Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Decent mystery, characters we love
Cons: Little character development; pacing, especially early on
The Bottom Line:
Lonnie in hot seat
Slow start; mostly good pacing
Characters we love
Over the past couple of books, Hannah Swensen’s life has become a soap opera. I’ll admit to rolling my eyes at the cliffhanger at the end of the last book. So I wasn’t sure how I’d react to Coconut Layer Cake Murder.
Hannah Swensen, owner of The Cookie Jar, has been ordered to rest – it came straight from Doc himself. But a trip to California to help a friend pack up is cut short when Hannah’s younger sister, Michelle, calls in a panic. There’s been another murder in Lake Eden, and Michelle’s boyfriend, Lonnie, is the prime suspect. After a night out with friends, Lonnie took a drunk woman home only to pass out on her couch. The next morning, he wakes up to find her dead in her bedroom with no memory of anything after he passed out. Since Lonnie is a detective with the police department, most of them can’t investigate since they are friends with the suspect. Naturally, Hannah immediately flies home, but can she figure out who is the killer?
If you’ve read the previous book, yes, we do get an answer to the cliffhanger, and it comes fairly early. And if you haven’t read the last few books, you definitely should do that before you pick up this book. While most of that drama appears to be in the past (at least I hope so), there are references to those events in this book. It would be hard for this book to proceed without them, so I get why they are there. For those who aren’t up to date on the series, the discussions the characters have are spoilers, so you have been warned.
The book gets off to a slow start. Honestly, we could have dumped a couple of chapters with very little impact on the book itself. However, once Hannah gets back to Lake Eden and starts investigating, the pace is steady. There are still plenty of discussions about baking and Hannah’s newest culinary treats, but we get some good clues and red herrings. I didn’t spot the killer until we neared the end of the book, and the climax was logical when we got there.
This series is notorious for its love triangle. Fair warning, it is back in play here. I still maintain that author Joanne Fluke knows who Hannah should pick but just can’t actually do it, and this book makes it even more obvious. Or maybe it’s my bias since that’s the guy I’m rooting for. Not that I expect Hannah to ever decide. I’ve resigned myself to this love triangle continuing forever at this point.
Anyway, characters. Honestly, we get the usual interactions here. It’s nice to check in with everyone, but very little seems to change with the characters any more. Still, fans will enjoy seeing them again. I know I do.
I can’t leave out the recipes. Once again, the book is full of them with a total of nineteen by my count. Your mileage may vary depending on how you count frostings and variations.
Coconut Layer Cake Murder is a book that will please Hannah’s fans who have stuck with the series this long. If you are new to the series, you should be back to the beginning to see why we fell in love with these characters.
Looking for more Hannah Swensen mysteries? Here are the books in order.