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On What Grounds (re-read): 01/06/21
Three years ago during a move, I listened to On What Grounds by Cleo Coyle, the first of the Coffeehouse mystery series. Now that I've caught up with the series, I've decided to go back and re-listen to the audios. I'm not planning on re-reviewing all of them, but I felt in light of some major plot points in Brewed Awakening, I should take a second look at the beginning.
As I've discussed before in my review of The Laughter of Dead Kings (2008), mystery series tend to be long running and the longer they run, the more disparity of plot time vs. real world time there is. On What Grounds was published in 2003, a mere two years after the destruction of the World Trade Center. Brewed Awakening, meanwhile, was published in August of 2019, sixteen years after the series started.
In looking at the two ends of this series, the question I want to address is, how much time has passed in universe? The reason this question is at all relevant, is that Clare suffers from a temporary amnesia making her think it's fifteen years in the past. Sixteen years has passed between books, but Clare in the last books believes she has just moved to New Jersey and is in the early days of her divorce from Matteo Allegro.
So let's start at the beginning. In book one, Clare, now an empty nester, has accepted the position of manager of the Village Blend, a place she worked at during her nine years of marriage to Matteo. Now that Joy, their daughter, is in culinary school in New York, Clare is returning to Soho to live in the apartment above the coffeehouse. She and Matteo have been divorced now for ten years.
With simple subtraction, we can see that five years have passed in universe between the first and last books. If it's 2003 as it's implied to be from the recent rawness of the post-World Trade Center city, then 2019's mystery is set in 2008. If Clare is 39 going on 40 and Joy is 19 going on 20 at the start, by the end they are 44 going on 45 and 24 going on 25 respectively. Put another way, there roughly 3 months and ten days time passes in universe between each book. I personally think that's an ambitiously tight timeline and will be seeing if that actually plays out as I re-listen to the audiobooks. For comparison, Sue Grafton's Alphabet series was intentionally paced at six months between in universe mysteries.
If you're interested in seeing my takes on more books in the series as I re-listen, please let me know in the comments.