Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Review: Gingerbread Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke, Laura Levine, Leslie Meier

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Enjoyable Christmas themed mysteries from great cozy authors
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Gingerbread, murder
Make a delicious combo
Enjoy at Christmas

This Gingerbread Has Bite

In case you've missed it in the news, Los Angeles has been having record heat this week.  And I've been reading Gingerbread Cookie Murder all week.  No, this Christmas themed collection of novellas wasn't an attempt on my part to trick my mind into thinking it was cooler.  Two of the three authors here are favorites, so I wanted to dive into the book as quickly as I could.

The collection starts with the title story.  Joanne Fluke gives her series cookie baker and sleuth Hannah Swensen a horrid new neighbor.  Ernie Kusak is playing Christmas music at painful levels and has an outrageous light display that is annoying everyone.  So was that why he was found next to a plate of Hannah's new gingerbread cookies?  Or is there another motive involved?

Each story in this collection is just over 100 pages, and Joanne still manages to give us most of the series main characters and twelve new recipes.  Yet she keeps the story moving forward at a very brisk pace.  There are a couple of twists along the way before Hannah can finally prove to the police who the killer is.

The second story stars Laura Levine's freelance writer Jaine Austen.  "The Dangers of Gingerbread Cookies" finds Jaine visiting her parents in Florida for the holiday.  In between watching her cat being spoiled rotten and her dad try to get his horrid gold Christmas tree set up, Jaine attends the community's Christmas play.  At the end, the leading man is supposed to float off the stage, but instead he falls to his death.  Considering he was a horrid womanizer, the suspects are plentiful.  But who actually wanted him dead?

Outside of e-mail exchanges in every book, this is the first time we've actually met Jaine's parents, and I got quite a hoot out of meeting them.  The series is comic in nature, and that is definitely the case here as this is the lightest of the three mysteries.  The plot kept me guessing until the end.  The story was mostly populated with people we haven't met before, but they all seemed real enough to make me care about the outcome.

I haven't read much by Leslie Meier, so I'm not as familiar with her characters, reporter Lucy Stone.  In "Gingerbread Cookies and Gunshots," Lucy gets involved when a four-year-old boy is kidnapped in her community.  With no clues to go on, Lucy begins to think that something much larger is happening.  Is she right?

I didn't have any trouble jumping into the characters here.  There was enough explanation of who people were that I could follow along.  The bits about those I assume are series regulars didn't mean quite as much to me, but I enjoyed meeting everyone.  This was the most serious of the three stories, and the atmosphere was carried perfectly throughout the story.  Lucy did seem to jump to one conclusion, but since she was proved right with evidence later on, I can't call it a major flaw.  There are two more recipes at the end of this story, bringing the total in the book to fourteen.  Honestly, I enjoyed this story enough it's making me consider giving the series another try.

If you are a fan of any of the authors here, you really should pick up this book.  You'll definitely enjoy a Christmas visit with familiar friends, and my guess is you'll meet a new friend or two along the way.

As for me, well, it's still hot here in Los Angeles.  And we're having thunderstorms, something we never get.  But I'm ready to do some Christmas baking thanks to Gingerbread Cookie Murder.  I wonder how my roommates would react if I dusted off my mixer, put on some Christmas music, and turned on the oven in this heat wave.

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

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