Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Book Review: Christmas Caramel Murder by Joanne Fluke (Hannah Swensen #20)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Usual fun with Hannah and the gang
Cons: Short; flashback
The Bottom Line:
A Christmas murder
Excuse to visit Hannah
Short but fun for fans

Murder of Mrs. Claus

If you read enough Christmas themed cozies, you’ll kill off just about everyone associated with the holiday, or at least someone playing them in the local community.  Take, for example, Christmas Caramel Murder, a Christmas novella in the Hannah Swensen series.  In this book, the murder victim is someone in a Mrs. Claus costume.

As the book opens, Hannah’s partner at The Cookie Jar is worried.  Lisa’s husband Herb has been working late every night, and his new assistant is Phyllis, his high school girlfriend.  Phyllis has already had one affair in town.  Further complicating things, Phyllis has been cast as Mrs. Claus to Herb’s Santa at the end of the community play, a part that Lisa had hoped to play.

After Hannah and Lisa go out to dinner one night, they find Phyllis’s body in a snow drift near their cars.  With Lisa and Herb both on the suspect list, Hannah dives into the investigation to find the killer and clear her partner.  But can she do it?

If you are a fan of the series, you know what to expect here, and you really won’t be disappointed.  We get the usual talk of food (yes, my mouth watered multiple times) interspersed with Hannah talking to suspects trying to figure out who the killer is.  Naturally, things come to a logical conclusion.

Likewise, we get to see the usual friends and family members.  Some are reduced to only a cameo or even a mention, but it is always fun to check in with them.

This isn’t our first Christmas visit to Lake Eden, but it is likewise fun to pop in and get a dose of holiday spirit.  The novella has a dozen recipes, some of them good for any time of year, like a grilled ham and double cheese sandwich or red velvet whippersnapper cookies, and some that would definitely fit the holiday season, like chocolate-covered mint cookies, gingerbread pancakes, or the title caramels.

You’ll notice I’ve called this release a novella.  That’s because it is fairly short.  It’s 200 pages, including the recipes scattered throughout the book, and the pages are closer to paperback size than a hardcover even though the book itself is a hardcover.  I flew through the book.  Adjust your expectations when you go to pick it up and you’ll be fine.

The main play the theater company is doing is A Christmas Carol (Santa just shows up at the end to hand out goodies to the kids).  An element of Dicken’s classic story is worked into three scenes in the book.  It’s a departure for the series, but I kind of liked it.  Then again, I love A Christmas Carol, so maybe that made me more receptive.

The strangest thing about this book is actually the fact that it is a flashback.  This book is set a Christmas ago in the chronology of the books.  That means that Ross is only involved in a wraparound prologue and epilogue.  For the heart of the story, he isn’t there, and we are in the relationships from a few books ago.  That’s the thing I’ve had to adjust to the most while reading this book.

So if you are looking for a quick read for this Christmas season, pick up Christmas Caramel Murder.  You’ll enjoy this visit with old friends.

Looking for more adventures in Lake Eden?  Here are the Hannah Swensen Mysteries in order.


  1. Yes, it read very fast! And the flashback set up, was ok, I guess.

  2. Your opening paragraph made me giggle because it's so true! I can't even begin to count how many times someone dressed as Santa or an elf or the like gets murdered in cozy mystery world. Definitely a dangerous profession! I read one book in this series and really loved it and have been meaning to go read more but of course it hasn't happened yet.

  3. Sounds like a great way to put forth a story, in a flashback.


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