Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Review: Devil's Food Cake Murder (Hannah Swensen #14)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun characters, good mystery
Cons: The love triangle continues
The Bottom Line:
Murder at the church
Gives us a chance to catch up
With Hannah and friends

The Devil (Food Cake) Takes a Reverend

By the time a series reaches book fourteenth, people pretty much know how they feel about a series.  I think that's probably the case with the Hannah Swensen series, too.  Devil's Food Cake Murder is the fourteenth entry in this cozy, culinary mystery series.  Some people find the books too light.  Some people are tired of the series.  Personally, I love the characters so much that I look forward to every visit.

If you've missed this series so far, it centers on Hannah Swenson, who owns a cookie shop and catering business in Lake Eden, Minnesota.  This small town is also the murder capital of the world since it seems Hannah is always stumbling upon dead bodies next to her latest culinary creation.  I really don't advise you to jump into the series here because so much of the fun of the books is the characters.  You'd be much better off going back to the beginning and getting to know them as the series progresses.

This book opens in the beginning of February, and things are hopping in Lake Eden.  Hannah is trying to put together some desserts for her mother's second book launch party while avoiding seeing Doctor Bev.  Not only is Norman's new partner in his dental practice attractive, but she also happens to be his former fiancee.  Since Hannah and Norman date some times, the fact that these two are spending so much time together doesn't sit well with Hannah.

But the big news is that newlyweds Claire and Reverend Bob are finally able to take their honeymoon.  When old family friend Matthew Walters stopped by for a visit, he quickly agreed to take over for two weeks for Bob.  But the happy couple has barely left town when Hannah finds Matthew's very dead body in the church office.  Since Matthew had spent some time in Lake Eden as a kid, did one of his past sins come back to haunt him?  Or was the motive for this murder something more recent?

While the mysteries were fairly strong in the early books, they have taken a back seat to the characters and the cooking as the series has progressed.  That's not to say the mystery here is bad.  I felt it progressed well throughout the book and reached a great conclusion.

But really, these books are just an excuse to visit with the characters.  They are their usual charming selves as the story progresses.  Most of the regulars get at least a cameo and some show up for some substantial page time.  I've got to admit I am hard pressed to say how much the characters develop here and how much of what I know about the characters is from the previous books in the series.  They are such friends, however, and it was great to see them again.

And there's the baking.  With roughly 20 new recipes, you can bet there is plenty of talk about cooking going on.  Once again, most of these recipes look very tempting.  As a novice baker myself (despite my last name), I appreciate the fact that they really spell out all the steps to make the desserts.  It makes them pretty fool proof.

The biggest flaw with this book is something I've noticed for most of the series.  They tend to be a little overwritten with a need to tell us everything the characters do.  Still, by the time I'm 50 pages into the story, I'm caught up in the action and only noticing the pages fly by.

Probably the biggest complaint in this series is the love triangle.  In addition to Norman the dentist, Hannah also dates Mike the detective.  Since this has been going on since book one, even I am getting ready for Hannah to finally make a decision.  (And yes, I definitely have a side.)  Doctor Bev's appearance just makes it more ludicrous in some ways, although watching Hannah react is rather funny.  I really think Hannah is close to making a decision, however, so I'm hoping the next book will bring this story line to a close.

Really, there is little here to change the minds of anyone about this series.  Those who don't like it don't need to waste their time with the latest entry.  But fans of the series will enjoy catching up with everyone in Devil's Food Cake Murder.

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

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