My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I really wanted to rate this one higher. I met the author at the Ohiana Book fest and he was very nice. It's well written as far as that goes but I had a lot of issues with the plot so I couldn't go higher than 2.5. Death by Coffee had all the earmarks of something I'd enjoy, mystery, coffee house/book store and a strong female character. However, Krissy ended up more obnoxious than strong to me. I simply didn't connect with the characters, including the two cats, Trouble and Misfit (in fact it would put me off owning a cat if I didn't know there are much better cats than these ones). I will keep the spoilers to a minimum (being a mystery) but there are a couple of things I want to point out, the reasons I didn't like this more.
Krissy and Vickie, her friend, have moved to the Midwest from California where Krissy's dad is a famous mystery writer and Vickie's parents are actors and want her to be one too but she want's nothing to do with it (in spite of being beautiful and talented for it which is about all we know about Vickie. Literally she exists as the foil to buy the coffee shop/book store and to tell Krissy you should leave this to the cops for the entire book. Vickie is very flat). Krissy says she wants to do this but nothing in the book suggests she's telling the truth. She hates the cutesy name for the store Death by Coffee (after her father's bestseller) and in fact goes on and on about that name and the names of other stores in town. Trouble the cat lives in the bookstore and is Vickie's. Krissy's cat is Misfit. And from the get go I have to wonder how much money they have as they bought the store, bought two homes etc.
On their very first day, Krissy meets Rita, a gossipy force of nature who wants to recruit Krissy for the local writers group knowing who her father is and naturally Krissy dislikes her (mentally whining about it at almost every meeting even though she knows she needs Rita for local intel. In fact, Krissy seems to dislike most of her customers). Also on day one, she's shocked about how rude one man, Brendan Lawyer, is when he gets his coffee (actually not written as all that rude, given how customers can be) and minutes later he's dead. Turns out he was allergic to peanuts and his EpiPen was missing.
The cops almost instantly rule out Krissy but she feels she has to clear her name and get to the bottom of this. Here's where my problems started. For one, the cops, the very handsome Paul and the chief of police Patricia have written this off as an accident. This doesn't work for me at all because it was in the coffee. Where in the world would peanut-laced coffee come from accidentally? Krissy assures them they only have chocolate chip cookies (that she thinks belongs at the bottom of a coffee cup and doesn't get people find this gross. I'm on the gross side of this).
So from the get-go the cops seem not just small-town naive but downright dumb. It doesn't even seem suspicious that Brendan would not have his EpiPen when he always carried it. Nor when it quickly comes to light that he might have been divorcing his wife and had at least two mistresses. They continue to believe it's an accident (even though they can't account for the peanut dust in the coffee) until at least mid-book and it takes Krissy to change their minds.
In fact, she meets the chief of police at the writers group and Patricia is more interested in setting Krissy up with her son (spoiler here: okay if you’re reading on you were warned: Deputy Paul is her son) than she is in Brendan's death. Krissy is the only one convinced it wasn't an accident thanks to her father's books.
So she runs around badgering everyone, the dead man's father, brother, wife, mother in law and mistresses about the man's sex life and who wanted to get revenge etc. And this is a second big problem for me. It's one of the few times I'll say I wish the editors had stepped in and said something. This would have worked so much better if Krissy was known to these people. I would have been fine with her growing up there, living in California for a little while and coming back. Something. Anything. It is really not too believable that these people would open up to a complete and utter stranger coming into their homes and places of businesses to question them like she's the cop. Of course half the people in this town act nuts (witness the owner of the diner). I can't imagine I'd do anything if a stranger did this to me other than call the cops. Which does happen at least, the one believable thing.
Much more believable than Paul, who comes across as foolish. He and Krissy do go out on a date (another spoiler here!) and she convinces him to give her illegal access to Brendan's office. They go in at the dead of night (where she does get the clue that proves it was a murder and not an accident) and get arrested (not the last time for Krissy) but Patrica the sheriff looks the other way and encourages Paul to keep going out with Krissy.
The one smart thing she tries to do is look at their facebook pages (but then uses it to obsess over Paul like she's in high school). Naturally she solves the case and all is well. I know this is a series so some people are enjoying this. I'm not inclined to go look at book two I'm afraid.
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