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To top off her coffee business, Sage is now helping out with her boyfriend Bax’s gaming company. Conveniently for Sage, it’s located next door to her Ground Rules Roastery. That makes it easy for her to pitch in with Bax’s employee team-building event. The plan is to boost morale with a scavenger hunt. And it seems to be going well—until Robbie, a programmer known for being a prankster, turns up dead in Sage’s roastery . . .

There are two suspects so far: Sage, who has no idea how the victim ended up in her space; and Bax, who was allegedly spotted arguing with Robbie the day before. But could it be a disgruntled employee? After all, Robbie’s sense of humor was known to have rubbed some coworkers the wrong way. Now, it’s up to Sage to find the culprit—before another life grinds to a halt.

“Plenty of satire, lots of fascinating local detail, excellent friends and family, and an insider look at the world of special coffees.” -First Clue on Flat White Fatality

“Portland’s beloved food carts provide a tantalizing backdrop for a new cozy mystery by Portland author Emmeline Duncan…A creative way to address both the quirkiness and the more dismaying aspects of life in contemporary Portland.” —The Sunday Oregonian on Fresh Brewed Murder

“Duncan’s strong debut and series launch…Lively characters help propel the intricate plot. Cozy fans will hope to see a lot more of Sage and friends.” —Publishers Weekly on Fresh Brewed Murder

“A clever sleuth, music trivia, and plenty of West Coast vibes add up to an enjoyable read.” —Kirkus Reviews for Double Shot Death

Emmeline Duncan recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, FLAT WHITE FATALITY.

Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?
For Flat White Fatality, the setting came first. As this is the third in the series, I wanted to make sure the storyline continues to feel fresh. Book one centered around Sage’s coffee cart, and the second book takes place at an eco-music fest. For book 3, I moved the action to the Ground Rules roastery and video game development company next door. This allowed me to introduce a new set of suspects while also centering the recurring characters that readers know and, hopefully, love.

Emmeline Duncan

What attracts you to this book’s genre?
Traditional mysteries can really get into the heart of communities. The amateur sleuth isn’t just solving a puzzle. She’s restoring a sense of order to her community and helping them settle into the new, post-crime normal. Plus, it’s fun getting into small subcultures and what makes them tick.

No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
Pre-pandemic, I used to run into a group of cosplayers who all dressed up as dolls. The quality of their costumes and makeup was phenomenal, and they showed up in a broad mix of places. There is–or at least was–a good-sized group in Portland who loves to gather in a group dressed in pirate costumes and sing sea shanties. So I had to work these groups into Flat White Fatality as examples of the Portland I know and love.

Your Ground Rules series is slightly edgier than most cozies and deals with real-world issues like homelessness. Why did you decide to push the boundaries of the cozy category?
I wanted to reflect the world I know in my series. This includes my character’s challenges in operating a coffee cart and roastery in an urban area. So issues like homelessness come up, alongside a Suspended Coffee Board (a real movement that allows customers to pre-buy coffee or food for people down on their luck. Check out for more info.) The series doesn’t dwell on the darker side of urban life, but it acknowledges it realistically. It also helps give the series a truly Portland feel.


Like her Ground Rules Mystery series, Emmeline Duncan is based in Portland, Oregon. Her series includes 2021’s Fresh Brewed Murder, 2022’s Double Shot Death, plus Flat White Fatality, which comes out on May 23, 2023. Emmeline also writes for teens as Kelly Garrett. Her debut YA novel, The Last To Die, was an Oregon Book Awards finalist. She was also a 2020 Oregon Literary Fellow. When not writing, she spends her time seeking out new coffee shops and hiking trails to explore, frequently accompanied by her Great Pyrenees sidekick.

To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.