Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Review: Cream Puff Murder by Joanne Fluke (Hannah Swensen #11)


Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong and fun series characters, delicious sounding recipes
Cons: Weak plot
The Bottom Line:
Back to Lake Eden
Mystery could be better
Characters old friends




Murder of a Cream Tart

If you are expecting anything other than a light read from a book entitled Cream Puff Murder, I'm here to set you straight.  This is the eleventh book about cookie baker and sometimes sleuth Hannah Swensen.  Set in the small town of Lake Eden, Minnesota, these books have never been anything other than extra cozy reads.

Hannah has two weeks to lose enough weight to fit into the dress her mother bought her to wear to a book launch party.  That means a strict diet and joining Heavenly Bodies, the new gym out at the mall.  With sister Andrea cheering her on, Hannah might actually make her goal.

On the down side, membership at Heavenly Bodies means interacting even more with Ronni Ward.  One of the instructors at the gym, Ronni has made enemies out of every woman in town with her constant flirting.  Still, Hannah is shocked to find Ronni floating face down in the gym's Jacuzzi.  To make matters worse, sometimes boyfriend and head detective Mike Kingston is a suspect in the case.  Since Mike is suspended until things are resolved, he is becoming irritating.  Can she solve the case before Mike drives her completely crazy?

This series left realistic behind several books ago.  Like Murder, She Wrote, we've now had how many murders in a small town?  Furthermore, the police pretty much assume Hannah will be involved in the case and help her out.  Some of the best laughs in this book came because of that.  I never let that bother me when Jessica Fletcher was the sleuth, so I ignore it here.

The other issue that leaves reality behind is the romantic triangle.  In addition to Mike, there's dentist Norman Rhodes.  I can't believe these two men are still willing to let Hannah date them both.  This is beginning to bother me (and I am the last one there).  It's been obvious for several books who Hannah should chose, and this book just confirms it.

I ignore these issues because I love the characters.  Time spent with them always makes me smile.  While a couple of the series regulars were irritating at the beginning, I even love them now.  The characters don't change too much from one book to the next, but that just makes it feel even more like coming home.

The plot could have been stronger.  Ronni is a known quantity from earlier books in the series, but we hardly get to know her here before she dies.  The suspect characters aren't really developed enough to provide enough red herrings.  Having said that, the identity of the killer actually did surprise me.

There are around 20 recipes in this book to enjoy long after you've finished reading.  Personally, my mouth was watering the entire way through.

This series is like the chocolate that Hannah loves to give out.  It will cure any problem.  Cream Puff Murder isn't the strongest entry, but this fan enjoyed every minute of it.

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

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