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Shot in the Dark (Coffeehouse Mystery #17)
Author:Cleo Coyle

Shot in the Dark (Coffeehouse Mystery #17)

Cleo Coyle

To our longtime literary agent,

John Talbot,

for his steadfast support.

   Cheers to you, John,

for fighting the good fight—and winning.


Shot in the Dark marks the seventeenth entry in our Coffeehouse Mysteries. Once again I thank my partner in writing and life—the talented Marc Cerasini. Though we met before the rise of dating apps, I “swiped right” from the moment I saw him, and we haven’t gone wrong since.

The pleasures and pitfalls of romance in the digital age are depicted in this mystery with a fair measure of cheek, but also truth. Marc and I thank the many “Cinder-ellas” and “-fellas” who provided background material by sharing their dating delights and mishaps with apps.

New York City plays a pivotal role in this story, especially Hudson River Park (hudsonriverpark.org), the longest waterfront park in the United States. We thank the Hudson River Park Trust for answering our questions and, more importantly, for their work in transforming our city’s decaying waterfront into a priceless gift to the people of New York and the millions who visit each year.

A delicious shout-out for location research goes to the kind staff at Pier 66 Maritime (pier66maritime.com) on the Hudson River, where you’ll find the Frying Pan lightship permanently moored, and a high-spirited outdoor bar and grill with a stunning view of the city’s waterfront.

Our interaction with New York’s Finest has been nothing but the finest, and we thank them for providing background, including information on the NYPD Harbor Unit. Deviations from doctrine are our doing with an age-old defense—in the service of fiction, rules occasionally get bent.

We thank our agent, John Talbot, to whom this book is dedicated, for his perseverance and professionalism. John in three words: a class act.

Caffeinated cheers to everyone at Penguin Random House’s Berkley for their indispensable roles, especially Kate Seaver, whose keen suggestions strengthened this story. Cheers also to our new editor, Michelle Vega, for taking us on; and assistants Sarah Blumenstock and Jennifer Monroe for keeping us on track.

We applaud our longtime cover artist Cathy Gendron for another dazzling cover and gratefully acknowledge designers Rita Frangie and Kristin del Rosario; production editor Stacy Edwards; copyeditor Marianne Aguiar; and Tara O’Connor in publicity for their essential contributions.

To everyone we could not mention by name, including friends and family, we send our heartfelt appreciation for all the beautiful support you’ve shown us over the years.

Last but far from least, we toast our readers. Please know that we absolutely treasure the encouraging notes you send us via e-mail, our website’s message board, and on social media. You inspire us to keep writing, and we cannot thank you enough for that.

Whether you are new to our world or a longtime reader, Marc and I invite you to join our online Coffeehouse community at coffeehousemystery.com, where you will find recipes, coffee picks, and a link to keep in touch by signing up for our newsletter. May you eat, drink, and read with joy!

—Cleo Coyle,

New York City

Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.

   —Henry James

   “Will you have some coffee?” I asked. “It might make you human.”

   —Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely


Berkley Prime Crime titles by Cleo Coyle

Title Page





Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-one

Chapter Thirty-two

Chapter Thirty-three

Chapter Thirty-four

Chapter Thirty-five

Chapter Thirty-six

Chapter Thirty-seven

Chapter Thirty-eight

Chapter Thirty-nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-one

Chapter Forty-two

Chapter Forty-three

Chapter Forty-four

Chapter Forty-five

Chapter Forty-six

Chapter Forty-seven

Chapter Forty-eight

Chapter Forty-nine

Chapter Fifty

Chapter Fifty-one

Chapter Fifty-two

Chapter Fifty-three

Chapter Fifty-four

Chapter Fifty-five

Chapter Fifty-six

Chapter Fifty-seven

Chapter Fifty-eight

Chapter Fifty-nine

Chapter Sixty

Chapter Sixty-one

Chapter Sixty-two

Chapter Sixty-three

Chapter Sixty-four

Chapter Sixty-five

Chapter Sixty-six

Chapter Sixty-seven

Chapter Sixty-eight

Chapter Sixty-nine

Chapter Seventy

Chapter Seventy-one

Chapter Seventy-two

Chapter Seventy-three

Chapter Seventy-four

Chapter Seventy-five

Chapter Seventy-six

Chapter Seventy-seven

Chapter Seventy-eight

Chapter Seventy-nine

Chapter Eighty

Chapter Eighty-one

Chapter Eighty-two

Chapter Eighty-three

Chapter Eighty-four


Shot in the Dark

The Stovetop Espresso Shot

How to Use a Moka Express Pot


About the Author


“SHOT down again . . .”

My ex-husband dropped his hard body onto the soft stool at our crowded coffee bar, the thorny end of a long-stemmed rose still pricking his hand.

“Three strikes in one night,” I said. “Does that mean you’re out?”

“No, Clare. That’s another kind of ball game.”

“I hope you’re talking about the Yankees.”

“What do you think?”

“I think you should give up pitching woo and pitch in behind this counter . . .”

We were short-staffed this evening with every café table occupied, the coffee bar packed, and a line of customers spilling into the chilly West Village night. Couples who couldn’t find seats were sipping their lattes on the cold sidewalk.

According to my young baristas, the reason for this bounty of business was a hot new “dating game” application for smartphones. Hot was the operative word, since the app was called Cinder. This one included “user ratings” for the best public meeting places in the city, and we currently ranked in the top three.

Now that our landmark coffeehouse was a hookup hot spot for digital dating, my quiet evenings at the Village Blend displayed all the tranquility of a Times Square crosswalk.

“I’ll work a shift,” Matt told me. “But I’m not aproning-up until you caffeinate me.”

“You want a single?” I asked.

“Make it a Red Eye.”

The Red Eye aka “Shot in the Dark” was the barista’s answer to the bartender’s boilermaker, a jolty combination of espresso poured into a cup of high-caffeine light roast. It wasn’t for the faint of heart. But then neither was my ex-husband.

A legend in the trade, Matteo Allegro was among the most talented coffee hunters in the world, as comfortable on a yacht floating in Portofino as in a muddy Jeep flirting with the edge of the Andes on Bolivia’s infamous Death Road.

Adrenaline wasn’t his only drug. During our marriage, he became addicted to cocaine while partying too hard below the equator. I helped him kick that deadly habit but failed to dent his other addiction—women.

Matt generated enough heat around the world’s coffee belt to increase global warming, which is why I made the mature decision to put our marriage on ice. Even so, his behavior tonight seemed excessive. Who makes three dates in one night? And how could Matt have possibly struck out on all of them?