Source: the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Release Date: November 17, 2015
Challenges: NetGalley and Edelweiss Reading Challenge
Buying Links: Amazon* | OmniLit* | iTunes* | Barnes & Noble
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Blurb from goodreads:
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.
Diane Mott Davidson? Janet Evanovich? Well, that grabbed my attention right off. I loved Davidson's Goldy Schwartz series and Evanovich's early Stephanie Plum books were a riot. So, I was excited about this books. Sadly, it didn't live up to my expectations. It was okay, but didn't grab me. Looking at goodreads, most readers seem to like it, it has a 4 star average so you may enjoy it more than I did.
"Death Before Decaf" lacks the zaniness of Evanovich and the warmth of Davidson. Juliet is a bit like Stephanie Plum in that she's not a particularly competent investigator, she has several TSTL moments, and is torn between 2 men. She's a good baker but has trouble managing the staff at this shop despite having managed a cafe before. And did I mention her investigation skills? Yes, she's an amateur but a clue jumps up and bites her in the face early on and it takes her until nearly the end of the book to realize it. I made the connection immediately. I was surprised by who the mastermind was though there were some clues sprinkled here and there so it wasn't completely out of the blue. Fardig did do a good job revealing details about the victim; we see him one way at first but slowly Fardig peels back the layers and we end up seeing a completely different person.
Seth, one of the male leads, was pompous and secretive. He withholds information, sometimes of necessity but other times for discernible reason. I spent a lot of the book wanting to smack him. I really wanted to smack him when he thought that Juliet was soooo cute when she was angry. That's just rude and patronizing. Juliet could be whiney, impulsive, and headstrong as well as TSTL. Now, all that said, Juliet does have some smart moments and doesn't give up, she keeps trying. She is aware of her inexperience at sleuthing:
Pete rolled his eyes at me. "You don't have a damn clue what you're doing, do you?"
"It's not like I've ever done any detective work before, "I said defensively.
There were a few times I laughed out loud and there are some pleasantly quirky characters. The mystery, although I figured out a piece of it early on, was just twisty enough to keep me guessing. The story didn't impress me but, like I said, it has good reviews and ratings on goodreads so your mileage may vary.