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.
ebook, 296 pages
Published November 17th 2015 by Alibi
Two stars: A cozy that lacks feel good with its unlikeable characters and a heroine who makes poor choices.
Juliet feels like she is stepping back in time when she enters the Java Jive. Behind the counter is her long time friend, Pete, who hired her to help get Java Jive back in the black. Unfortunately, Juliet's first day on the job goes from bad to worse as she is met with hostility from the employees, especially from the cook. Juliet ends up fighting with Dave, and she threatens to fire him before stalking out. Juliet cools off and returns to finish the day. Late that night as she is taking out the trash, she finds Dave, the cook, dead in the garbage can, and she is considered a suspect since she was arguing with him before his death. Can Juliet catch the real killer and clear her name while turning the Java Jive around?
What I Liked:
- I went into Death Before Decaf hoping for a fun cozy with lots of humor. While I was disappointed in the lack of cozy, I found some of the humor enjoyable.
- While I struggled with the majority of the characters, I found both Pete and Gertie to be a breath of fresh air. Pete is an all around good guy, who constantly looked after Juliet. Pete is kind, generous and willing to do what he can when it comes to helping out his friends and employees. Gertie is a sharp tongued old gal who is a constant fixture in Java Jive. She tells it like it is and I loved her humor and wit. She was a scene stealer, and I found myself wishing for more time with her.
- I liked that the mystery was suspenseful and realistic. There were plenty of leads, suspects and motives, along with some twists and surprises. I also liked that law enforcement wasn't presented as bumbling idiots, while the heroine solves the case. Yes, Juliet tries to help solve the mystery and she digs up some helpful leads, but she isn't the one who cracks the case. For a cozy, the mystery was very well done, and it didn't stray into the unbelievable territory.
- Usually with cozy mysteries, the person who is murdered is presented as a cantankerous, unlikeable person. The deceased starts out that way, but as the story progresses, Juliet learns more and more about what kind of person he really was, and her opinion changes. I liked that Dave turned out to be a nice person.
- The ending draws to a satisfying close. All the questions are answered, the culprit is caught and the motives are exposed. No unfinished business as far as the main story line goes.
And The Not So Much:
- I think this novel faltered for me because it lacked cozy and feel good. Normally I like my cozy mysteries to have likeable characters and a pleasant atmosphere. This book had neither. I found aside from Pete and Gertie, that I really didn't like any of the characters. Juliet, the heroine shows promise, but I struggled with her romantic choices, and foolish decisions. She places herself into several dangerous situations that could have gotten her killed. The staff at the coffee shop is hostile and unfriendly, and I found that I didn't enjoy coffee shop scenes because of the employees. If you are used to your cozy mysteries having a warm, inviting atmosphere, this one will disappoint you.
- The romance was a mess. To be fair, there isn't a full blown love triangle, but there are two love interests. It is apparent from the beginning that Juliet has feelings for her long, time best friend, but she has never moved the relationship beyond the friendship zone. Then she meets Seth, a regular at Java Jive. Seth starts flirting with her and asks her out. Juliet learns that Seth hasn't been truthful with her, but she still ends up sleeping with him, only after a couple of days. I never liked her relationship with Seth, and I couldn't understand how she would quickly jump into bed with someone that she didn't completely trust. By the end of the book, the love triangle seems to be resolved. Hopefully, the romance is moving in the right direction.
- I found a couple of scenes that I think were included to add humor, turned out to be not so funny. The scene of the deceased's funeral was awful. Two brawls break out and it turned into a white trash throw down. I did not like that at all. Some of the other scenes with the deceased's ex wife were also unpleasant.
Death Before Decaf was a book that disappointed me. I did not like the majority of the characters, and I felt the story lacked the warm, cozy vibe that I crave when reading a cozy mystery. I was also put off by the heroine and her foolish choices and the ridiculous romance. The overall mystery was good and realistic, but it wasn't solid enough to save the read for me.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own, and I was not compensated for this review.