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Murder Most Frothy: A Coffeehouse Mystery    by Cleo Coyle order for
Murder Most Frothy
by Cleo Coyle
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Clare Coyle, barista and fervid coffee fan herself, has a golden opportunity: a chance to spend the summer months in the Hamptons, staying in a millionaire friend's mansion while earning her keep training his restaurant staff. An added perk is time spent with her grown-up daughter Joy, whose strong-mindedness and independence rival her own, incidentally arousing Clare's maternal anxieties.

What should be a pleasant respite from big-city discomforts turns into a test of her courage and her determination. Her friend David hosts a lavish Fourth of July party, at which one of the wait staff is shot dead. Clare, an indefatiguable snooper, is the only person concerned that David himself was the target, not the young man with a somewhat checkered past. To her worries about David's safety is added anxiety over Joy's rebellious behaviour. Her ex-mother-in-law, Madame, to whom she is still close, provides unexpected assistance even while adding yet another cause for concern. (Madame is engaging in a dalliance.) Maddeningly, all the objects of her concern seem intent on ignoring sensible precautions. As if all this wasn't enough on her plate, Clare also butts heads with the unpleasant manager of David's restaurant and fights off distraction in the form of more than one attractive male admirer.

None of these side issues dissuades Clare from her primary goal: ensuring David's safety and tracking down the murderer she is convinced is still after him. An amateur sleuth, Clare finds a formidable ally who is essential to her ultimate success. (I'm still trying to decide if this development is overly fortuitous or clever and logical.) The authors weave a tangled web of distractions and complications and bring the story to a neat and satisfying conclusion.

Clare is a feisty protagonist, and the tale is peopled by interesting characters. I admit that I found Joy annoyingly ungrateful, but I suspect that parents must often find this so. The authors also provide a scrumptious-looking set of coffee-related recipes that I am anxious to try. Murder Most Frothy, like its title, is a light and lively blend. Enjoy it with a cup of your favourite brew, coffee-based or not.

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