by Sandra Murphy
This week we have reviews of 2 food mysteries by Joanne Fluke-Blackberry Pie Murder & Double Fudge Brownie Murder. Details at the end of this post on how to win a copy of Double Fudge Brownie Murder, along with a links to purchase the books.
Blackberry Pie Murder By Joanne Fluke
Review by Sandra Murphy
This is the nineteenth book in the cozy series that features Hannah Swenson and her cookie shop. As the title suggests, there’s a dead body but this time there’s no mystery as to who killed the stranger–it was Hannah herself!
Stranded at the auto repair shop, Lisa, Hannah’s assistant/partner, needed a ride so Hannah volunteered. A sudden rain prompts them to take the back roads rather than the highway. It’s already a white-knuckle drive when the lightning starts. Hannah’s afraid that out in the open, the cookie truck makes a great target for a lightning strike so she heads for a more wooded stretch. As she rounds the curve, a huge tree limb blocks the road, the truck fishtails as she swerves and a big thump follows. Sure enough, there’s a man lying in the road and he’s dead.
Wracked by “what ifs?” Hannah is determined to find out who the man was, why he was out in the storm and why he didn’t jump out of the way when the truck got near.
There are legal complications though. This is not a simple accident. Hannah was driving with her wipers on (they needed to be replaced) but not her headlights. As in many places, the law says wipers on, headlights on. There’s also a law that says in dangerous driving conditions, pull to the side of the road and wait it out–that she planned to do so, doesn’t count.
The worst happens when, during dinner with her family, Hannah is arrested–by her own brother-in-law! He orders Mike, one of Hannah’s boyfriends, to do the deed but Mike refuses and is suspended without pay. Hannah is forced to spend three nights in jail although there is no restriction on visitors or outside meals and comforts of home being brought in. Bail is set and the hunt is on to find the victim’s identity.
Delores, Hannah’s mom, is getting married. Planning her wedding seems like the perfect distraction until Delores threatens to drive her daughters to distraction with all the changes she makes. The wedding is only weeks away and she hasn’t made a firm decision on anything yet.
Speaking of decisions, Norm and Mike are still waiting for Hannah to make one–both men proposed to her two years ago! Although it’s been four months since Hannah or anybody in her family found a dead body, she’s been “too busy” to decide whose proposal to accept or if to accept one at all.
Unlike the Stephanie Plum cozies, where there is sexual tension and put off decisions regarding Stephanie, the Bad Boy Cop (who would marry her) and the Extreme Bad Boy, Ranger (who would not), there is no sizzle between Hannah and Norm. There is sizzle between Hannah and Mike but it’s telling that when Hannah calls him, she dials his cell.
If he’s busy, with whatever or whoever, he’ll let it go to voice mail. The landline, he answers no matter what–so if there’s no answer, he’s out with someone else. If he’s proposed and is still dating other women, that’s a decision that’s already made.
Although the book is 357 pages, a nice long length for a cozy, 76 of those pages are recipes (25 recipes–the Blackberry Martini sounds great), a recipe index, a baking conversion chart, a couple of blank pages, a letter from Joanna Fluke about Dead Giveaway (her book, not part of this series, a re-release), a 5 page prologue of the new book and seven pages of Chapter One. That leaves 264 pages for Hannah with a cliff-hanger ending.
There were plot holes, inconsistencies and a few puzzlers for me. I’ve missed a couple of the previous books so some of those might have been explained already. There is much needed character development happening in this one. Delores is getting married, there are mentions of her antique shop and the Regency romance novels she writes but they are just mentions. In spite of her indecision, she’s toned down a lot.
This time, Hannah’s sister, Andrea actually contributes a cookie recipe although her peanut butter and mint jelly sandwiches still leave a lot to be desired. In previous books, her focus has been on being a “real estate professional” and a mom so it’s nice to see another view of her.
Life in Lake Eden moves on, all except for Hannah, Norm and Mike, who maintain their platonic relationships. It’s time for them to move on as well. As Delores herself says, “My daughter is a prude!”
Double Fudge Brownie Murder By Joanne Fluke
Review by Sandra Murphy
Readers of the Hannah Swensen mystery series have been frustrated with the long running love triangle between Hannah, Norman and Mike. Norman is sweet, thoughtful and slightly boring. Mike is sexy but not as trustworthy. Two years ago, both of them proposed; Hannah hasn’t made up her mind.
Break out the Halleluiah chorus! A decision has been made. No spoilers here but I’ll just say, it’s a satisfying
solution. You’ll have to wait until the very last sentence of the book to find out what it is. No peeking!
On to other news–Delores has been planning (and re-planning) her wedding to Doc. He and the rest of the family, realize she’ll never be sure she’s created the perfect wedding. Doc high-jacks the wedding by taking the entire wedding party to Las Vegas. After the wedding, a reception will be held at home. Speaking of homes, Delores and Doc haven’t decided where they’ll live as a couple since each owns their own places now.
The Blackberry Pie Murder (see review above) ended with a cliffhanger about Hannah’s legal problem. She’s been charged with vehicular homicide after she hit and killed a man while driving the cookie shop delivery truck during a thunderstorm. Now the court date has been set. As she and her attorney, Howie, wait for their turn, word comes that Judge Colfax wants to see her in chambers. Howie’s on the phone, the judge’s clerk is out of sight and Hannah’s too antsy to sit still. She goes to the Judge’s chambers and finds his body. Things don’t look good for her. Could she have killed the Judge because he was going to send her to jail? Hannah’s sisters Andrea and Michelle, are ready to help find the real killer.
It takes some doing but in spite of Hannah’s love life, her legal problems (which multiplied), Delores’ wedding, plus running the cookie shop, everything is resolved. Recipes are included of course–twenty-eight in all, plus a baking conversion chart–German Chocolate Cupcakes and Tangerine Dream Cake sound great.
This is the nineteenth book in the series. Fluke has also written six suspense novels and a Lake Eden Cookbook.
To enter to win a copy of Double Fudge Brownie Murder, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Fudge,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 28, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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For more food fun check out our monthly food column How I Met My Dinner.
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