Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Review: Plum Pudding Murder by Joanne Fluke (Hannah Swensen #12)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Lovable characters and a good Christmas mystery
Cons: Pacing in the beginning
The Bottom Line:
Ultra light story
Christmas dinner recipes
Combine for more fun

Killing Santa's Crazy Elf

We are now on the twelfth Hannah Swensen mystery, a combination of murder and baking that continues to hit the New York Times best seller list with each new mystery.  Of course, I am wondering just how safe the small town of Lake Eden, Minnesota, is these days.  But I put little thing like that out of my mind enjoy the latest adventure with Plum Pudding Murder.

Like the others in the series, the focus is Hannah Swensen.  She owns The Cookie Jar is down town Lake Eden.  And she has a bad habit of stumbling over dead bodies.  And those murder victims have the bad habit of dying near a piece of Hannah's latest delicious dessert creation (recipes included).  This time around, we've got another Christmas mystery for Hannah and her friend to unravel.

Its 10 shopping days until Christmas, and things are hopping in The Cookie Jar.  Hannah has her hands full keeping the shop's regular customers in cookies plus holiday party catering.  To top it off, the shop is providing the cookies for the Crazy Elf Christmas Tree Lot.  Located in the center of town, it not only sells trees, but stand, ornaments, and toys.  Heck, it even has some rides for all to enjoy.

But when Hannah stops by one night to pick up a check, she finds Larry Jaeger, the owner, shot dead in Elf Headquarters (aka the trailer he was living in on site).  And the secrets begin pouring out as Hannah finds motives in some surprising places.  Who actually committed the murder?

These books have become about much more than the mystery.  They are also about the characters and the baking.  I will admit that I do wish the discussion of the recipes was cut down a little, but it's a minor annoyance.  And the recipes included in the book are always fantastic.  We get 18 more dessert recipes to try plus 10 recipes for a complete Christmas Eve dinner.  I'm glad the weather is cooling off because I am going to have to try some of these soon.

I really do feel like these characters are old friend by this point.  And they continue to be their normal, charming selves here.  Character development has really slowed from the pace of the first few novels in the series, but that's okay because I like who the characters are.  The love triangle is still in full force, however, it does seem to be going in one direction (I hope, anyway).

I will admit the main plot got a rather slow start here.  There are several sub-plots that took up much of the action in the first third.  But just as I was beginning to get annoyed, things picked up and the rest of the book had a much better balance of story lines.  I pegged the killer only a chapter or two before Hannah did, and the climax was quite thrilling.

And any fan of the series will be groaning as loudly as I did at the final scene of the book.  There is a bad cliffhanger.  Yes, I saw it coming, but I still can't wait for the next book to see where it leads.

This book is light, but then again, the Hannah Swensen series has never pretended to be anything else.  If you want an ultra cozy Christmas murder, Plum Pudding Murder will be just what you are searching for.

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

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