A decade ago, Clare Cosi left her job in Greenwich Village as manager of The Village Blend for the suburbs of New Jersey to raise her daughter. Though she loved working there, she was more than happy to distance herself from her cheating ex-husband Matt (the shop's coffee buyer). Now at 39, Clare moves back to New York and accepts the manager's position once again at the insistence of the coffeehouse's flamboyant owner Madam (her ex-mother-in-law).
Clare arrives at the shop one morning to find her assistant manager Anabelle lying at the bottom of the basement stairs unconscious and badly injured. As Anabelle is rushed to the hospital, the police arrive to investigate, including the serious (and handsome) Detective Quinn. After a thorough investigation, the police determine that Anabelle's tumble down the stairs was an unfortunate accident. But Clare is not convinced. How could a graceful young dancer like Anabelle be so clumsy?
With a little help from her sometimes irritating yet charming ex-husband, Clare sets out to investigate. Each person questioned reveals additional clues that tell her Anabelle's mishap was no accident. Clare and Matt are determined to uncover the truth before she becomes the guilty party's next victim.
There was much I enjoyed about ON WHAT GROUNDS. I loved the setting being a historic coffeehouse in New York City. The author painted a vivid picture of the people and places in Greenwich Village. (There was a very touching scene when Clare remembers the outside wall of St. Vincent's Hospital after 9/11). Throughout the book, there are detailed descriptions of various coffees and brewing techniques. As a coffee lover myself, I found that interesting, though it slowed the story down a bit.
My favorite part of the book was the cast of characters. Each one had a distinct and memorable personality, and the witty dialogue between them was fun to read. It was great to read a book where the female lead was 40-ish. Clare had the traits of a great amature sleuth - smart, stubborn, caring and nosy. Yes, she was a major coffee snob, but I liked her. There was a great scene with Clare and Matt, their 19-year old daughter Joy and her new beau Mario. I loved watching two stubborn alpha males butt heads while Clare tried to keep things civilized for Joy's sake.
How did two ex-spouses work together as a detective team? One thing I don't like is making an attempt at humor through bickering, and luckily this never happened. Despite the fact that Matt was once an unfaithful husband and so-so father, he was actually very likable. Perhaps in his case absence makes the heart grow fonder, because it seemed like he really wanted to make ammends. Of couse, Clare was smart enough not to simply run back into his arms. But, they did make a fabulous detective team.
ON WHAT GROUNDS is an entertaining cozy mystery with some nice twists along the way. The wonderfully crafted characters will draw you further into the story, and all of the java talk will make coffee lovers swoon. Recipes from The Village Blend are located at the back of the book. I'm looking foward to more from this series.