Thursday, December 3, 2020

Book Review: Christmas Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke (Hannah Swensen #26)

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: A fun Christmas short story
Cons: Padded with lots of talk about food
The Bottom Line:
Missing memory
Sets up a fun mystery
Overwhelmed by food




A Fine Short Story Stretched

When I saw that we were getting a new Christmas story starring Hannah Swensen, I decided to save it for December.  At the heart of Christmas Cupcake Murder is a good story, but it was stretched way too far.

This book is set during a Christmas from the past.  It’s never specified when it is set, but it’s early on in the series.  Mike has moved to town, but Lisa and Herb are still dating and not yet married.  Of course, since these books are fiction, Hannah has a cell phone and is pretty good as using it (as long as it is charged), something that wasn’t true back when in those stories.  Then again, not everyone had cell phones back when the early books in the series were coming out.  I’m not really bothered by that part of the time warp, more amused by it.

Anyway….

There is a stranger in Lake Eden, and no one knows who he is – including the man himself.  Hannah and her mother find him one day mostly starved, and get him to the hospital.  When he is revived, he doesn’t remember his name, but asks to be called Joe Smith instead of John Doe.  Hannah makes it her mission to find out who he really is.  Can she help him recover his memory?

For a Christmas entry in this series, I find the premise of this book to be fun.  As much as I do love my cozy mysteries, it is nice to see some variety in the plot every so often, as long as the plot is decent.

And that’s the problem here.  This would have worked as a short story.  Maybe a novella.  Maybe.  However, here, it is stretched out to fill a novel.  The usual tactics in this series are employed.  There is lots of talk about food.  Lots and lots of talk.  Not only are there discussions of Hannah’s latest creation (and there are lots of them), but there is talk about how she made it or plans for something new or….  You get the idea.  Skimming was my friend with this book, and I didn’t miss any of the story as I did it.

If you were paying attention and knew this was a step back in time, you could tell in how the characters were interacting.  It was fun seeing some of those interactions, knowing where these characters are now.  Of course, since this is a flashback, there aren’t any real developments in the character’s lives for fans who are up to date on the books.

But there are recipes.  I’m sure that isn’t a surprise given what I said earlier.  We get twenty new recipes, and I’m not counting the frosting separately from the cupcakes.  As you might expect from the title, there are plenty of cupcake recipes – I counted seven.

Back to the plot for a moment, it does get strong as the book goes along, and I really did love the ending.  I was glad I read it for that reason.

If you are a fan of the series and know what to expect going into this book, you’ll be fine.  Just plan to get more discussion of food than the plot in Christmas Cupcake Murder.

Here are the rest of the Hannah Swensen Mysteries.

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