I started my day with a big lug in my bed and fully intend to end it with a hot, steamy shower.

It’s not as romantic as it sounds.

My name is Maggy Thorsen, and I’m co-owner of Uncommon Grounds, a coffeehouse in the upscale community of Brookhills, Wisconsin, just outside Milwaukee. My partner is . . . well, to be honest, my partners have changed on occasion. The first of those occasions being when one partner was found dead in a pool of skim milk in front of the espresso machine the morning of our grand opening.

Sadly, it’s gone downhill from there.

In addition to being a coffeehouse owner, I’m a proud divorced mother of a son away at school. That’s where the lug comes in. No, not some hunky assignation, though I do confess to a relationship with County Sheriff Jake Pavlik. Pavlik–of the buttery leather jacket, dark curly hair and eyes that change from robin’s egg blue to nearly black, depending on mood–is no lug.

But right now the male in my bed is named Frank, and he’s of the four-legged variety. A sheepdog that even my son Eric couldn’t manage to secrete in a dorm room. Frank is 110 pounds of hair, snot and drool and–depending on the day and what the sheepdog has consumed in the course of it–can be my best friend and confidante or a furry pain in the butt.

Frank and I live in a small house that’s literally up the creek. Poplar Creek runs the length of Brookhills, forming the western boundary of our chi-chi little town. Living downstream in Brookhills is fashionable, upstream is un¬fashionable. And the farther down or up, the more fashion¬able or unfashionable you get. Got it?

Down, good.

Up, bad.

I am bad.

In fact, the only thing badder, or farther upstream from me in Brookhills, is Christ Christian Church, which I think gets special dispensation from God.

But divorce has its privileges, too, and in my case, they include blue stucco walls in the living room, a lime green toilet in the bathroom, and a sheepdog on my hearth.

But back to my day:

Since the strip mall where Uncommon Grounds originally was located is gone (looong story, to be found in book #4, Brewed, Crude and Tattooed), Sarah Kingston (partner #3, even longer story) and I have relocated the business to the historic train depot that serves as the western end of a commuter rail system to downtown Milwaukee.

Business is booming, so we’ve brought on a couple of employees: Barista Amy Caprese, tattooed, rainbow-haired, multiply-pierced environmentalist, and Chef Tien Romano, refreshingly normal human being.

The coffeehouse opens at six a.m., but there are beans to be ground and coffee to be brewed well before that. Hiring Amy and Tien has allowed me to sleep in occasionally, and Sarah to maintain her real estate business.

Kingston Realty has suffered lately, partly from the down-turn in housing prices, but mostly from Sarah’s inattentiveness and a complaint filed against her by a trainee. If that weren’t bad enough, three other area brokers were killed last week and it’s to the point that Sarah is carrying a gun in her handbag. If you knew my manic-depressive, imperfectly medicated partner you’d realize that’s not a good idea.

But enough–I’m exhausted. Time for that shower, the hot water raising — and razing — the scents of the day. While coffee smells great brewing, it has a way of seeping into every pore, hair follicle and stitch of clothing.

Add to it this morning’s contribution: A stench coming from under the depot’s loading platform, where the mob . . .

Well, like I said: It’s not as romantic as it sounds.


To find out just what’s gotten under Maggy’s skin, check out Sandra Balzo’s newest release, TRIPLE SHOT, the seventh book in the Maggy Thorsen Mysteries. Or, better yet, start with UNCOMMON GROUNDS (available now in ebook)–and get in on the “Grounds” floor!

Sandra Balzo is an award-winning author of crime fiction, including eight books in two different mystery series–one set in the High Country of North Carolina and the other outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin. TRIPLE SHOT, the seventh Maggy Thorsen Wisconsin coffeehouse mystery, was just released, and DEAD ENDS, the second North Carolina novel, will be out in 2012. Balzo’s books have garnered starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, while being recommended to readers of Janet Evanovich, Charlaine Harris, Harlan Coben, Joan Hess and Margaret Maron. A recent member of the National Board of Directors for the Mystery Writers of America, Sandy now splits her time between South Florida and North Carolina.

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

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