Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Review: Key Lime Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke (Hannah Swensen #9)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Enchanting characters in a decent mystery
Cons: Pace slows a little in the middle; Hannah doesn't share all clues with police
The Bottom Line:
Murder at the fair
Magic, mayhem, and some pies
Delicious and fun

Murder on the Midway

Welcome back to Lake Eden, Minnesota, for Key Lime Pie Murder, the ninth entry in Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen mystery series. Hannah owns her own cookie shop and when she is not baking up a storm she is solving the latest homicide, much to the dismay of sometimes boyfriend, police detective Mike Kingston.

The Tri-County Fair has opened in Lake Eden, and it promises to be a busy week for Hannah. Her cookie shop is providing cookies for the chamber of commerce booth, her two sisters and one niece are in various contests, and Hannah has agreed to step in as the third judge for the baking contest.

And it's through the contest that Hannah meets Willa Sunquist, a student teacher almost done with her schooling. She seems like a bright, engaging woman, but she hints at secrets in her past. The mystery surrounding Willa is only compounded when Hannah finds her dead on the midway just after closing one night. The list of suspects is actually rather long. But who hated Willa enough to kill her?

These books are an equal mix of charm and mystery. We get doses of Hannah's life as well as the crime at hand. There is a good mix of the two, although the mystery does stall ever so slightly around the middle with the introduction of yet another sub-plot. Yet this last sub-plot actually turned out to provide an important piece of the puzzle.

My bigger complaint was Hannah's bad habit of not sharing info with the police. That seemed more of an issue this time around then in previous books, or maybe I just noticed it more. Either way, she seems to purposefully keep the information from the police, a habit that would get her in serious trouble in the real world.

It's best to read these books in order because when you do it feels like catching up with old friends. And, if you care about what is happening in their lives, you'll enjoy the many sub-plots that run through the book. Ms. Fluke manages to keep her characters real, which adds to the enjoyment. Along the way, we get lots of great character moments.

The character moments provided some of the best laughs of the book, especially the scenes where Hannah continues to face her two suitors, the previously mentioned Mike and dentist Norman Rhodes. This is the most unrealistic story line of the series, but I love watching the love triangle continue to unfold.

As always, there are more recipes as well. This go around, we get 16 of them. I've already tried the title recipe, and it's delicious. The others sound just as promising. And with the increased number of recipes comes an increased discussion of cooking. But I've come to enjoy these scenes as well.

Even though this is a murder mystery, Key Lime Pie Murder is a throw back to small town life and a more innocent time. If that appeals to you, you'll love this series.

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

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