Carrot Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke
as provided on book:
Summertime has finally arrived in Lake Eden, Minnesota, and Hannah Swensen, owner of The Cookie Jar bakery, is looking forward to warm, lazy days, eating ice cream, and sharing picnics with friends. But when a family reunion takes a deadly turn, it’s up to Hannah to find a killer…Between baking up a storm for The Cookie Jar and unravelling the mystery of her cat Moishe’s recent strange behaviour, Hannah Swensen has a lot on her plate. But she’ll always make time for her business partner, Lisa, who’s in the midst of preparing for a big family reunion. Everyone is delighted when Lisa’s long-lost uncle makes a surprise appearance. No one has heard from Gus in twenty-five years – and his arrival has everyone buzzing with excitement.Uncle Gus is immediately the hit of the reunion, telling tales of his great success and flashing money for all to see. He’s almost as popular as Hannah’s scrumptious carrot cake, which is also Gus’ favourite dessert. But the next morning, as the whole family gathers for the group photo, one person is missing. Hannah offers to track down Uncle Gus, but her search leads to a shocking find. Over by the bar at the pavilion, she spots two slices of her infamous carrot cake, frosting-side down on the floor – and Gus’ corpse with an ice pick jutting out of his chest!A little snooping reveals that not everyone was celebrating Gus’ return. And when Hannah unearths more secrets from Gus’ past, she discovers even more people with an axe to grind. Now Hannah’s got to sift through a long list of suspects to find a killer – even if it could mean a recipe for her own demise…
It is so nice to see Joanne Fluke back at her best. The prose flows and we are spared any repetition, in fact there isn’t one reference to ‘Swedish plasma’ in the whole book. Phew. The mystery takes a nice linear path with appropriate clues and believable involvement of our detective. I just love the ending, Hannah works out who did it nicely and yet Fluke managed to retain the exciting confrontation, without making Hannah look like a dodo. I did actually work this one out pretty easily but because Fluke has changed the structure I kept thinking I must be wrong – I like it when an author keeps me guessing, and Fluke really tricked me with this one.
There are a couple of minor issues. Firstly, it’s such a shame Joanne Fluke feels the need to flog the Mike, Hannah, Norman triangle to death. It could be such fun if Hannah got married (imagine the book about that! ‘The Wedding Cake Murder’) or Fluke could have her completely single and independent, but this no-man’s-land is silly. I got very tired of it 3 books ago and it’s way past time Fluke resolved it. A consequence of Fluke’s decision to stick to the formula is that generally there isn’t much growth of the characters, it’s lovely to see our old favourites but the same tired dialogue remains, in fact I’m sure some of the sentences are exactly the same from previous books. There is a glimmer of hope though, in places Fluke seems to be aware of the predicament and takes a half step towards rectifying the issues, so I’m very hopeful that she was paving the way for the next book to show some real progress. Apart from that it’s good fun catching up with such likeable characters and the pacing is excellent.
It is unfortunate that there is once again clunky inclusion of research. The introduction of a regency term is as uncomfortable as ever and the new research, particularly that about Indian tribes seems to be included just for the sake of it. It really does stick out like a sore thumb and interrupt the flow.
All said and done if you are/were a fan of Hannah Swenson then this is a must read, if you are new to the genre or to the Hannah Swenson series this isn’t a bad place to start. Highly recommended.
Joanne Fluke has a website dedicated the Hannah Swenson Mysteries.