Joanne Fluke

Books: Mystery

Hannah Swensen: Strawberry Shortcake Murder (2001), Blueberry Muffin Murder (2002), Lemon Meringue Pie Murder (2003), Fudge Cupcake Murder (2004), Sugar Cookie Murder (2004),

Christmas Dessert Murder (2021)

Hannah Swensen

Strawberry Shortcake Murder (2001)

Strawberry Shortcake Murder

It doesn't seem like 2001 was that long ago, but it was really a different world.

"Yes, Mother." Hannah stretched out the phone cord and walked over to the cupboard that held Moishe's food.

Once the warm-up was complete, Vera used Lucy's mouse to click on the Internet provider icon. There was the sound of a dial tone and the number was dialed automatically with a series of musical beeps. There was a burst of static and another few beeps as Vera was connected.

This is the second Hannah Swensen book. I read a novella collection and decided to pick up the second book, as it's a long running series and I didn't want all the backstory and whatever that tends to come with a first book in a long running series. (I almost never Robert Parker's Godwulf Manuscript. Spenser is an entirely different characters.)

The big draw for me with this book is that the main character is a baker who runs her own cookie / dessert shop. And the story pokes fun at the fact that it's a small town with an already disconcertingly large number of murders.

It was a cute story, with lots of yummy baked goods, and since I got it on sale, I was pleased.

Publisher: Kensington Books

Rating: 7/10

Blueberry Muffin Murder (2002)

Blueberry Muffin MurderA cute cozy mystery with lots of delicious baked goods.

The heroine has a major "not like other girls" feel, but it is an early book.

I was amused as all get out reading some of the passages that specifically dated the book.

I mean:

There was a pay phone at the end of the hall, and instead of turning off at the entrance to the dining room, where she was supposed to meet Andrea, Hannah kept on walking and dug into the bottom of her purse for change.

And also:

"What are all these people doing out here so early?"

"The mall opens at nine and a lot of people make a day of it. What other place could you go to jog in the morning with the family, have lunch at a restaurant, watch a movie at the multiplex, mail your packages at the post office, buy a new book at the bookstore, and get your hair done while your kids play computer games? Malls are wonderful in the winter."

But also just some plain amusing bits.

"At least we know she didn't have a fight with her husband. There's no way he could make her that angry in two minutes." Hannah looked up from her notes as Sally and Andrea started to laugh. "What did I say?"

There is a TON of fat shaming in this story, although NOT by the main character or at the main character (it is clearly shown as a negative as it's done by someone who is shown to be an asshole on ALL fronts).

And I do like how the stories poke fun at the ridiculous number of murders.

Hannah glanced at Andrea again. Her sister was really enjoying this.

"I will, Mother. I'll make a real effort to stop finding dead bodies, I promise."

"Well, I should hope so! You're destroying your reputation, you know."

They're relaxing stories, mostly, which is why I think I'm enjoying them so much.

Publisher: Kensington Books

Rating: 6/10

Lemon Meringue Pie Murder (2003)

Lemon Meringue Pie MurderThis is the 4th book in the series and since I couldn't find it on sale, I borrowed it from the library.

First, this book is almost hilarious not set in current times.

"You really need a cell phone, Hannah."

"I don't want a cell phone."

"Everyone who's anyone has one."

I mean…

"You should take some pictures of your dad and his group in the parade. They might like to put them up on the bulletin board at the center."

Lisa started to smile again. "That's a great idea. I already bought a disposable camera to take pictures of our float."

There are a couple of things I particularly like. First, that despite her continually getting involved in murders. and there are regular jokes about that, it also manages to note the seriousness.

she had to work to keep the smile on her face. She hadn't been very curious about Rhonda in the past, but now that she was dead, her life had taken on a new importance. It seemed that people could walk through life without causing a ripple, leading ordinary and uneventful lives. It was only after they'd been murdered that people took notice of them.

The other thing I like is that although Hannah refuses to choose one of the men she is seeing over the other she actually has solid reasons for doing so.

Marriage was a trade-off. You gave up some things and you gained others. Since Hannah knew she'd balk at the trade-off aspect, it must mean that she wasn't ready for that walk down the aisle, at least not quite yet.

And she's honest about being conflicted.

"How about you? Do you want Norman to ask you?"

"I don't know. But I do know I don't want him to ask anyone else."

There were several things that bothered me slightly about the story, but I've already started reading the next book (also borrowed from the library).

Publisher: Kensington Books

Rating: 6/10

Fudge Cupcake Murder (2004)

Fudge Cupcake MurderBook 5.

When the sheriff turns up dead, Hannah's brother-in-law is accused of killing his political opponent and since Andrea is stuck on bed-rest, it's up to Hannah to find the killer quickly–before her brother-in-law drives her sister crazy.

"I've got some other news, too."

"What's that?"

"Doc Knight moved up my due date to the third week in November." Hannah frowned. "Can he do that?"

The things Hannah doesn't know amuses me.

And I do love the weird signs of the time period.

Ten minutes later, Hannah hung up the phone. Her neck was sore from cradling the phone between her head and her shoulder while she talked.

They wanted me to turn on MTV while they were eating their cookies and they were really disappointed when I told them that we didn't have cable.

And this cracked me up.

She even compared him to an older version of Kenneth Branagh.

Since that would be today's Kenneth Branagh.

The mysteries are just fine, but I knew pretty quickly who the murderer was. And I got really irked when she figured out who the murdered was and just… hung around waiting for them to show up.

I do love reading the recipes.

Hannah tended to regard being caught without pen and paper as a sin even worse than substituting margarine for butter.

Publisher: Kensington Books

Rating: 5/10

Sugar Cookie Murder (2004)

Sugar Cookie MurderThis was a locked-room of sort, with everyone (mostly) trapped in a single location due to a blizzard.

It also had a lot more recipes than previous books–including non-desserts.

As always, I was amused by how dated the technology made parts of the story seem.

Andrea sounded chipper when she answered the phone. "Hi, Hannah."

"How did you know it was me?"

"I just got a new cell phone with built-in caller I.D."

A big positive is that it seems like Hannah is finally going to kick Mike to the curb. I've never understood what she saw in him, and he's kind of an ass to her in this book. Repeatedly.

Oh, this cracked me up.

"I wonder how long it takes to have a baby."

Norman shrugged. "I asked the nurse that and she said, 'It depends.'"

What on earth kind of rock do they live under than they don't know this?!

Publisher: Kensington Cozies

Rating: 6/10

Peach Cobbler Murder (2005)

This is the 7th Hannah Swensen book.

I think I'm going to drop this series for a bit.

I like the mysteries–and I very much liked the set-up for this one.

But her romantic dilly dallying is grating on my nerves.

To be clear–I am perfectly fine with her being single. I'm even ok with her having two guys she's seeing as long as everyone knows what's going on.

But Mike?

"I know I shouldn't burden you with this," Mike said. And as so many other people did, he went on to do precisely that.

No. He has to go. I have no idea what Hannah sees in him, but no.

Also, I want all the good things to happen to Norman.

"But… you said you'd kill for a figure like mine."

"Oh, I'd kill for it. I just won't diet and exercise for it."

Publisher: Kensington Cozies

Rating: 6/10

Christmas Dessert Murder (2021)

Christmas Dessert MurderThis is actually two novellas:

"Christmas Caramel Murder" (2016)  "Christmas Cake Murder" (2018)

The first story is Hannah (the main character) telling a friend with whom she is out to dinner, the story of a murder she get involved in the previous winter.

The second story is set further back in time. Her father has recently died, so she has returned home–at loose ends–and his helping her mother while trying to decide what to do with her life.

Hannah is a young woman who owns a local bakery, and somehow repeatedly ends up involved in murder investigations.

I liked how the stories gently poked fun at themselves.

Life in Lake Eden was very good if you didn't consider the murder rate.

And I liked that Hannah and her mother and sisters were close. Admittedly at times it felt a little too close, but in the first story they were dealing with the grief of losing Hannah's father.

The second story had a story within a story, which I'd pretty quickly figured out what was happening. It also has Hannah making the decision to open a bakery instead of returning to graduate school.

Both were interesting, but the second story meandered a lot more, and I did a fair bit of skimming.

I read this because I hadn't read one of her mysteries before, and for me, short stories and novellas are a good way for me to dip my toe in to see how I feel about the author's writing and the characters.

Despite not loving the second story, I think I will read another, because both stories stood on their own, and being holiday stories, I don't always except them to be as good as "regular" stories.

The recipes were interesting, but I'm not sure if I'd make any of them so far.

Publisher: Kensington Cozies

Rating: 6.5/10