Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Hannah and the rest of the cast; mouthwatering recipes
Cons: Very slow plot
The Bottom Line:
Hannah goes to court
Finds another dead body
Cooks up solution
Judge Not, Least You Be Murdered
One of the first series I started reading when I started reading cozy mysteries was Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen series. It even got me baking for a few years before I got lazy and stopped again. I always look forward to each new book in the series, although the series does seem to be declining. Unfortunately, Double Fudge Brownie Murder, the newest in the series, isn’t the strongest.
If you are new to the series, Hannah owns The Cookie Jar in the small town of Lake Eden, Minnesota. Despite it being a small town, she is always stumbling upon murder victims, usually next to her latest culinary creation. Each book is filled with recipes as well as clues, and this book resolves a mini-cliffhanger from the previous book in the series.
Doc has a surprise for Hannah’s mother Delores. He’s decided that they should elope to Vegas for their wedding with Hannah, Andrea, and Michelle along for the vacation. The only other addition to the party is Doc’s best man. It’s a wonderful vacation that gives Hannah the room to face what is coming.
Because when Hannah returns to Lake Eden, it’s time for her trial for vehicular manslaughter. Despite the fact that her lawyer is still telling her that she has nothing to worry about, she can’t help but be nervous, especially when Judge Colfax asks for a pre-trial meeting. While waiting for that meeting, Hannah hears a thump from his chambers and goes in to find the judge dead next to one of her double fudge brownies. Since she was about to stand trial in his court, the police consider Hannah a suspect. Can she find the real killer and clear her name?
So what is my problem with this book? Pacing. As much as I love these characters, I do read the books for the mystery. Here, the mystery doesn’t come close to starting until the second quarter and even then it never progresses quickly thanks to lots of talk about cooking. Yes, this series always has lots to do with cooking, but here I felt like it overwhelmed the mystery. In the end, it does reach a logical ending with a suspenseful final scene.
However, the characters are still wonderful. After so many books in the series, it’s hard not to feel like these characters are old friends, and each visit does give me a chance to see what is happening with them. I laughed a few times and generally enjoyed spending time with them.
There has been a long running love triangle in the series, and it looks like that particular plot is winding down. I won’t say any more about it but to say I like the direction it is heading. I’ll leave it for you to discover just what that might be.
And, yes, there are recipes. By my count, there are 23 of them in this book plus a couple of variations and frosting recipes, and all of them sound good enough to make you drool. Really, deciding to give up sweets right before this came out was so stupid. And all the recipes provide enough detail that even a novice baker like me can pull them off. It’s almost enough to make me want to bake again. Almost.
Double Fudge Brownie Murder is a book that fans of the series will want to read to catch up with favorite characters. However, it is not a book to entice new comers to start reading about Hannah.
Looking for more delicious food with a hint of murder? Check out the rest of the Hannah Swensen Mysteries in order.