My rating: 4 of 5 stars
4 stars to Joanne Fluke‘s Carrot Cake Murder, the tenth book in the “Hannah Swensen” cozy murder mystery series, a series which was made into several fun TV movies called “Murder, She Baked” starring Alison Sweeney and Cameron Mathison. The series continues to delight readers, providing at least 15 to 20 recipes that sound delicious and look fairly easy to make. I recommend you give all three a try — the book, the movie and the food!
As set up in the previous book, Hannah’s protege and part-owner of their shared Lake Eden Bakery, Lisa, and her new husband Herb, traffic cop extraordinaire, are having an extended family re-union on Eden Lake. One of their long-lost relatives, Gus Klein, randomly shows up and begins to cause trouble like he did when he was a child some thirty-five years ago. But this time, his trouble earns him an ice pick to the heart — what some say is cold justice payback! There are tons of suspects in this murder mystery all connected to Herb and Lisa’s family, and at this point in the series, Detective Mike Kingston (1 of Hannah’s 2 primary love interests) no longer pretends to stop Hannah from trying to investigate, he encourages it. With both her sisters’ and mother’s, as well as her other primary love interest, dentist Norman Rhodes, Hannah begins digging up all the dirt she can. Gus is not as wealthy as he claimed, and is only back in town to run some final scam, but it turns out to be his last one. Hannah rounds up the suspects and proves alibis one-by-one until she’s left with the one person she had a gut instinct about along the way… luckily, she’s saved by Mike just before the killer tries to knock her out too.
And for some extra fun on the side, Hannah spends a lot of time with Norman making us all root for him to win her heart, only to throw a little monkey-wrench into the plan at the end when Ross, the other paramour from a few books in the past, sizzles back into town wanting to see her as soon as possible. Well now what’s Hannah going to do… not only will she have 3 men to juggle but her mother just got a book romance book published starring… her own daughters. Lake Eden is gonna be hopping in book 11!
1. Hannah is a really fun character. She has so many great traits and a couple of flaws but it all makes her so real. She is sometimes a little too rude / direct, sometimes a little flaky and sometimes just too independent for her own good. But she is also charming, pretty, a great baker and a very accomplished woman.
2. Author Fluke knows how to integrate so many families and keeps it connected throughout each book in the series. It’s great to see / hear so many faces popping up from prior books that you really feel like you’re part of the story.
3. The mystery has some intrigue and complexity to it for a cozy. There’s at least 5 to 6 possible suspects and you have a few twists and turns that keep you guessing.
1. Hannah’s love triangle and now quadrangle… ugh, heart-breaker… but we really need her to let someone go. I like both Mike and Norman, but I see Norman as the better match for her in the long-run. I also like Ross and am curious to see what happens in the next book. But 3’s too much. I’m not trying to hold my girl back, but she hasn’t done more than kiss any of them and has this much trouble trying to figure out who is right for her??? What’s gonna happen when it gets steamier???
2. Love the recipes but they’re starting to take over the book. I’d like to limit it to 10 per book so you are enjoying the mystery more than the cooking. Don’t get me wrong, I love desserts, but I can’t cook everything she throws out there!
The cozy mystery has a certain kind of reader base. You’re not gonna find major romance or suspense, or even a lot of thrilling murders. It’s light and fun… with a few gut punches to keep you paying attention. The Hannah Swensen series has been fairly consistent thru ten books. So if you’re a cozy fan, and you like to stay with the same bunch of characters, you should be reading this series.