Once Upon a Grind

A Coffeehouse Mystery, Book #14

By Cleo Coyle


Author Website: coffeehousemystery.com


Once Upon a GrindBrought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele



It’s Fairy Tale Week in New York City, and Clare Cosi has given her coffee truck a “Jack and the Beanstalk” makeover for the Central Park festival. Her ex-husband has contributed a bag of African coffee beans with alleged magical properties, and his octogenarian mother is giving out readings of the grinds. But Clare remains skeptical—until she receives a vision that helps her find a young model’s body in the park’s woods.

The police dismiss “sleeping beauty” as the victim of a drug overdose. But when Clare uncovers evidence that points to murder, she winds up with a dangerous predator on her heels and an investigation that leads right back to her own NYPD detective boyfriend. If she doesn’t solve this mystery fast, those magic beans predict an unhappy ending. (Goodreads)



Once Upon a Grind, the fourteenth entry in the long-running Coffeehouse Mystery series, is a departure from the previous installments.  This tale is less cozy and much more of a suspenseful thriller.

Ahh, October in Central Park.  Storybook Kingdom, a weekend festival in the park celebrating all things Brothers Grimm and fairy tales, is primed to be a big success.  Clare and her coffee shop employees have embraced the theme and transformed the coffee truck into Jack and the Beanstalk, and Matt has been called upon to be the Pink Princess’ Prince Charming.  All goes well until Anya, the Pink Princess, does not appear for one of her commitments.  To complicate matters, Clare’s boyfriend Quinn’s children have been unceremoniously dumped by their mother, and even though she does not need anything else on her plate, Clare keeps an eye on them.  However, the pair also goes missing with their dog Penny while Clare is distracted in the fortune teller tent.  Thankfully, the children are found without injury, but Anya is not so lucky.  Clare, with Penny’s help, finds her unresponsive in an isolated wooded area of the park.  While the police think it is an overdose, Clare feels that something dark is in play with the Russian immigrant who nannies the children part-time.

Things quickly spiral out of control when Matt is arrested in connection to Anya’s state.  Clare’s inquiries lead her into a secret world of private clubs, a mysterious drug, a CIA cold case, espionage, blackmail, possible police corruption, and the Russian mob.  When another Princess dies and Matt is fingered in the crime, Clare puts herself in harm’s way to find the guilty Big Bad Wolf.

I admit that I have not read all of the Coffeehouse Mystery books, but have I missed something?  When did Clare become superstitious and a believer in coffee ground readings with psychic abilities.  I am a fan of paranormal mysteries, but I definitely did not expect to find one here.  I was surprised by this turn in the characters, and I had a hard time with suspending reality enough to buy into the magic coffee beans, visions, and such.  Despite this, I found this to be a likable enough read.  The interweaving of fairy tale themes, such as Sleeping Beauty and Red Riding Hood, was fresh and interesting.  The plot was complex, a good thing, and the characters were connected in surprising ways.  The plethora of plot twists and turns kept me guessing until rather late in the book.  Also, the subplots involving all of the supporting characters kept me reading, but it did seem like too many big life changes involving too many Village Blend employees.  I am curious to see how Coyle handles all of these in the next installment.  Overall, it is my enjoyment of the characters that keeps me reading these books.

Different from the other books in the series, Once Upon a Grind is still an entertaining read, and I will continue with the series.  There are always plenty of delicious sounding recipes included in the back of the book.  I recommend this to fans of the series and coffee fanatics.