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To begin with, an old joke

Excuse me, sir? the tourist asked. How do I get to Carnegie Hall?

The cabbie shrugged. Practice.

Since 2003, the Coffeehouse Mysteries have been published in a quiet fashion, building buzz via independent mystery bookstores, online reviewers, chain store staff recommendations, and even the barista community. While I cant see Carnegie Hall in my future, I offer my sincerest thanks to those of you who have given me the opportunity to practice. Your support of my series has kept it going and kept me going. No kidding, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for reading.

My second shout-out goes to my publisher, Berkley Prime Crime. In particular, Id like to salute executive editor Wendy McCurdy for her steadfast professionalism. Wendys calming character is nothing short of saintly in a profession that comes with ungodly pressures. Major props also go to Allison Brandau, for all of her hard work, as well as former Berkley editors Katie Day and Martha Bushko for their crucial support along the way.

If youve read even one previous Coffeehouse Mystery, then you know how important coffee is to Clare Cosi. Regarding the java she serves up in this volume, Id like to thank New York Citys excellent Caf'e Grumpy, not only for introducing me to the champagne of the coffee world, Esmeralda Especial, but for hosting the tasting event at which I had the thrill of shaking the hand of Daniel Peterson, the man who rediscovered the heirloom geisha tree that grows it. Id also like to thank Joe the Art of Coffee in Greenwich Village, New York, for their expert advice and outstanding espressos, and Counter Culture Coffee of Durham, North Carolina, for their superior beans. If a superb cuppa joe is what youre after, these fine folks are among the best in the business.

With the greatest respect, I tip my hat to the men and women of the Sixth Precinct, especially its former deputy inspector, who-until her recent promotion-also happened to be the only female precinct commanding officer in a city that employs well over thirty thousand cops. As to the ps and qs of by-the-book police procedure, this is a light work of amateur-sleuth fiction. In the Coffeehouse Mysteries, the rules occasionally get bent.

An additional shout-out goes to Dr. Grace Alfonsi. Not just because shes an amazing physician and hardworking mom, but because shes always helpful to me with thoughts and advice in matters medical. When literary license is taken in presenting elements in this area, I alone am culpable.

I thank the White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village for their draft beer, out-of-this-world onion rings, and most of all for still being around after more than one hundred years. The incomparable Metropolitan Museum of Art must also be thanked, frankly, for simply existing. My sincerest thanks especially go to their kind employees who answered my questions and the security guards for not arresting my big, dangerous-looking husband when they noticed him taking photos of the employee entrance in his black leather jacket. (Note to aspiring writers: if you ever decide to take reference photos at the Mets Eighty-fourth Street entrance, make sure you bring ID.)

And speaking of Marc

As most of my readers are aware, I write this series, as well as my Alice Kimberly Haunted Bookshop Mystery series, in collaboration with my very talented spouse. Both of us owe a debt of gratitude to our friends and families for their support. Wed also like to thank our literary agent, John Talbot, to whom this book is dedicated. Johns sincere encouragement and steadfast professionalism over the years have meant the world to us-two writers who intend never to stop practicing.

Yours sincerely,

Cleo Coyle

Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, sweet as love.

Turkish proverb

Marriage is a mistake every man should make.

George Jessel

Cleo Coyle Espresso Shot | Espresso Shot | PROLOGUE