mother-in-law Madame, she answers and decides to relocate to Manhattan to manage Madame’s coffeehouse, The Village Blend.

Well, actually to RETURN as manager - Clare had managed the coffeehouse for 10 years before settling in New Jersey to raise Joy. Her other reason for leaving is named Matteo Allegro - Clare’s ex-husband, and Madame’s son.

The book opens with Clare finding her young employee Anabelle at the bottom of the Village Blend’s stairs. Anabelle is still alive, but just barely. The police have investigated and ruled the mishap an accident, but Clare doesn’t believe it. Anabelle is a dancer and Clare doesn’t think her so clumsy as to have fallen down the stairs. She thinks Anabelle was pushed and is determined to find out the truth.