Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Through The Grinder - Book Review

Before all the yucky flu stuff hit our house (hey, thanks for all the kind words, thoughts, and prayers, too), I was happy to have a chance to make it into "town", partly because we don't get in much in the winter months, and I've been missing civilization, but mainly because I've had a Barnes and Noble gift card since Christmas, that I finally got to make use of. My plan was to treat myself to The Teaberry Strangler, the latest of the Tea Shop Mysteries by Laura Childs. I hoped to read it as my fourth pick for the 2010 Thriller and Suspense Reading Challenge being hosted by by Book Chick City.

Unfortunately, The Teaberry Strangler is still in hardback, and there's no way I could bring myself to pay $25.00 for a couple of afternoons of cozy mystery reading, not even with a gift card, especially when there was a large display of homeschool workbooks in sight from the mystery section. I'll just have to wait my turn for the library's copy.

Instead, I slipped down the aisle to the Coffeehouse Mystery Series by Cleo Coyle. After a frustrating few minutes of trying to find the first book in the series (why don't they number the spines!?!), I picked up Through the Grinder, the second book in the series. By reading the back of the book, I thought I was grabbing book number one. But, I failed to notice the note on the front, "Cleo Coyle - National Bestselling Author of On What Grounds" - which is, it turns out, the real beginning of the series. So much for my own sleuthing abilities, but then, you try browsing through a bookstore, with six children in tow!

Happily, with these books, the basic concept of the series is spelled out in each edition, so you can pretty well jump in anywhere. From the back of just about every book, I glanced over, I already knew the series was about Clare Cosi, a single mother, who has recently moved back from New Jersey, to New York City, to stay near her now grown daughter, and run the historic coffee shop, owned by her ex-mother-in-law. I also knew, Clare's unfaithful, but charming husband, is still very much a part of her life, and business. As is an unhappily married, haggard, but handsome police detective.

So, much for the series. As to this particular title, I have mixed feelings.

First of all the positives:

  • There is an excellent sense of place - not only is the setting, a brick, fireplace, and french door endowed coffeehouse in New York City, delightful, but Coyle does a fine job of filling in the surrounding area, too.

  • The first person narrative, Coyle employs, is a refreshing change from the third person point of view, predominate to the cozy mystery genre.

  • I really enjoyed the alternating points of view from killer to protagonist throughout the book.

  • And, even though large portions of the narrative are written from the point of view of the killer, I still fell for enough of the false clues, to spend most of the book suspecting the wrong character.

  • The banter between the heroine, Clare Cosi, and her sadly, unfaithful, ex-husband Matteo has an enjoyable Thin Man-esque quality to it. Though I believe the Thin Man was a ladies man before his marriage, rather than after.

As for the cons:

  • God's name was abused a good deal in the dialogue.

  • The sexual content, while not exactly up to Harlequin standards, was a little higher than I am comfortable with. I hate to sound like my twelve year old son, but - Too Much Kissing!

  • In fact, the moral integrity of most of the characters was somewhat wanting.

  • And finally, the recipes at the back of the book, such as Coffee Marinated Steak, with Coffee Gravy, were too heavy for my taste. I'll pass them on to my husband, when he gets to his summer barbecue phase though, and let you know if we have any winners.

With that said, while I enjoyed the story, and it held my interest to the end, I can only give it a half-hearted recommendation. I love the characters, setting, and writing style, but the language, and sexual content are too gritty for my idea of a cozy read.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Ticia said...

It's a shame it's a female protagonist, my husband might be interested, but I'm guessing it's not quite his "cup of coffee" so to speak.
I need to look up the tea house murders though, I keep meaning to, and I'm actually going to the library today, in theory......

Tales of Whimsy said...

Sounds cute. Thanks for the content warning. I feature something similar too on my blog :)

Tales of :)