Uncommon Grounds Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Uncommon Grounds

Maggy Thorsen is going through some major life changes; divorce, living alone with her son away at college, a smaller income with the smaller life style to match and opening a specialty coffeehouse. This is all happening in a very small town with very small town gossip and social casting to match. Maggy is forging ahead with Frank, her son's dog, as her only companion and goes in to the opening day of the coffee shop, Uncommon Grounds, to find the less personally known of her partners, Patricia Harper, dead while Caron, the friend turned partner, is in a state of shock staring at Patricia's body on the floor in front of the espresso machine. Patricia's death is ultimately determined to be from electrocution via the espresso machine - but then the steam gets turned on. Patricia's husband, David Harper, is found dead next. The local Chief of Police, Gary Donovan, who would normally handle any suspicious death, is replaced by a foreigner (a man from Chicago), Jacob Pavlik, the new sheriff. Jacob's method of investigation is a little blunter and less charismatic than Gary's so Sheriff Pavlik and his questions are not well accepted by anyone in Brookhills, especially Maggy. Local politics, the new coffeehouse, a small town church, the orphaned Harper children and infidelity are part of this story.
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Maggy Thorsen is described by S. J. Rozan as Nancy Drew grown up, divorced and opening a coffeehouse and I agree. Ms. Thorsen begins her own investigation in the death of her partner to clear herself and Caron, and eventually, other Brookhills' citizens.
The review of this Book prepared by Jody T. Bixby

When former PR executive and new espresso shop owner Maggy Thorsen investigates the death of one of her partners--electrocuted by the espresso machine on opening morning--she also turns up the seamy underside of her leafy suburb. Brookhills, Wisconsin, boasts tennis Moms driving expensive SUVs, subdivisions full of mansion-like houses, and snooty residents to match. Recently divorced Maggy goes around town trying to uncover the murderer in order to clear her own name. The cast of characters includes Kate McNamara, the annoying newspaper reporter, Gary Donovan, chief of police and former head of security for the local bank, and a distractingly handsome yet irritating new sheriff, Jake Pavlik. Maggy finds a sidekick in Sarah Kingston, a blunt-talking, chain-smoking real estate agent with a secret soft spot for children, and between the two of them they manage to take the murderer down. Details of operating a gourmet coffee business are described.
The review of this Book prepared by Charlotte Dixon

Arriving at her coffeehouse for its grand opening, owner Maggy Thorsen find her partner, Patricia Harper, dead in a pool of skim milk. Her other partner, Caron Egan, is standing over Patricia. When it turns out that Patricia was electrocuted by a hot-wired espresso machine, Maggy and Caron find themselves under suspicion by the newly elected young sheriff, Jake Pavlik. Pavlik has muscled his way into the investigation much to the mid-life dismay of Maggy's friend, Gary Donovan, the town police chief.

Maggy, who really needs to keep her business in the black and herself out of jail, sets out to find out what happened. She's feeling alone in this, since Gary can't help her and Caron doesn't seem terribly interested in finding the truth. That begins to make sense when Maggy discovers that "happily married" Caron, and a lady named Patricia were having an affair with the same man.

No longer able to trust Caron, Maggy recruits real estate agent Sarah Kingstown, Patricia's closest friend, to assist her. Sarah proves to be more dictator than doctor, but together the two uncover unsavory small town politics, kickbacks, missing campaign ballots and rampant infidelity before they finally discover the truth.
The review of this Book prepared by Sandra Balzo

Five Star, Nov 2004, 25.95, 248 pp.
ISBN: 1594141959

In Brookville, Wisconsin, Caron Egan, Patricia Harper, and Maggie Thorsen open up a gourmet coffee shop, UNCOMMON GROUNDS. However, on the day they are to open for business, Patricia dies in what seems like an electrocution accident caused by a faulty wired latte maker. However, Sheriff Pavlik quickly finds evidence that someone tinkered with the wiring killing the woman.

Pavlik quickly learns that the married Caron and the also married victim had affairs with the same person. He also sees possible motives involving the fact that Patricia ran for town chair in a disputed election. Meanwhile Maggie, who is about to be divorced from unfaithful Ted, unites with Patricia's campaign manager Sarah to uncover the truth so that she can move on, but will soon wonder who to trust as corruption surfaces from every corner of her town.

Harriet Klausner

The review of this Book prepared by Harriet Klausner

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Chapter Analysis of Uncommon Grounds

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book descript. of violence and chases 10%Planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 30%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 40%How society works & physical descript. (people, objects, places) 20% Tone of story    -   Dry-cynical How difficult to spot villain?    -   Difficult, but some clues given Time/era of story:    -   2000+ (Present) What % of story relates directly to the mystery, not the subplot?    -   80% Special suspect?    -   investigator him/herself Kind of investigator    -   amateur citizen investigator Kid or adult book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Any non-mystery subplot?    -   running a business/making a living Crime Thriller    -   Yes Murder Mystery (killer unknown)    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   small businessman Age:    -   40's-50's Ethnicity/Race    -   White/American


United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Midwest Small town?    -   Yes Small town people:    -   nice, like Andy/Opie/Aunt Bee

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   generic/vague references to death/punishment Unusual forms of death    -   frying (electrocuted) Unusual form of death?    -   Yes Amount of dialog    -   significantly more dialog than descript

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Sandra Balzo Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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