Berkley, Nov 2009, $23.95
It is the holiday season and Clare Cosi, manager of the Village Blend Coffee House in Greenwich Village, is gathering up a group of friends to help her decide what lattes will remind her patrons of Christmas. A red-headed beauty crashes the party, but turns vicious when Clare insists it is a private affair. Clare wonders where Alf, a traveling Santa, is as he promised his good friend he would be there.
Her ex husband and café partner Matteo Allegro tells her he has seen Alf and Clare goes to look for him. She sees his sleigh in an alley so she enters only to find his corpse near the dumpster. The police assume a mugging robbery occurred, but Clare ponders what she saw at the crime scene and thinks otherwise. She returns to the alley in daylight and climbs up a fire escape to the fourth floor where she finds a bullet on the windowsill. She is arrested as an accomplice, but the lead detective has her released based on their discussion the night before. Clare investigates and almost gets killed.
Cleo Coyle writes some of the best amateur sleuth tales with her Greenwich Village coffeehouse mysteries and her Haunted Bookshop mysteries written as Alice Kimberly. Clare is a breath of fresh air with her honesty, caring nature, and her perhaps naive belief in the goodness of people. The whodunit contains red haired herrings and amusing scenes, but her top rate percolating investigation, which causes friction between her and her police detective boyfriend, remains the key to HOLIDAY GRIND.