When Lana Lewis’ best — and most difficult — employee abruptly quits and goes to work for the competition just days before the Sunshine State Barista Championship, her café’s chances of winning the contest are creamed. In front of a gossipy crowd in the small Florida town of Devil’s Beach, Lana’s normally calm demeanor heats to a boil when she runs into the arrogant java slinger. Of course, Fabrizio “Fab” Bellucci has a slick explanation for jumping ship. But when he’s found dead the next morning under a palm tree in the alley behind Lana’s café, she becomes the prime suspect.
Even the island’s handsome police chief isn’t quite certain of her innocence. But Lana isn’t the only one in town who was angry with Fabrizio. Jilted lovers, a shrimp boat captain, and a surfer with ties to the mob are all suspects as trouble brews on the beach.
With her stoned, hippie dad, a Shih Tzu named Stanley, and a new, curious barista sporting a punk rock aesthetic at her side, Lana’s prepared to turn up the heat to catch the real killer. After all, she is a former award-winning reporter. As scandal hangs over her beachside café, can Lana clear her name and win the championship — or will she come to a bitter end?
Source: NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books Rating: 3/5 stars
Lana Lewis never thought she would be returning home with her tail tucked between her legs. At her age, Lana Lewis saw herself having at least an award or two for her writing skills and reporting savvy and continuing her upward trajectory as a crack reporter. Unfortunately, the rise of the internet has made her life and career as a newspaper reporter redundant and that’s how she’s found herself behind the counter of her father’s coffee shop.
Lana is trying to settle in as the new manager/co-owner of her family’s Devil’s Beach coffee shop, but the transition has been difficult. If it weren’t for her Lothario barista, Fabrizio, Lana likely would have already seen the end of the coffee shop. Though Lana knows good coffee, she’s never been a proper business owner and the learning curve has been steep. Thanks to Fabrizio, the shop is thriving, and Lana has learned the ropes quickly and even seen a positive shift in shop’s fortunes.
With things looking to be on the up and up, Lana is finally feeling somewhat optimistic about the future. The only thing giving her cause for concern is the upcoming Sunshine State Barista Championship. While Fabrizio is sure to carry the competition, Lana isn’t so confident in her own skills. The competition will bring the shop some great publicity if Lana can hold her own and back up Fabrizio.
And then, the unthinkable happens . . . . twice! First, and quite unexpectedly Fabrizio quits the coffee shop and moves over to the competition and then, he has the audacity to die just outside Lana’s shop. With a double whammy already upon her and not willing to risk a third, Lana activates her reporter instincts and begins digging into the investigation. In order to make her involvement legitimate, Lana calls on her local newspaper contacts to score a two-story deal related to the murder of her former employee.
As Lana begins digging around, she uncovers some harsh truths about her former employee that she would have rather not known. What’s more, with every level of dirt Lana pushes away, an unknown party hellbent on remaining anonymous and out of jail stalks her and tries to shut down her efforts. Lana isn’t on her own by any means and when she needs local information, she turns to her plugged-in father who is a font of local knowledge/gossip. When Lana is looking for a partner in crime, she turns to her new barista, a slightly Gothish coffee goddess with a bit of a wild side.
The Bottom Line: I can honestly say, I am a total middle of the road reader on this one. I think my favorite part of the book would have to be the coffee and I’m not even a coffee drinker. What’s more, I liked Lana when she was in regular person mode, but reporter Lana really pissed me off. That dog with a bone/anything to get a story mentality is one I have a particular hatred for in characters. I do like the setting, the coffee shop, and Lana’s father so I don’t think I’m quite done with this series just yet. The Coffee Lover’s Mystery Series is one that deserves a second chance/book and since I am so middle of the road, I am willing to give another book a go.