***ARC provided by Netgalley for an honest review***
Perfect for fans of Janet Evanovich and Diane Mott Davidson, Caroline Fardig’s captivating new mystery novel takes readers behind the counter of a seemingly run-of-the-mill coffeehouse . . . where murder is brewing.After her music career crashes and burns spectacularly, Juliet Langley is forced to turn to the only other business she knows: food service. Unfortunately, bad luck strikes yet again when her two-timing fiancé robs her blind and runs off with her best waitress. Flushing what’s left of her beloved café down the toilet with her failed engagement, Juliet packs up and moves back to her college stomping grounds in Nashville to manage an old friend’s coffeehouse. At first glance, it seems as though nothing’s changed at Java Jive. What could possibly go wrong? Only that the place is hemorrhaging money, the staff is in open revolt, and Juliet finds one unlucky employee dead in the dumpster out back before her first day is even over.
The corpse just so happens to belong to the cook who’d locked horns with Juliet over the finer points of the health code. Unimpressed with her management style, the other disgruntled employees are only too eager to spill the beans about her fiery temper to the detective on the case. Add to the mix a hunky stranger who’s asking way too many questions, and suddenly Juliet finds herself in some very hot water. If she can’t simmer down and sleuth her way to the real killer, she’s going to get burned.
Death Before Decaf is a cute, fun book. Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the story to really make it stand out for me. The contrivance of having a hapless woman investigate a crime with no clue as to what she is doing has been done. Most notably by Janet Evanovich in her Stephanie Plum series. Thankfully Fardig doesn’t continue that particular plot point throughout the whole book but actually has the character realize she’s in over her head.
The characters did not seem fully developed to me. More often than not, Juliet came off as a college kid (whom she professes to hate several times) rather than a 30-year-old professional. Pete, the best friend for the past 10 years, seems to be just as juvenile, especially with regard to his relationship with Juliet…is she a friend? Is she more? Will he man-up and take a stand? All things I was shouting at him in my head the entire book. There was more chemistry between Juliet and the mysterious college professor than Juliet and Pete, so I hope that’s a continuing story arc in the next book.
On a positive note, the author managed to hide the true perpetrator of the murder and the associated crimes fairly well. While I was able to figure out one of the people involved, as well as the how and the why, the reveal of the true criminal mastermind caught me by surprise (well done, Ms. Fardig).
All in all, Death Before Decaf is a fun, quick, pool-side read (which is exactly where I read it).