Clare Cosi is a single mom (of a young woman who is studying
abroad) who manages the Village Blend coffee shop, which is
owned by her former mother-in-law. Her employees are an
eclectic mix of students and aspiring actors that, after
awhile, become like family. Clare's newest venture is to
allow her coffee beans to be used in Mocha Magic, a coffee
laced with an herbal aphrodisiac.
Mocha Magic is going to be sold exclusively by Aprodite's
Village, which is an online community for women. There are
several "Temples" in the Village, which are analogous to
departments, and within the Village, there has been some in-
fighting about which Temple this project should be in.
Overseeing each Temple is a "Sister," or a departmental
head. Because there are only seven Temples (and Sisters),
the pressure to prove oneself as the best and brightest at
all times is always high.
At the launch party for Mocha Magic, one of the Sisters,
Patrice Stone (from the Arts and Entertainment Temple) is
murdered. Clare is sure that someone is after the top-
formula for Mocha Magic, and she sets out to find out who
might be willing to kill to get it. In the meantime, Joy
(Clare's daughter) has popped back to New York for a
surprise trip and appears to be reigniting her relationship
with Manny Franco, a police officer who Clare doesn't
entirely trust. And Mike Quinn, Clare's own boyfriend,
doesn't seem to be giving up the idea of pursing something
more serious with her, which Clare isn't entirely
Just as Clare seems to be making headway on her independent
investigation, another body turns up. Then Clare receives a
mysterious message which ends up endangering her life. Will
she be able to solve this mystery before more lives are
taken, including her own?
MURDER BY MOCHA is an enjoyable adventure, with several fun
subplots. The main plot at times can get a little muddled,
especially at the beginning - trying to understand the
Temples, the Sisters, which Sister was which, how each one
fit into the plot, etc. However, once I had a handle on the
characters, I was able to enjoy the book. I really like how
the coffee shop staff interacted with each other and with
the customers. The subplot with Joy and Manny is great, as
is the one with Clare's former mother-in-law. Overall, this
is a solid book.
A divorced, single mom in her forties, Clare Cosi is a
coffee shop manager by day, an irrepressible snoop by night.
When something is wrong, she considers it her mission in
life to right it, and murder is as wrong as it gets.
Can coffee enhance your love life? Clare's Village Blend
coffee beans are being used to create a new java love
potion: a Mocha Magic Coffee that's laced with an herbal
aphrodisiac. The product, expected to rake in millions, will
be sold exclusively on Aphrodite's Village, one of the most
popular online communities for women. But at the product's
launch party, one of the website's editors is murdered.
Clare is convinced someone wants control of the coffee's
secret formula and is willing to kill to get it. Can she
stir up evidence against this bitter killer? Or will she be
next on the hit list?
This tenth entry in Cleo Coyle's bestselling Coffeehouse
Mystery series includes a special bonus section of
delectable chocolate recipes!
"Whatís your pleasure?" I asked, holding open the
Blendís beveled glass door.
Against the pink champagne of the dawning sky, Mike
Quinnís grim face gave up a small smile—not that
anyone else could tell. Like New Yorkís police
commissioner, whose official photo had every cop in the
city calling him Popeye, Quinnís smile was more of a wince.
"Got something hot for me, Cosi?"
"Maybe," I said, stifling a yawn. "But you have to come
in to get it . . ."
As the corner streetlight flickered off, Mikeís broad-
shouldered form moved smoothly by, snagging my hand as he
went. Heíd been a street officer for years before making
detective, and he brought that cop authority wherever he
went, a quiet, commanding coolness that attracted me from
the first moment heíd set foot in my coffeehouse.
While the heavy door swung shut, Mike backed me into the
shadows of my empty shop. Flattened against an exposed
brick wall, I looked up at him.
"I canít pour from this position."
"You can kiss from this position."
"True," I said, then my arms curled around his neck, fi-
nally giving the man a proper greeting.
Such was the oh-so-sweet beginning to my morning.
It wouldnít last.
Before the day ended, I would have two dead bodies on my
hands—one a likely murder, the other something else
entirely. Soon after, Iíd have two female NYPD detectives
on my case, a half-naked fitness queen ready to kill me,
and a member of my staff dizzy enough with unrequited love
to commit a felony.
None of the above was on my mind at the moment, just
Mike Quinnís sturdy body pressing against mine and the kind
of soft morning light that gave everything the illusion of
When Mikeís head finally pulled away, I noticed the gray
paleness of his complexion. His jaw felt wrong, too, like
sandpaper, and thin strokes of crimson slashed the whites
of his midnight blues. The details of his expression
implied more than physical exhaustion. He looked mentally
"So," I said, keeping my tone light, "what kept you up
Mikeís jaw tightened. He glanced away.
"Okay," I said, "come on . . ." Now I was the one
tugging his hand, pulling him along. At the espresso bar, I
moved behind the counter, scraped my Italian-roast brown
hair into a kitchen-ready ponytail, and began turning
ordinary cow juice into liquid velvet.
Mike peeled off his rumpled sport coat and took over his
favorite stool. Then he trained his gaze on me so he could
drink in the ritual.
It occurred to me then, as I fixed his steamer, that
most of our days are spent in ritual and routine, at least
until some dramatic event jerks us off our hamster wheels,
puts us on brand new ones.
Nineteen, for example, brought the end of my
childhood—with the beginning of my daughterís. Joyís
conception was far from planned. After marrying her father,
I developed close bonds with his mother and began working
in their family coffee business. Ten years later, my
marriage ended, and (much to the dismay of my mother-in-
law) I ended my job, too.
Taking custody of my girl, I retrenched to west Jersey,
land of safer schools and saner streets. Then Joy grew up.
My daughterís coming-of-age came with her enrollment in
culinary school along with a move to an apartment in the
city Iíd abandoned. At last, she was on her own, and so was
I. At thirty-nine, I entered what felt like a second stage
of adulthood; and even though I resisted making a change, I
My freelance food writing kept me far too isolated. Not
that Iíd been living like a nun—well, almost. Iíd
dated since my marriage ended, but every encounter had left
My subpar love life aside, Joy and her bubbly friends
were no longer around. Without them, my quiet suburban
ranch became intolerable. I wasnít simply alone anymore; I
Returning to New Yorkís Greenwich Village had its
challenges (now thereís an understatement), but Iíd never
been happier. Iíd always loved managing this coffeehouse
for my mother-in-law; and if I hadnít taken a leap of faith
and admitted to her that I wanted my old job back, I never
wouldíve met the man sitting across from me now . . .
After texturing the whole milk, I coated the bottom of a
glass mug with our newest bar syrup, poured in the thick
white milk-paint, stirred everything to blend the shades,
and slid my drinkable masterpiece across the counter.
Mikeís brow furrowed. "Where are my shots of espresso?"
"You donít need caffeine. You need sleep. I made you a
He peered into the mug. "Whatís a—?"
"Steamed milk with a special syrup. In this case, tem-
pered bittersweet, turbinado sugar, a kiss of salt,
vanilla, pure almond extract, and canela—"
"Mexican cinnamon. Still spicy but with less bite." I an-
gled my head at the chalkboard. "Itís the same syrup we use
for our new Mexican Choco-Latte."
Mike sipped and his eyes widened, the shadows lighten-
ing a fraction. "Really, really amazing," he said, drawing
out the words so suggestively I could have sworn he said,
Really, really orgasmic.
I smiled. To me, great chocolate was like a perfect
espresso—the quickest path between the abyss my
custom-ers were stranded in and a sensory experience of
"We just started using a new chocolate supplier," I ex-
plained. "Voss, in Brooklyn. Theyíre one of the few artisan
bean-to-bar chocolatiers in the area . . ."
Bean to bar was the hottest trend in the confectionary
industry, and the more I learned about it, the more I
realized how much it had in common with my own seed-to-cup
specialty coffee business—from partnering with farms
in developing countries to small-batch production and
"They even import and roast their own beans like we do."
"Sweetheart, itís heaven in a mug," Mike said. "But I
still need the espresso hit. I have a one oíclock meeting
with the first deputy commissioner, and I can barely keep
my eyes open."
"Then donít. Crash upstairs. Iíll caffeinate you in time
for your meeting." (The irony of drugging up an antidrug
cop didnít escape me, but I could see Mike wasnít up for
that particular joke.)
"I can crash upstairs?" he said. "You wouldnít mind?"
"You have to ask? Drink this up and Iíll tuck you in."
"Tucking me in. I like the sound of that."
"Good," I said, moving to check the front door lock. "As
long as you understand: tucking is not a euphemism for
"Itís only one letter."
"You need your rest. You look like hell."
"I feel like hell . . ."
"Then follow me . . ."
I led Mike up the service staircase to my duplex above
the Village Blend. (I say "my" because I lived there, not
because I owned it.) The apartment was an exquisite little
perk that my former mother-in-law handed me with my new
Madame Blanche Dreyfus Allegro Dubois had lived here
herself for decades when she ran the Blend. Over the years,
sheíd packed the apartment with imported furniture, lov-
ingly preserved antiques, and an array of paintings and
sketches from Village artists (patrons of her shop for
nearly a century), which is why she considered me a curator
as much as a tenant. While Mike followed me into the master
bedroom, I started some quiet tucking-in-time calculations.
The bakery delivery had been made, so I had forty, maybe
fifty, minutes to get the truth out of this man before I
had to open the shop.
"You want a snack before you crash?" I asked. "I made a
batch of my Chocolate-Glazed Hazelnut Bars yesterday. You
"When I wake up," Mike said, letting out a long
sigh. "Iíll have four."
I stepped close, tugged the knot of his tie. "So . . .
are you going to tell me?"
"What went wrong last night. Itís obviously weighing on
As head of the NYPDís OD Squad (a nickname for a much
longer, official sounding moniker), Mike supervised a small
group of detectives tasked with the job of investigating
criminal activity behind drug overdoses.
Like the NYPDís Bomb Squad, Mikeís team was based at the
Sixth precinct, just up the street, but they had
jurisdiction across all five boroughs, which meant Mikeís
workload was heavy, his hours unpredictable, and the mental
strain of political pressure periodically appalling.
For those reasons—and a few others—the man
strapped on mental armor daily, along with his service
weapon. In the quiet of the bedroom, however, I expected
him to loosen that armor, along with this tongue.
"Well?" I pressed.
"You really want to know?"
"You really have to ask?"
Mike didnít answer, just watched me pull his tie free
and begin unbuttoning his dress shirt. He stopped my hands,
peeled off his shoulder holster, and took his time hanging
it off the back of Madameís Duncan Phyfe chair. "Two of my
guys," he slowly began.
"Sully and Franco . . . they spoke to a young man
earlier in the week, an aspiring artist—
"Long Island City?"
"Williamsburg. The kid was our key witness in a case
against a New Jersey dealer doing business in the city.
Looking over his statements, given the MEís findings, I had
some concerns. I went with them both to re-interview..."
"This kid had been working all week on a sidewalk
painting. When he was finished, he went to the roof of his
ten-story building and dived off."
"Oh God. Thatís awful . . ."
"His painting was an elaborate bullís-eye. Nobody real-
ized it until he jumped. He aimed right for the center."
Mike moved to the carved mahogany four-poster, sank down
on the mattress. "The morning papers already have the
story, which I assume will be the subject of my one oíclock
meeting with the first deputy commish. My captain asked me
to take the meeting solo. Heíll owe me . . . he says."
I sat next to him, touched his shoulder, felt knots as
hard as baseballs. Oh, Mike. I dug in both thumbs, began to
He closed his eyes and exhaled. "Thank you . . ."
I worked him over a minute. "So how messed up is your
"Scale of one to ten? Nine point five. This kid was the
fiancť of the girl who ODíd two weeks ago. You remember the
one I told you about?"
"Yeah, beautiful girl, barely out of her twenties. Came
here to be the next Lady Gaga. The boyfriend was the one
who gave up the dealer. Heíd also been the one buying his
girl the stuff."
"It probably made him feel good," I said. "Knowing she
needed him that badly."
"Except it wasnít him she needed," he said. "It was the
"Sometimes love is a drug." (I wasnít speaking rhetori-
cally. Given my history with Joyís father, Iíd spent most
of my twenties making amore-addled decisions.)
Mikeís gaze shifted, as if looking for a change of
subject. He found it. My sketchbook lay open on the bedside
table. He leaned toward it, read the large letters Iíd
scrawled across the top.
"Aphroditeís Kitchen? Whatís this?"
Iíd been doodling elaborately around the margins: a big,
voluptuous Venus emerging from the sea, a spatula in one
hand, an oven mitt on the other. He picked up the book,
clearly intrigued by my comic rendition of the Botticelli
"Hey, give that here."
He teased it out of reach, scanned my list of recipe
ideas. "These sound pretty tasty. Any test batches coming
"As long as you make it to the launch party tonight.
Iíll be managing the samples table."
"Samples for?" He tapped his forehead. "Right. That
magical mocha coffee."
"Mocha Magic Coffee."
"A rose by any other name."
"When the name is trademarked, there is no other name."
"I remember now. You told me about it a few weeks ago.
Some new coffee powder that enhances . . ." He
smirked. "What does it enhance exactly?" "Alicia Bower
claims itís an herbal aphrodisiac, but I still have no idea
whatís in it, other than my coffee beans and Vossís
chocolate. Sheís keeping everything else to herself."
"Didnít you mention she discovered the active ingredi-
ents in India?"
"Yes, but I have yet to try it, and frankly, Iím
skeptical about its potency."
"Well," Mike said, arching an eyebrow, "Iím happy to be
your lab rat. Got any around?"
"I hate to disappoint you, but although Alicia has been
hyping this thing online for weeks, the launch party is the
first place anyoneís going to try the stuff. She has me
serving it up as a beverage, and to showcase its
versatility as a flavoring agent, weíll have samples of
mocha candies and bite-size pastries."
"Now youíre turning cookies and cakes into aphrodisi-
"Not me. All I did was share my chocolate and mocha
recipes from the Blend. Alicia gave them to her chocolatier
to make—Voss, the same Brooklyn boutique weíve
started buying from."
"I donít know, Cosi . . . sounds like those infamous
Alice B. Toklas brownies."
"Donít you go looking for collars on my turf, Detective.
Nobodyís lacing anything with cannabis around here."
"Is that so?"
"Yes. In fact, Alicia claimed she was so happy with the
results of my recipes combined with her product that she
treated Madame and me to dinner last night so we could
brainstorm more—which is why my sketchbook is full of
"So far. And by the way, the original Alice B. Toklas
recipe was for fudge, not brownies.
"I hate fudge," he said.
"You do not. Your mother told me she made cherry cor-
dial fudge for you every Christmas."
"Oh, chocolate fudge Iíll eat. What I canít swallow is
fudging—as in fudging statistics, fudging results,
fudging the truth. Mathematicians call it a fudge
factor—putting an extra calculation into an equation
just so it will work out as expected."
"Yeah. Itís what we law enforcement types call a scam."
"Oh God . . ." The single word deflated me. "I just hope
this aphrodisiac claim of Aliciaís doesnít turn out to be
Mike paused, studied me. "Youíre not kidding?"
"What I am is worried."
"Alicia has been using my Village Blend beans, thatís
why. As soon as her product launches, everyoneís going to
know it. So if this Mocha Magic stuff tastes like merde or
doesnít live up to its claims, then itís my rep on the
"Oh, sweetheart, no itís not. Your customers know how
high your standards. That wonít change."
"Bad reviews can do a lot of damage, Mike, especially if
her Magic powder lays a big, fat chocolate egg."
"Youíre not the owner of this place; your former mother-
"Madame may own this business, but sheís leaving it to
me and her son to run—and one day weíll leave it to
our daughter. Iím also the master roaster here, not just
the manager." I paused, took a breath. "Sorry. I just
loathe not being in control."
"I know you do. Itís how youíre built—itís also
why your coffeehouse runs smoother than the purr of a
"Thatís nice of you to say, but—"
"But worrying isnít going to change anything, Cosi.
Youíre fully on board with this thing. If it goes bad,
youíll figure out the next step. You always do. In the
meantime, try to trust the process."
"What Iím trusting here is my employer. I have no
choice. Madame is the one who signed the contract with
Alicia—months ago, as it turns out, without
consulting me or her son. She just roped us into this
thing . . ."
Despite my continual, borderline belligerent
questioning, Madame had provided very few answers, beyond
the vague explanation that Alicia was a dear old friend to
whom she owed a great deal. (An NYPD detective I could
handle. My former mother-in-law was another
matter—the octogenarian took stonewalling to a whole
"Well, Cosi, like I told you," Mike said, reaching out
and curling a lock of hair around my ear, "Iím ready to
test the stuff when you are."
I smiled. "Youíll get your chance. Tonight."
I laughed, but Mike wasnít kidding, and the veteran
street cop had some tricky moves. In one fluid motion, he
caught my wrist, pulled me flat, and rolled. Now I was
pinned on the mattress, at his mercy for a long, slow, deli-
"Seems to me," I murmured, "you donít need an herbal
"Do you?" he whispered, slipping his fingers beneath my
Before I could answer, his mouth was covering mine
again, kissing me so deeply that when he undid the button
on my jeans, I had all the resistance of self-saucing
About then is when my cell phone went off, abruptly
ending our tucking-in time. I might have ignored the darn
thing, but the La bohŤme ringtone was adamant. My em-ployer
"Madame?" I answered.
"Clare, thank goodness you picked up. You must come at
I glanced at Mike. "Come where? Your penthouse?"
"No, dear, you forget. After you left the restaurant
last evening, I took a room here at Aliciaís hotel so I
could enjoy breakfast with her this morning."
"Just come to the Topaz, room 1015. Iíll explain when
you get here. And tell no one where youíre going,
especially that nice police officer boyfriend of yours."
Oh, for heavenís sake. "Why not?"
"Honestly?" She lowered her voice. "Itís a matter of
life and death."
"If thatís the case, call 911!"
"Thereís an issue."
"Yes, you see . . . the situation is extremely
"No buts. And no more arguing. Keep the Closed sign on
our door and hail a cab tout de suite!"