Coffeehouse Mystery #18
By Cleo Coyle
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
When coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi awakens on a bench in Washington Square Park, she has no idea she’s been missing for days, or that her friends and family have been frantic with worry. Now that she’s back, everyone is overjoyed, including a handsome NYPD detective who claims to be her fiancé. But to Mike Quinn’s crushing distress, Clare doesn’t remember him, or much of anything about the last fifteen years of her life.
Clare’s missing memory is tied to a crime she witnessed. An acquaintance of Clare’s elegant employer–and fellow member of an exclusive Gotham circle known as “The Ladies Who Brunch“–invited Clare to her posh hotel to sample gourmet wedding cakes. After their indulgent tasting, they headed to the parking garage, where a camera captured a masked figure with a gun confronting the hotel heiress with Clare looking on. Did the kidnapper take Clare, too? The camera went dark, just like Clare’s memory. Soon authorities grow suspicious. Is Clare really a victim? Or merely acting like one? Evidence is mounting that she set the woman up.
To clear her name, Clare must find a way to reclaim her memories and rescue the heiress before this high-stakes crime ends in tragedy. Otherwise, instead of walking down the aisle, Clare may find herself perp-walking to prison as an accomplice to kidnapping and murder. (Goodreads)
How do you keep a long running, eighteen books and counting, series fresh? Make the beloved protagonist a victim and erase the past fifteen years of her life, of course. This provides the backbone to the wonderfully crafted Brewed Awakening. Add in a missing person, a questionable psychiatrist, murder, and lots of talk about excellent coffee and tasty food, and you have an immensely entertaining read.
Author Cleo Coyle can be consistently counted on to produce well written adventures, and Brewed Awakening is no exception. The series is turned sideways with Clare’s circumstance that erases years of experiences and memories…feeling anger and bitterness towards her ex-husband Matteo, thinking her twenty-something daughter Joy should still be a child, and not remembering her fiancé Mike at all. When those who care most about Clare suspect that the celebrity psychiatrist who volunteered his services to treat Clare might not have her best interests at heart, they spring her from the hospital and a race is on to find out what happened to a socialite hotelier before the authorities can find Clare and blame her for the crime.
I adore all of these characters, and it is not easy to watch Clare struggle with her memory. It feels like a friend is going through it all. What she hasn’t lost is her sense of humor and spunky, investigative spirit, and readers cannot help but root for her recovery. My favorite character continues to be Mike, and his unconditional love for Clare and patience make him all the more endearing. True to form, Matteo attempts to use Clare’s issue to his advantage – it is difficult for a tiger to change his stripes, after all.
Most of the action in Brewed Awakening takes place outside of the coffee shop, and, as much as I love the Village Blend setting, it is a nice change for the story to take readers through the city, to New Jersey, and beyond. The mystery is expertly executed with plenty of twists and turns. The pace is good and there is an ever present tension and concern for the investigation and Clare that propels the story forward that I find compelling. I did not figure out whodunit before the big reveal. This book is hard to put down.
Brewed Awakening is an outstanding, edgier than average cozy mystery. Highly recommended.