Cozy Wednesday featuring Fresh Brewed Murder (A Ground Rules Mystery) by Emmeline Duncan #Review / #Giveaway @DuncanEmmeline

Welcome to Cozy Wednesday! 

I am happy to share with you my thoughts about
Fresh Brewed Murder today! 

Fresh Brewed Murder (A Ground Rules Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Setting – Oregon
Publisher: Kensington (March 30, 2021)
Paperback: 240 pages
ISBN-10: 1496733398
ISBN-13: 978-1496733399
Kindle ASIN: B08CBP43VZ

Master barista Sage Caplin is opening a new coffee cart in Portland, Oregon, but a killer is brewing up a world of trouble. . . .

Portland is famous for its rain, hipsters, craft beers . . . and coffee. Sage Caplin has high hopes for her coffee cart, Ground Rules, which she runs with her business partner, Harley—a genius at roasting beans and devising new blends. That’s essential in a city where locals have intensely strong opinions about cappuccino versus macchiato—especially in the case of one of Sage’s very first customers. . . .

Sage finds the man’s body in front of her cart, a fatal slash across his neck. There’s been plenty of anger in the air, from longtime vendors annoyed at Ground Rules taking a coveted spot in the food truck lot, to protesters demonstrating against a new high-rise. But who was mad enough to commit murder? Sage is already fending off trouble in the form of her estranged, con-artist mother, who’s trying to trickle back into her life. But when Sage’s very own box cutter is discovered to be the murder weapon, she needs to focus on finding the killer fast—before her business, and her life, come to a bitter end. . . .

Dollycas’s Thoughts

Sage Caplin and her partner Harley have opened a coffee food truck in a local lot. Sage is a people person and Harley is a master coffee bean roaster. Together they are hoping their business takes off and that they will soon move from their food cart to a brick-and-mortar store. The food truck lot is not without drama. There are protestors walking in opposition to a new high rise and some of the other food truck vendors wonder how Sage and Harley got such a coveted spot especially when other vendors lost their spots due to the proposed construction of the high rise.

After just a couple of days serving coffee savvy customers, Sage finds one of those customers dead right in front of her cart and the murder weapon appears to be the box cutter she borrowed from one of the other vendors. The detective assigned to the case believes Sage is guilty especially when he finds out who her mother is. Strange this is happening right after her mother reaches out to her after years of absence. Sage doesn’t have time to worry about her mother, she needs to find the real killer now and get the detective off her back before she ends up behind bars.

In this first Ground Rules Mystery, we meet barista Sage Caplin. She has had a very interesting life which gives her a unique perspective regarding some of the people she meets over the course of this story. I was intrigued by the way she handled the homeless population camping out nearby. She was very empathic and willing to help even volunteering to hand out hygiene and food packages to them.  As this is the first book in the series I feel we have just scratched the surface of this character. We are also introduced to her partner Harley, her great uncle Jimmy, her police detective dad, her lawyer brother Jackson and her cousin Miles. Her mother makes an appearance via a phone call. All the characters are cleverly written with plenty of room left for growth.

The author sets the scene of Portland and everywhere Sage visits very well. I could easily see each location come to life. We are also given quite an education about coffee beans and their brewing. I am not much of a coffee drinker but thought I knew every way it could be brewed but I was wrong. I learned some new things from Sage. I loved the way they came up with original custom drinks, some with alcohol for one of their new customers.

This time the protagonist isn’t actively searching full boar for the killer. She keeps her eyes and ears open and has some keen observations. There are several suspects and surprising ties between the deceased and another character. I am pleased to say the guilty party was on my list of top three suspects early on in the story but I was still surprised at the big reveal as to the true motive. Ms. Duncan served up some nice twists to divert the reader’s attention but I held strong to my own theories.  I was concerned about the relaxed pacing of the book and while the ending was exciting I would have liked a faster pace. I was engaged by the characters and that did keep the pages turning.

The author has set off this series to a fine start with Fresh Brewed Murder. I am looking forward to the next installment to see these characters evolve and to get to know them better. Coffee connoisseurs will love the drink descriptions and may want to brew a cup or two to enjoy while reading the book.

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About the Author

Emmeline Duncan is a mystery writer based out of Portland, Oregon. Her novels include the Ground Rules series, starting with 2021’s Fresh Brewed Murder.

Emmeline also writes YA novels as Kelly Garrett. Her debut YA, The Last To Die, was an Oregon Book Awards finalist and was re-issued by Sourcebooks Fire in November 2019. Kelly is also a 2020 Oregon Literary Fellow.

Emmeline/Kelly is a board member of the Northwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America and co-organizes Friends of Mystery’s Bloody Thursday lecture series. She’s also a member of Sisters-In-Crime, Willamette Writers, and SCBWI.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”