Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Review: Cinnamon Roll Murder by Joanne Fluke (Hannah Swensen #15)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Wonderful main characters (as always) and good mystery
Cons: One unbelievable story line and another dropped with no resolution plus a confused day
The Bottom Line:
Definitely weak
But the characters kept me
Enjoying each page

Another Murder Unrolls

Well, it finally happened.  While I’ve been quick to acknowledge the weaknesses in the recent entries in the Hannah Swensen mystery series, I’ve still been enjoying them.  Cinnamon Roll Murder, the fifteenth in the series, however, has enough flaws that even I can’t ignore them.

As always, the book follows Hannah, who owns a cookie shop in the small Minnesota town of Lake Eden.  Unfortunately, this town has a slight murder problem, enough to give Cabot Cove a run for its money.  And the victims always seem to be found near Hannah’s newest culinary masterpiece.  (Mental note to self: If I ever visit Lake Eden, don’t eat anything not already used as a title recipe.)

The Lake Eden Inn is hosting a jazz festival, and they’ve brought in the Cinnamon Roll Six, a jazz band that is rising in Minnesota, to headline the event.  But an early spring freeze leads to an accident on the highway, and the band’s bus overturns.  Keyboardist Buddy Neiman hurts his wrist, but when he’s taken to the hospital to be treated, he is murdered.

Believe it or not, Hannah isn’t the one to find the body this time; it’s her mother Delores.  And Delores wants the murdered solved since she feels responsible.  Hannah is distracted, however. Normal, her sometimes boyfriend, has set a date for his wedding to Dr. Bev in just a week.  Can Hannah break up the wedding?  Will she be able to solve the murder with this distraction?

As I said, there were serious issues with this book.  Not the least of which is the Norman/Dr. Bev story line.  I get that it was supposed to be a complication for the love triangle that’s been going on since book one.  And it might even be bringing that to a conclusion.  (I can hope.)  However, I didn’t buy it for a minute. Norman just goes along with things too easily.  This book is several months after the cliffhanger bombshell at the end of the last book.  Yet somehow, no one has thought to doubt the revelation until a date for the wedding has been set?  Giving Norman a love interest to make Hannah realize how much she does love him could have been interesting, but this stretched believability too far.

Then there’s an early plot point that gets dropped and never mentioned again.  While it doesn’t change the outcome of the story at all, it would have been nice to see some resolution to that.

Finally, there’s one very confused day that can’t quite decide if it is a Friday or a Saturday.

Now, you’re probably thinking how could there be anything good left in the book?  Well, despite all this, I still found plenty to enjoy.  For starters, there’s the mystery.  I thought I had this plot figured out after reading the end of the last book.  I was wrong then, and my new theories (which I gleefully announced to my roommates as I was reading) turned out to be wrong.  The twists were believable and kept me interested.

As always, I love the characters.  Hannah and her two sisters make for a great detective team, and I just love seeing them in action.  Hannah’s mother has definitely softened in the last couple of books, and I loved her here.  And the rest of the cast is their normal charming selves.  You can’t read fifteen books with characters and not come to love them.  As the cookbook proved, I would gladly spend time with them even if a murder isn’t taking place.

I did notice a couple typos in the book, but for the most part the writing flowed well and allowed me to get lost in the story.  In addition to the mystery, there are 20 mouthwatering recipes that I really need to find time to try.

Cinnamon Roll Murder certainly is not the best in the series, although fans will still want their Lake Eden fix.  Despite some weakness here, I’ll definitely be back for next year’s book.

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

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