If you ever wanted to dive into the Hannah Swensen series by Joanne Fluke, now is the time to start. Hannah’s had a lot of adventures and more than her share of close calls, but the case in the newly published “Chocolate Cream Pie Murder” is personal.
For those not familiar with the series, Hannah Swensen owns and operates The Cookie Jar, a bakery in Lake Eden, Minnesota. She has a knack for inventing tasty treats and for finding dead bodies and solving the crime. She does get a lot of help, though, from her sisters, Andrea and Michelle; her business partner, Lisa; mom, Delores and stepfather, Doc Knight; local dentist Norman Rhodes, and sheriff’s detective Mike Kingston.
For readers who know the series, this book will have you gasping and wondering what Fluke will do next as she picks up story lines from previous books and leaves you with a real whiz-bang of a cliff-hanger.
Hannah thought she’d found the love of her life, but Ross Barton has turned out to be a real louse.
He fled Lake Eden weeks ago, leaving Hannah with lots of questions and heartbreak, but now he’s back, threatening several people, including Hannah.
As if that wasn’t enough, a film festival is coming to town to show all the movies that were made in Minnesota, including “Crisis in Cherrywood,” the movie Ross worked on that was shot right in Lake Eden, and the mayor wants Hannah to host interviews at The Cookie Jar. Additionally, Delores has a book launch for her latest romance novel and she needs Hannah to find her a new venue – oh, and to bake some cookies for a hundred people or so, as well. All on top of preparing new treats for customers at The Cookie Jar for Valentine’s Day, one of the biggest days of the year for sweets.
When a body is found, Hannah has to race against time to solve who did it before the killer turns her into the next corpse.
Fluke has compiled a total of 27 Hannah-themed books, carving out a unique niche for herself. Hannah, of course, is a baker, but food is not just a theme for these cozy mysteries – Fluke includes recipes for all of them. I have to admit, I do not read the complete recipes, although I do like reading the notes in the recipes that are purportedly by Hannah and other characters. Those with some talent in the kitchen might like to try the recipes and see if they’re as good as they sound.
This series has lasted so long because Fluke knows how to write small-town people. One of the things I like best is the relationship between Hannah and her family. There are struggles and personality clashes, but they are tempered with love, so when their differences do come up, they find ways to be there for each other.
Another thing Fluke gets right is small town people and the way they tend to band together in tough times and support each other. And Hannah really needs everyone’s support now.
Long-time fans will realize the pace of this story is a little different and the story is a little darker. Unfortunately, this storyline of a woman being threatened by a man who has professed to love her is frighteningly true-to-life. Fluke does a good job of showing Hannah’s mixed emotions. Her fear is real because she knows Ross is dangerous and she has to take his threats seriously, but she has moments where she just wants to go back to the way life was before Ross left, when Hannah was ignorant, but blissfully happy.
Fluke pulled a very big about-face in this book, changing the direction of Hannah’s life – in more than one way – but she makes it all make sense.
If you want to curl up with some fast reads and catch up with Hannah and company, grab some coffee and home-baked snacks and start with “Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder” and work your way through all the delicious titles.