My rating: 3 of 5 stars
3 stars to Joanne Fluke‘s Candy Cane Murder, a short novella edition for the holidays between books 9 and 10 of the “Hannah Swensen” mystery series. Given this is only 100 pages, and just a teaser in between full-length books, I adjusted my expectations, but it still fell a little short for me. I’ll keep reading the series, but nothing really changes in the overall series with this book, so if you skip it, not a huge deal.
Hannah’s preparing for Christmas in Lake Eden by volunteering as an elf to help the local department store owner who is playing Santa Claus this season. Unfortunately, he’s a bit of a tightwad who rubs some of his employees and the villagers the wrong way. After the mall’s Christmas party, Hannah finds him face down on the corner of the street in his Santa suit. It’s the tenth body she’s found in about two years (yikes, stay away from her!), but still gives her the frights. Is it his new younger wife? Her friendly brother? An angry employee? Or someone else with a grudge? Hannah dives into the investigation behind Mike’s back and finds herself right in the middle of mayhem. Of course she survives, but the fun along the way keeps readers in suspense in between her normal shenanigans.
By keeping the count of characters smaller, we are treated to more in-depth relationships among Hannah’s sisters and boyfriends (yes, she has a few). The plot has subtle humor and it gives readers readers something to noodle over among the villagers we’ve come to know and love. And there are good recipes!
It was rushed and Hannah didn’t even pretend to let the police track the killer. It felt too much like writing a long short story to keep fans entertained rather than release a full-length complex story that would make them wait a few extra months. It took me less than 90 minutes and while I was entertained, it was too basic.
If you’re just looking to read more about Hannah and don’t need a lot of substance in your mystery, then jump on in… but if you want intrigue and complexity and a big ole’ candy cane to chew on, don’t expect much. Worth the read because Hannah is just a fun character, but go in with your eyes open.