If you – like me – have been waiting for the latest novel in the Hannah Swensen series by Joanne Fluke, the wait is finally over. “Coconut Layer Cake Murder” is out and it is classic Fluke.
Fluke left readers – and Hannah – with a whiz-bang cliffhanger in “Chocolate Cream Pie Murder,” which found Hannah solving one of her toughest, and most personal, cases yet to date. In “Coconut Layer Cake Murder,” Hannah is worn out and still reeling, so she agrees to leave her bakery, The Cookie Jar, in the capable hands of her business partner, Lisa, and go on a trip to California to get away from all the stress she’s been under. Her college friend Lynne is moving to Lake Eden, and Hannah and her mother Delores have agreed to help Lynne pack up for the move.
While out there, Hannah gets a frantic phone call from her youngest sister, Michelle, who begs her to come right home. Michelle’s boyfriend, Lonnie Murphy, drove a former high school classmate home from the bar and now he’s being accused of Darcy’s murder.
Hannah, of course, gets on the next plane because she can’t ignore a plea for help from her sister. Usually Hannah has a whole lot of people to help her with these cases, but because Lonnie is a deputy himself, that means his partner Mike Kingston, and brother Rick Murphy can’t touch the case due to the conflict of interest. Usually, the county sheriff’s office wants Hannah to stay away from the dead bodies, but with most of his investigators sidelined, Hannah’s brother-in-law Sheriff Bill is willing to let her look for clues.
Hannah gets help from her sister, Andrea; local dentist Norman Rhodes; business partner Lisa; and even Lynne. It’s a good thing Hannah has some assistance because the more she digs up on Darcy, the longer the suspect list grows. Never one to give up, Hannah keeps going even as her suspect list dwindles.
Everybody’s counting on Hannah like never before to solve the crime – before someone else winds up dead.
Fluke reassembles the gang for “Coconut Layer Cake Murder.” Readers who have come to know and love these cozy mysteries will be right at home, back in Lake Eden, Minnesota. Fluke gets the workings of a small town right: how everyone knows everyone – the good, the bad and the quirks; how they come together to help neighbors and how you are always there for family.
Reading a good cozy mystery with familiar characters may be just the right assurance we all need in these uncertain times.
Hannah has a lot of healing to do after what she’s been through and Fluke gets her on the right road, but not without a hitch. Fortunately, Norman and Mike are there to see her through it. I do wonder though if Fluke intends for Hannah’s past misjudgment to keep coming back to haunt her. Fluke does add a nice touch at the end, which is hopefully a glimpse into Hannah’s future that we won’t have to wait too long to see.
Since Hannah’s a baker, she creates tasty confections while she searches for murder clues. Fluke includes her trademark recipes so those with some skill in the kitchen can duplicate the yummy-sounding treats in the books, like Snowflake and Ice Cookies, Corned Beef and Pepper Jack Quiche, Chocolate Salami, Hannah’s Coconut Layer Cake, of course, and many others.
If you’re looking for some cozy mysteries that are fast reads, start with “Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder” and work your way through all the delicious titles.
For more information on the Hannah Swensen series or Fluke’s other novels – some written under noms de plume – go to joannefluke.com online.