Kensington Publishing Corp., New York, USA, 2000
Having just knocked out a couple of batches of lunchbox baked goods for grandkids as they return to school post-Covid 19 schooling from home, I can but admire the baking sleuth from small town America who is the heroine of the Hannah Swensen mystery series. She ably churns out hundreds of cookies a day from her bakery-café for the populace of Lake Eden, whilst moonlighting as investigative assistant to her brother-in-law, the town cop.
As you can see by the publication date of this book, I am a late comer to the delights of Joanne Fluke’s vast series of Hannah Swensen mysteries – all of them named for cakes, cookies and desserts.
Her work has also been produced on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel. For anyone like me not in the know about this:
Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is an American digital cable and satellite television channel that is owned by Crown Media Holdings. The channel was spun off from sister network Hallmark Channel, and airs family-oriented feature and made-for-TV movies along with a limited number of murder- and mystery-themed television series. (Wikipedia).
Like Hannah Swensen, Joanne Fluke was born in a small town in rural Minnesota. The first of the series, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder has the feel of this so well, it is clearly born of experience, affectionate observation, though not without keen-eyed irony.
In good murder mystery style, a body turns up very quickly into the story – Hannah discovers the body of popular delivery man from the Cozy Cow Dairy, Ron LaSalle – he’s been shot in his van in the alley behind Hannah’s store. Untangling the politics and secrets of her small town and its social echelons leads Hannah into danger, along red-herringed paths and occasionally across the personal sensitivities of family, friends and fellow citizens.
The murder and mayhem side of the story is nicely balanced with the personal – including the relationship Hannah has with her sister and her brother-in-law, and her mother’s constant attempts to marry her off. Hannah is generally quite happy in her skin these days, content with the company of her canny cat Moishe. However, she is not immune to the lure of looking great in a fab frock.
Suffice it to say that it is through plucky heroine behaviour, a bit of rushing in where angels fear to tread and a measure of luck that she eventually ‘gets her man’, so to speak. She’s an altogether likeable heroine, an essential for a series, and so we are awfully glad when she makes it through. We appreciate her kind and loyal qualities along with her courage. I can see I have a lot of catching up to do with this gal.
This book list from Joanne Fluke’s website shows her prolific output:
Recent Releases First
- Coconut Layer Cake Murder (February 2020)
- Chocolate Cream Pie Murder (February 2019)
- Christmas Cake Murder (September 2018)
- Raspberry Danish Murder (February 2018)
- Banana Cream Pie Murder (February 2017)
- Christmas Caramel Murder (September 2016)
- Wedding Cake Murder (February 2016)
- Double Fudge Brownie Murder (February 2015)
- Blackberry Pie Murder (February 2014)
- Joanne Fluke’s Lake Eden Cookbook (September 2013) (includes short story and recipes)
- Red Velvet Cupcake Murder (February 2013)
- Cinnamon Roll Murder (February 2012)
- Devil’s Food Cake Murder (February 2011)
- Gingerbread Cookie Murder (October 2010) (novella)
- Apple Turnover Murder (February 2010)
- Plum Pudding Murder (October 2009)
- Cream Puff Murder (March 2009)
- Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery (2008)
- Candy Cane Murder (October 2007) (novella)
- Key Lime Pie Murder (2007)
- Cherry Cheesecake Murder (2006)
- Peach Cobbler Murder (2005)
- Sugar Cookie Murder (2004)
- Fudge Cupcake Murder (2004)
- Lemon Meringue Pie Murder (2003)
- Blueberry Muffin Murder (2002)
- Strawberry Shortcake Murder (2002)
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder (2001)