Review: Flat White Fatality by Emmeline Duncan (Spring Fair Attending Author)

Review by Amy Halvorson Miller

Ready for another shot of Emmeline Duncan’s Ground Rules mysteries? The third caffeinated cozy set in Portland will be out next month. If you’re new to the series, which includes Fresh Brewed Murder and Double Shot Death, no problem, as Flat White Fatality can easily stand on its own. (A “flat white” is two shots of espresso with a thinner layer of steamed milk than a latte, intense and creamy.)

Sage Caplin, our young coffee entrepreneur and sleuth is not only expanding her coffee cart and roastery business, but has also taken a side-gig at her boyfriend, Bax’s, video-gaming company. During a teamwork-building scavenger hunt, an employee of Grumpy Sasquatch Studio is found dead in Sage’s roastery nearby.

Sage’s business partner, Harley, looks guilty and at least a half-dozen of the victim’s co-workers have possible motives, not to mention a menacing character from Sage’s past. Everyone gets back to work, while Sage starts asking caring, yet implicating questions, providing plenty of leads for the official investigator, Detective Will. Even Bax appears suspicious for a bit, but makes himself indispensable by creating a storyboard to help get down to the truth.

I was baffled as to who would be found guilty and, in the end, Sage helps point, not only to the murderer, but others who unintentionally contributed to a workplace culture which led to the crime. Some other aspects of the plot are pleasingly resolved with just the right amount of syrup.

Flat White Fatality evokes a contemporary vibe from its urban setting as well as coffee, brew pub, food truck, and gaming details, making it a very non-stuffy type of cozy mystery. Duncan is skillful at including texting, security videos, and chat-room conversations to aid the sleuthing, without asking the reader to be an IT expert or leaving the writing too clunky. The book even gives us several recipes for Sage’s scratch-made coffee syrups and other Ground Rules drinks.

 You can meet Emmeline Duncan and have her sign your copy of Flat White Fatality at Inklings Bookshop’s Spring Fair, along with a great list of other Northwest authors on Saturday, June 3rd from 1-3pm.