After a ten-year absence, Clare Cosi returned as manager of The Village Blend, a coffeehouse in Greenwich Village owned by her former mother-in-law, Madame. An added perk of her new position was the rambling apartment above the store allowing Clare to sell her house in the suburbs and skip the snarling twice-a-day commute. Clare was brimming with excitement as she, and her cat Java, made the frustrating commute for the last time.
On the day Clare completed her move, she arrived at the coffeehouse at 9:00 a.m. only to find the front door locked, the closed sign in the window, and Annabelle, her closer of the night before, unconscious at the bottom of the basement stairs with coffee grounds spilled all around her.
The police believed Annabelle's fall was accidental, but Clare suspected otherwise. During the investigation, the prickly relationship between Clare and the good-looking yet methodical Detective Quinn did not bode well for a quick solution to the crime. When Clare's hunky ex-husband Matteo (Matt) unexpectedly appeared at the scene, he was mistaken for an intruder, handcuffed, and given the third degree.
As the investigation progressed, additional quirky characters added flavor to the mystery. Madame, Matt’s mother and Cleo’s former mother-in-law seemed one of the more interesting players as she continually plotted to reunite the previously married pair.
Written by Cleo Coyle, a pseudonym for a prolific husband and wife team, On What Grounds was a fun read for a murder mystery. This same writing team also wrote the popular haunted bookshop mysteries under the name Alice Kimberly.
My only complaint, quite often found in the first book of a series, was the amount of time the author spent providing detailed description about coffee, the numerous blends, and how to brew each blend. Such detail considerably slowed down the plot and I found myself skipping portions of the book to get back to the action. This did not seem to happen in later coffeehouse mystery books.
Otherwise, I think cozy mystery readers will enjoy this start of a great series. The imaginative plot, interesting and well-developed characters, and the desire to read more stories about The Village Blend, will given discerning readers a reason to continue following the series. On What Grounds also includes several intriguing dessert recipes, and cocktails with coffee-flavored liqueur, along with numerous coffee-making tips readers are sure to enjoy.