I admit it. I love chocolate and I often order a mocha. I know it has more calories than other coffee-based drinks, and it is not perfect, but I can even remember when I first had one in the late 1980s in a very impressive joint in Berkeley when I was there for an NEH seminar. I had them a lot. While I have moved on to caramel in some coffee drinks, I love chocolate and . . a mocha is one of my favorite things. Few people make them well, though. (Though I am a fan of the Dalai Java in Canandaigua's peppermint mocha to which I was treated recently.)
I also love mole. (and this despite the fact I cannot figure out how to get the accent mark to appear above the e.) In fact, my New Year's resolutions for this year involved making more mole. I have made one kind and blogged about it here. But I have not made enough. Hmmm.
So: imagine my glee when Cleo Coyle (yes, she of the virtual coffee house) let me know she'd be sending along her new mystery. Why? It is entitled Murder by Mocha. My glee about the topic was only a tiny little bit of my glee. (And no, I do not mean the television show.) What else made me gleeful? Learning Cleo was acknowledging this very blog (Yes, Cooking with Ideas!) in her opening bits! THANK YOU CLEO! It is one thing to appear in acknowledgements for geeky academic reasons -- and another because of Cooking with Ideas. I may in fact prefer the latter. Did I say THANK YOU CLEO??!??!? And hte thnaks are also for the book itself which came along in hard back, signed and all that!
My glee, of course, also came from my love for mochas and my assumption that the book would be a treat not just because I like the Coffeehouse series but because (I assumed) this volume would have loads of chocoholic tidbits. Little did I know that the book would also include a mole recipe to help me move a bit forward on that New Year's goal. For a change, I may in fact try one of the recipes -- and yes, it will be the mole. (Accentless though it is here in this blog entry.)
But, you ask, what about the book itself? What did I think? Well, I might be prejudiced because she mentions Cooking with Ideas in her acknowledgements (did I say that already?) but. . . . I burned through the book, glad to meet again various series characters like Madame and Clare and Mike Quinn and. . . others. And, I enjoyed the focus on a women owned and run business (beyond the Coffee House Series' Village Blend itself), though I always hate to see women's efforts include craziness and nastiness and... well, nastiness. In this mystery, one of the "characters" is actually a business which has both a web presence and a wider presence focused on selling to women -- in areas like life style, health, food, etc. There are loads of plays on the relation of commodity fetishism to cults (not quite so directly as I have just stated it) and corporations and cults. (Did I say cults? I often argue cults are just religions no one likes; in this case, the edge to the word seems to me warranted. Not only does the organization use the names of goddesses to mark their various business sectors, but, well, they take competitive business to a whole new level. Ok, not literally a cult, but certainly figuratively. Whatever that means.) The mystery itself reaches forward and backward in time, and as always Cleo lets us into the mind of the relevant nasty people in intriguing ways. For those of us who live in academia, there is even a little bit of content for us -- a tiny glimpse into a college setting. As for non-mystery aspects of the story -- as usual, there are tensions, and kindnesses among the series characters, romance, parental thises and thats, and coffee (and in this case chocolate) learning to be found. While aphrodisiacs are a central part of the plot of this mystery, I particularly like that the tensions between Clare and her former husband Matt are toned down a bit and the romantic tensions for Clare and her Michael Quinn are pretty straightforwardly dealt with.
So: I do not intend to be murdered by mocha, regardless of the caloric content. I intend to continue believing that chocolate is good for me. But, [TEENSY BITSY SPOILER ALERT] I will definitely not take such things for granted just because a company markets its products that way!
Yes, I know I did not tell you much about the content of this book. But, hey, read it. You'll enjoy it. I did.
For more on Murder by Mocha, click here.