Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Review: Carrot Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke (Hannah Swensen Mysteries #10)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery with characters who are old friends.
Cons: The cooking aspect gets a little annoying at times.
The Bottom Line:
Prodigal Uncle
Murdered at a reunion
Hannah's on the case

What's Up with Gus?

Lake Eden is your typical small town. Located on the shore of Eden Lake in Minnesota, it is filled with small businesses and friendly people. It is obviously the murder capitol of Minnesota. Carrot Cake Murder is the tenth entry in the Hannah Swensen mystery series. That's a lot of murder in a small town. And do I care? Not in the slightest.

Hannah owns a cookie and coffee shop that is a local hang out. Her partner in the business is Lisa Beeseman. Lisa and her husband Herb have been planning a family reunion for the last few months, and it has finally arrived. Family is pouring in from all over the United States. But the big surprise is Herb's uncle Gus. No one has heard from Gus since he left Lake Eden in the middle of the night 30 years ago. His surprise appearance makes several people happy, but it also stirs up lots of old hurt and gossip.

As everyone gathers for the group picture the next afternoon, no one can find Gus. Hannah is enlisted to find him. And find him she does, flat on his back surrounded by pieces of her new carrot cake recipe. It doesn't take much to determine that he was murdered. Was someone carrying a grudge for 30 years? Can Hannah solve the mystery before the reunion ends?

As much as I love this series, I'll admit the mystery has been very light in the last couple. That's not the case here. While there is still plenty of cooking (more on that later), the mystery is never far from everyone's minds. There are some nice twists, and I was confused until the end. Granted, I did figure out who the killer was before Hannah, but not that much before. And the climax was wonderfully suspenseful.

Over the course of the series, we've been introduced to many wonderful characters who are like old friends. Most of them at least make an appearance here, but they don't play as big a role as they sometimes do. Frankly, I felt that left more time for the mystery to develop, so I was thankful for it. The characters we do get to see are their normal charming selves. And the new characters are great as well.

Cooking has become a very important part of the series. Many of the scenes here seem to involve potluck meals for the reunion in some form or other. That provides plenty of opportunity for new recipes. By my count, there are 10 new dessert and 5 regular recipes here. Personally, I've had the opportunity to try three of the recipes already, and they are as wonderful as always. While the cooking can be slightly distracting at times, the book never stays there for long but returns to the mystery quickly.

The writing can be simple, but it never gets too annoying. I find it makes for a fun, quick read.

Some fans of the series are annoyed by the love triangle. While it is an ever present undercurrent to the story, very little happens in that story line here.

It's always a joy to spend time in Lake Eden. Hannah's many fans will welcome Carrot Cake Murder with open arms.

Looking for more?  Check out the Hannah Swensen Mysteries in order.

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