Today, Hartford Books rootshed.commemorates the end of the season by offering up a review of Holiday Buzz (Berkley, $7.99) by Cleo Coyle.
Released earlier this month, Holiday Buzz is the twelfth entry in the Coffeehouse Mystery Series featuring Clare Cosi, coffeehouse manager of the Village Blend – and the second seasonally themed tale, following 2009’s Holiday Grind. Written by the husband-and-wife team of Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini (collectively known as Cleo Coyle), the book debuted at #10 on the New York Times bestseller list.
As the story opens, Clare is serving up her Fa-la-la-la Lattes as part of the charitable festivities at the Great New York Cookie Swap. Later in the evening, she has the distinct misfortune of stumbling upon the bloodied body of a baker’s assistant – one who is familiar to her from helping out at Village Blend. Police suspect that this attack is yet another in a string of similar crimes known as “The Christmas Stalkings,” though Clare and her cohorts suspect that something even more sinister may be afoot.
Given her personal connection to the victim, and the fact that the Village Blend (and its staff and clientele) has come under police scrutiny, Clare feels a certain obligation to ensure that justice is served. But she’s more than just your average amateur sleuth, and the leads that she develops are the result of intellect and spunk as much as coincidence or luck. In fact, Clare has no qualms about going head to head with the investigators when she feels that they are becoming single-minded in their focus. A growing body count ensues, and it becomes clear that Clare herself is a target.
Of course, Clare is not alone in her cause, as a motley crew of secondary characters (both familiar and new) – who represent yet another highlight of this enduring series – surround her in her pursuit of truth. These occasional scene-stealers include boyfriend/cagey NYPD Detective Mike Quinn, ex-mother-in-law Madame (and ex-husband Matt), her Village Blend staff, a macho hockey player, a pompous cop who moonlights as a crime novelist, and two reality TV divas. They make for an appealingly wacky bunch – and they also serve to beg the question: friend or foe?
If it sounds like there’s a lot going on, that’s because there is. (After all, there’s a reason that the holidays are synonymous with the term “hustle and bustle.”) Fortunately, the authors are extremely adept at balancing storylines – and equally so at sprinkling well-placed clues throughout the narrative. While those clues are certainly subtle enough to sustain the mystery, they will also leave readers feeling a sense of inevitability and satisfaction as things come full circle.
Holiday Buzz is both a percolating mystery and a charming seasonal tale. While murder and mayhem can certainly put a damper on the Christmas spirit, the winter ambiance, mouth-watering food and drink (recipes included!), and mostly well-intentioned characters go a long way toward keeping things merry and bright. Warning: much like a dose of caffeine, this book may very well keep you up at night…