Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Fun seeing Hannah before the series starts
Cons: Light on mystery; pacing.
The Bottom Line:
A flashback story
Very light on mystery
Die hard fans might like
Hannah's First Brush with Murder
Just like last year, Joanne Fluke has treated us to a Christmas mystery featuring her sleuth Hannah Swensen. And, just like last year, the book is a flashback story to a Christmas before the events in the most recent books take place. In fact, in this case, Christmas Cake Murder takes place many, many years before.
This book is set at the first Christmas since Hannah's father has died. Hannah has dropped out of her graduate program and is home trying to help her mother, Delores, deal with life after her loss, and Hannah is beginning to worry. Fortunately, Grandma Knudson and Annie come up with the perfect project to get Delores's mind off her loss. It seems Essie, a beloved member of the community, has fallen and broken her hip. In an effort to cheer her up, Delores is asked to organize a Christmas ball, with Hannah recruited to bake the cakes for the events.
While all this is going on, Hannah begins to share her dreams of opening her own cookie and coffee shop. And a novel that Essie was working on captivates Hannah, Delores, Michelle, and Lisa.
You'll notice I didn't talk about crime at all. That's because the mystery really is more of a sub-plot in this book. Instead, time is spent planning the Christmas ball and Hannah figuring out what is next for her. The strands of the mystery are woven in early, so when it does begin, it does come to a logical conclusion, but this isn't a typical mystery at all.
As a result, I don't recommend that you pick up this book if you aren't already familiar with the series. It's not at all a good example of why the series is so popular, and you will be bored.
Fans of the series will enjoy it more. It's fun to see characters we already know and love before we met them. Heck, Hannah's middle sister, Andre, is pregnant in this book. And none of the current guys in Hannah's life are present, although we do hear about a recently failed romance long time readers will be familiar with.
Even so, I'll admit to struggling to get through this book at times. While seeing Hannah getting her life arranged in the way we already know is fun to a certain extent, the book does drag at times.
And yes, there are plenty of recipes. By my count, we get a total of 11 new ones this time, including three bunt cake recipes.
Christmas Cake Murder is a fairly quick read that will amuse die hard Hannah fans. Anyone else can skip this entry in the long running series.
Need more delicious mysteries? Here are the rest of the Hannah Swensen Mysteries.