Plum Pudding Murder

Ready for our next Christmas mystery?

christmascookies

Me too!

startrekletsgetstarted

Okay!

Plumpuddingmurder

Plum Pudding Murder (Hannah Swensen Mystery #12) by Joanne Fluke

*Contains Spoilers*

So the first thing I notice in this book is in her acknowledgements, she thanks:

Jill Saxton for correcting my Minnesota mistakes

Joanne Fluke is from Minnesota, how could she be getting it wrong?

weird

So the beginning of this book actually is one of the strongest. We see it from the point of view of Larry Jaeger, and of course we know right away he is a major jerk.

jerk_alert32

He has come back to Lake Eden to swindle as many investors as he can. The biggest investor is his fiancé Courtney, but even she doesn’t know what he’s doing or how much money he has squirreled away.

You_poor_simple_fools

He has everything closed up and ready to shut down for the night. All he has to do is wait for Hannah Swenson to pick up her check for the cookies and such that he is selling at his Crazy Elf Christmas Tree Lot. As he waits for Hannah and Norman to come, he hears something. He thinks it is Hannah, but he is dead wrong. Instead someone charges in and kills him “for what he has done.”

gunshooting

One Day Earlier

In The Cookie Jar, Hannah and Lisa are decorating for Christmas when Hannah spurts out another one of her random factoid, this time that shellac was originally made from female insects. Now this needs to stop.

Ijustwantittostop

I know you are trying to make her sound educated and intelligent, but none of these factoids ever sound like real conversations. They are just out of nowhere with Hannah being some kind of “I am supreme knowledge woman” and everyone just fascinated for the slightest bauble coming out of her mouth. Just no. NO MORE!!! It’s boring and stupid.

im_bored_himym

Delores, Hannah’s mother, comes in to talk with her about her best friend, and business partner, Carrie Rhodes (Norman’s mom). Delores and Carrie were supposed to take a class together about running a small business, but all Carrie seems to do is be busy lately.

seriously

She wants Hannah’s help to find out why, along with her coming to class.

veronicamarsinvestigatesleuth

When Hannah gets to the class she runs into the last person she ever wanted to see. The Professor she was having an affair with! The one who turned out to be married, and the reason she left school.

thisisbad

But that isn’t who they have for their class. They have Dr. Kimberly Whiting, who is pretty boring and Hannah can’t wait to leave. When they finally do get out, Norman turns up as he came to drive Hannah home, and hopes to take her out to dinner.

howyoudoing

They head back to her place as she decides she is far too tired to go out. This works for Norman as it turns out he has an ulterior motive.

eyebrowsbowchickawowwow

No not that. He too wants Hannah to help him figure out what’s going on with his mom.

What?

Why is she acting so weird? Why is she canceling on him all the time.

HMMM

While the two are eating and cooking, Mike decides to drop by. Now as you can guess I don’t like Mike. I think it is obvious she should get with Norman as Mike has a roving eye, and just expects Hannah to be free when he is.

likevsvalueuse

Anyways. While they are all eating and having fun, Andrea calls needing help in getting a Christmas tree, and both Norman and Mike decide to come and help.

christmastree

When they get there we have another Hannah lecture and random factoid…

blahblah

They go to the Crazy Elf’s Tree Lot, which is more than just trees. While Norman and Andrea look for a tree, Mike and Hannah ride a few rides and head over to the snack bar. It seems as if Hannah’s cookies are selling like crazy, and they are running out way too soon.

After Hannah takes more orders, Mike wants to get Hannah alone…

eyebrowsbowchickawowwow

NO not that. He wanted to talk to her about Carrie.

really?

It seems she’s on everybody’s mind.

seriously

Anyway, Mike has been working extra shifts at the Tri-County Mall and thinks Carrie is a shoplifter.

What?

And what ’til you hear this. The reason why he thinks that is because she is buying a lot of stuff and looked like she didn’t want to talk to him about it.

What?

That’s all your evidence? Come on, you suck as a detective. Did you look into whether those weren’t Christmas gifts? Charity donations? Clothes for the holiday parties? Maybe she has a boyfriend. I mean come on, think about it logically. There are a thousand reasons why someone may be shopping a lot around the holidays that don’t involve stealing.

Icannotstandmorons_Laura

Oh my gosh, Mike is so stupid! He’s this dunderheaded in every book.

BacktothefutureThinkMcFlyStupid

So Mike and Hannah go to see Larry and talk about cookies. After the orders are done they get back to Andrea who has bought multiple trees. Norman buys Hannah a Christmas Tree, although she thinks it won’t work with her cat.

They go to set up the tree, calling in Lonnie, a deputy and Michelle’s (Hannah’s other sister) sometimes boyfriend. Hannah finds out from Lonnie that his sister is crocheting cute animals for the Crazy Elf Larry and getting paid $10. Hannah thinks it low as Larry is selling them for $20, but hey Hannah that’s business.

seriously

The next day, Hannah is working in her shop when her mother comes in. Her assistant Luanne, a really hard worker, is missing!

Blog-Child-Support-Oh-No

No one’s seen her, she didn’t come to work, and she’s not answering the phone. They call again, but still nothing.

This is bad.

This is bad.

But such is life, and Hannah continues cooking, getting the order ready for Crazy Larry.

Now here is where I have a major problem. We are nearing the halfway point of the book and were missing something.

Murder

Instead it has been trees, cookies, etc. Now I don’t have a problem with it being Christmas heavy, I love Christmas! But as they have taken so long to reach the murder and mystery, that means that we are going to have a quick wrap up. And it is going to either be A) extremely obvious, or B) solved in a silly and stupid way. Not looking forward to it.

seriously

But back to the book. After Hannah finishes for the day she heads over to Luanne’s to see where she is and what’s going on.

It turns out that Luanne was asleep. She was given a job by Courtney to check the Crazy Elf Books and had stayed up way into the morning trying to balance the books, but to no avail. Luanne thinks it is her fault, but Hannah suspects that Larry isn’t everything he says he is.

urkelgif interesting hmm

They head to the Christmas lot as Hannah needs to deliver the cookies and Luanne return the books.

They drop off the cookies and head out to see Courtney. Luanne tells her about her problems, and that she mentioned the issue to Larry. So not only is Larry cheating the company, Courtney knows, and Larry knows that Courtney knows.

paris-whenitsizzlesaudreyhmmHepburn

Back at the shop the girls are cooking up cookies when Dr. Whiting, the Mayor, and Herb (Lisa’s husband stop by). When Hannah sees Herb and Lisa and it makes her think about getting married. Let me just say I am sooo tired of this triangle.

Ijustwantittostop

It is totally obvious who she should be with. I mean read this:

If she [Hannah] had accepted Norman’s proposal, he’d probably look at her like that. Norman was a true blue, and he’s be the sort of husband who would never risk his marriage by having an affair with another woman.

On the other hand, if she’d accepted Mike’s offer of marriage he’d probably…Hannah’s daydream evaporated in a flash of painful reality. If she’s married Mike and he went out of town for the night, she couldn’t be sure he wouldn’t stray. It might be a repeat of his nights with Ronnie Ward and Shawna Lee Quinn. If she were Mrs. Mike Kingston, she’d always wonder what he was up to when she wasn’t with him.

What’s the issue? You like Norman, he’s perfect, and your cats get along. Besides he built your dream house.

tcomejoinus

Anyways, they get into a discussion about good business practices, and look over their homework. They notice that the wrong thing was the fact that the business was only dealing in cash. It is a bad business practice as it means the records might not be as accurate and could be hiding something. But that’s not true for every business. Like key shops.

That night Norman and Hannah go out for dinner and spot a couple hiding in a curtained booth. All they can see are the shoes, but the two want to snoop some more and Hannah pretends to accidentally spill her purse. As they pick the items up, Norman realizes who the woman is. IT’S HIS MOM!!!!

AAhhorrorifiedwhat

Hannah tells Norman about Mike’s suspicions, and Norman is justifiably angry.

angrymob

They drive around the parking lot looking at the cars and trying to guess which guy it is when Hannah has to head out to Crazy Elf to get her check. The whole lot is very quiet…

That'sOdd

And the door to his office unlocked…

weird

And when Hannah reaches for her check, she spots Larry and realizes

StarTrekTheOriginalSeriesHesDeadJim

And that there are bullet holes in the room

gunshooting

Meaning it is:

Murder

And this happens on page 167. Finally. Geez it was taking forever.

2013-11-27-bradpitt friends ugh slap face stupid

It turns out that instead of being horrified at Hannah discovering another dead body, her mother Carrie wants Hannah’s help. It turns out her friend Dr. Love, a psychologist and radio show host, is the wife of Larry and the prime suspect.

possiblesuspectbecomesprimarysuspectbones

Hannah goes down to the bank to deposit Larry’s check and discovers that Larry had multiple accounts.

Very_Interesting250

So by now I figured that it is Dr. Whiting. She’s new in town, she just pops up randomly, has no real character, and is completely obvious as the killer.

alwaysthedoctor_mrs-mcgintysdead

The police discover that Larry destroyed a lot of people by having them invest in his business only to give out false documentation.

Everything will be fine.

A real Ponzi

The mystery of what going on with Carrie is solved when they discover that it is Earl, a man they like and are okay with.

It was pretty dumb.

It was pretty dumb.

Norman does research on the computer and discovers one of Larry’s dirty deeds was as a large television set seller. The guy, Salvatore Bianco, who was cheated out of everything ended up killing himself. Hannah thinks the person is connected to Bianco, even though he cheated a ton of people and it could be ANYONE. The crime happened in Wisconsin so they are looking for someone from Wisconsin as to be the killer.

Hannah discovers that it is Dr. Whiting, because get this Bianco means White in Italian and her car plates have a W on it.

2013-11-27-bradpitt friends ugh slap face stupid

Really? That a LOT of circumstantial evidence. I mean even if she is related that doesn’t mean she killed him. And of course instead of acting logical, Dr. Whiting tries to kill her, Hannah saves the day, they have Christmas dinner. Yada, yada, yada.

blahblah

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Thoughts After Reading:

I really do not like these Christmas themed books as it seems like an excuse to just cram as many recipes as they can in and the mysteries are always obvious and cheesy.

yuck_pirates_of_the_caribbean

I did not like it.

horrible

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For more Hannah Swensen Mysteries, go to Cream Puff Murder

For more Christmas mysteries, go to Death Comes to Pemberley

For more Hannah Swensen Holiday Mysteries, go to Candy Cane Murder

For more conmen, go to Peach Cobbler Murder

 For more mystery reviews, go to Snagged

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Peach Cobbler Murder

PeachCobblerMurder

Peach Cobbler Murder (Hannah Swenson #7) by Joanne Fluke

So we haven’t reviewed a Hannah Swenson Mystery in  while. Let me do a quick review. Hannah is still in a love triangle with Mike and Norman; although it is clear that Mike is not the right guy. Just dump him already!

movingOnsherlocknotinterested

Hannah’s brother-in-law has been elected Sheriff, although I don’t think he is smart enough to have that job.

I don't think so.

And Hannah’s mom is dating some English Earl. An English Earl visiting small town Minnesota in the winter? Come on now, that’s super suspicious! Why would a rich Englishman choose smallsville snow capital of the States to visit? Sounds like a conman to me. A real Earl would want to visit Miami, L.A., or something.

BacktothefutureThinkMcFlyStupid

Just an FYI for all you readers: I HATE PEACH COBBLER!

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I think it is gross, liquidly, and pretty much like eating wet bread. That being said, I will not be making any, whether the recipe is from this book or something else. Just so you know.

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The Review:

Shawna Lee Quinn, (Hannah’s nemesis as she is cute, blonde, thin, and extremely interested in Mike)

Hate her that's so raven

Has just opened up a bakery, the Magnolia Blossom Bakery, across the street from The Cookie Jar, with her sister; the wealthy, widowed, and just as beautiful, Vanessa.

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Everyone in town has been visiting the Magnolia Blossom Bakery, except Norman because he’s awesome, and business has been slow.

im_bored_himym

So Lisa and Hannah come up with the bright idea of sending Hannah’s sister Andrea over to spy and find out whether or not their desserts are really all that good Andrea also has a real knack for manipulating information, so they know she will get the skinny on everything.

gotthis

When Andrea returns with the desserts, it turns out that this “true Southern bakery” is nothing but average, their only “Southern dish” being peach cobbler. Andrea also discovered that nearly everyone in town is at the bakery “helping Hannah” by spying to see of the bakery is really that good.

I can’t believe that Andrea feel for that.

Icannotstandmorons_Laura

Hannah is worried about the bakery putting hers out of business, and with baited breath they test the desserts.

Sabrina the teenage witch salem dum di dum dum dum

It turns out that the desserts are okay, with the peach cobbler tasting vaguely familiar.

Deja Vu

Looks like the Bakery might continue to cause issues for them.

Aw+man+i+missed+the+porn+raid+again+i+am+_9614058b2062adb4c677dd212977b011

They also introduce a side story about Hannah and her cat mousing (but not really) but we’ll skip that as it is boring, dumb, and useless padding.

movingOnsherlocknotinterested

So the next day Hannah’s mother, Delores, call her to propose a way for Hannah to beat the Magnolia Blossom Bakery. She tells Hannah to create her own peach cobbler and the afternoon meeting of the Lake Eden Quilting Society will do a blind test taste to see who’s is better. And Hannah agrees as it may be her only chance.

dearlordhelpme

She makes a testing batch and it gets warm applause by all.

gotthis

Herb and Lisa love the Minnesota Peach Cobbler that they ask for her to make it, in addition to her cookies and cake. Hannah agrees, and all this talk about cobbler reminds Lisa’s father, Jack, of something he did. He invited Shawna Lee to Lisa and Herb’s wedding.

luke-noooo-o

Valentines’ Day has arrived,

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Also the day of Herb and Lisa’s wedding. The Cookie Jar is closed for business as it will be busy with the preparations for the wedding.

Wedding

While she is working, a knock at the door shows that Mike has sent her flowers for Valentine’s Day! Hannah is thrilled! That is, until she discovers from her chatty delivery man that the flowers he is sending Shawna are her favorite and twice as expensive.

ohnoyoudidn't

I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again. Stop this love triangle!

Ijustwantittostop

It is crystal clear who she should be with: NORMAN!!! Just marry him already. Jeez!

seriously

Angrily Hannah reads the card from Mike:

Happy Valentine’s Day! I volunteered to work during the wedding, but I can make the reception. Save the first and last dance for me? I’ve got something special for you and I’ll follow you home.

To Hannah all is forgiven, but I’m like dump the chump!

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So back to business, except Hannah gets a call from Lisa telling her that Shawna is going to bring a peach cobbler. As hers is a gift, Hannah’s will have to stay unmade.

Aw+man+i+missed+the+porn+raid+again+i+am+_9614058b2062adb4c677dd212977b011

Hannah is upset, but quickly gets over it as Norman gives her a ruby pendent for Valentine’s Day.

Aw, how cute.

Aw, how cute.

That afternoon, during the wedding, Hannah notices that Winthrop, her mother’s boyfriend, has disappeared.

That'sOdd

He comes back with her mother’s rice, but he seemed gone for such a long time.

HMMM

However, Hannah can’t think on this too long as the limo driver broke a bone and can’t drive, leaving Hannah the only one to do it.

As Hannah is helping hand out desserts, she and Sally are upset that Shawna has yet to arrive with her dessert. Where is she and where is her cobbler? To Hannah’s dismay Mike has also failed to show up and her mind starts going to only one conclusion.

2013-11-27-bradpitt friends ugh slap face stupid

Hannah makes plans with Norman for after the wedding as with Mike, you snooze you loose.

See ya!

See ya!

After the wedding, Hannah makes a quick pit stop to unload the leftovers. While in her shop she notices that the Magnolia Blossom Bakery’s lights are still on. She calls to warn them, but all she gets os the answering machine.

Hannah grows uneasy and starts to wonder if maybe there was a robbery. And in true Baby-Sitters Club fashion, she heads over there by herself with no weapon  to investigate. The thought that she should probably phone the police doesn’t even cross her mind.

Seriously?

doyouwanttodie

She goes in and finds Shawna’s dead body, shot.

gunshooting

Mike and Norman come on the scene and Hannah let’s Mike take over. It turns out that he was headed to Shawna’s place as they had an “appointment” before his date with Hannah. And Shawna had missed it.

Hannah is furious with Mike, even more that he repeatedly called Shawna, but the simple courtesy call to let Hannah know that he was running late neveer even occured to him to place.

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Hannah goes home after answering a few questions and she and Norman discuss strategy to figure out who the murder is. Hannah is eager to solve this as she looks like the #1 suspect. 1) Everyone knew the Cookie Jar was going down. 2) Shawna was also dating Mike. 3) Hannah Hates Shawna.

thisisbad

On a happy note, they discover that the Magnolia Blossom Bakery wasn’t making a real “Southern peach cobbler” but using a frozen one and passing it off as their own.

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The next day Mike comes over and tries to pass off his “thing” with Shawna as just pure, platonic friendship. Yeah Right! And he does some bogus flatterly to get Hannah to forgive him. Forgive? More like forget!

good-byeNeverwantyouinmylifeHomeAlone

Hannah goes out that night with Norman to talk strategy further. They are going to be joined by Andrea and while they wait to be seated, Hannah looks at the stiffed and mounted bear and gives a paragraph lecture in her head why the story of shooting it is false. All I can think is why? Why, Joanne? Why is this in here? It doesn’t further the plot. It doesn’t bring depth to the characters. All it is, is a extremely strange tangent.

nobodycares

Later, Hannah and Andrea resume their investigations at the mall. They stop at the Logo store. She finds shirts on sale for a $1, Lake Eden Gulps, and buys them all for her softball team. She also recruits the girl working there. Now isn’t that cheating? This woman has nothing to do with The Cookie Jar, it’s not really fair.

How rude

And this softball team, we never see it again.

See ya!

Andrea talks to Kyle at the flower shop, while Hannah gets distracted by Mike. Mike takes Hannah out to eat, but the real reason why he does this is because he wants an Orange Julius recipe for Vanessa.

seriously

Ugh! Dump this CHUMP

He’s going to the house to get it ready for Vanessa as he has a key.

holdupwaitamin

Yes a KEY!!! And what to you think he was going to use that key for, really? Dump HIM!!!!

See ya!

See ya!

Hannah returns the usage, by asking him about the investigation. Mike tells her that he is at a halt, he can’t find  suspect who doesn’t have an alibi, and there are hardly anyone really who has a motive to murder her.

Hannah and Mike go back to her place where she makes the Orange Julius and gives it to Mike. He gives her an extremely passionate kiss, and then tells her:

“Thanks Hannah. I really don’t know what I’d do without you. You’re the best friend I ever had.”

FRIEND!!???

FRIEND!!???

Best friend!!!??? Best Friend????!!!! DUMP HIM NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

good-byeNeverwantyouinmylifeHomeAlone

The next day Hannah gets to work at five in the morning, and spends the whole drive worried about seeing Vanessa and Mike together. When she gets there she discovers an awake Mike, and passed out Vanessa.

suspicious Hmm

Andrea comes in mad at Minnesota snow, and complains, but Hannah refutes it saying there is no place like it. Actually this is wrong. Most of the Midwest resembles itself. The only real unique place, truth be told, in the United States is California. It has everything.

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As they are talking, Andrea sees Shawna Lee across the street.

What?

It actually turns out to be Vanessa. From far away the sisters look exactly alike.

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So yes, the reason why she was killed was because someone thought she was Vanessa. Now who would want to kill Vanessa? I don’t know but it definitely opens up a can of worms.

HMMM

So Hannah calls up Norman to help her out, and is it just me or in every book does it look like he and Hannah do less of their “real work” and more of their hobby of “detective work”.

paris-whenitsizzlesaudreyhmmHepburn

They want more information on Vanessa, but no one knows her married name. After her husband croaked, she changed it back to her maiden name of Quinn.

That afternoon, Hannah heads over with Andrea to check out the bakery supplies and fixtures Vanessa is selling, along with trying to pump out any information they can out of her.

It turns out that Vanessa is from Macon, Georgia the same place that is headquarters of Pretty Girl Cosmetics. And guess who just happened to choose Lake Eden as the site for the big Pretty Girl Cosmetics corporate retreat at the same time Vanessa came to town, the VP Gloria Travis.

coincidenceithinknot

It turns out that last year Gloria was engaged to Neil Roper, head of Pretty Girl, and then miss thang came along and Gloria was thrown over for her.

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They question Gloria and she tells all. Neil broke his leg and wasn’t completely healing right. His house keeper quit after she had a heart attack, so he hired a physical therapist, Vanessa Quinn. Gloria tried calling him, but he was asleep, out, on drugs, etc. Three weeks later, he was married to Vanessa. He died and she got everything. Gloria is positive that Vanessa drugged him, forced him to marry her, and them killed him.

Gold Digger and Grave Digger

Gold Digger and Grave Digger

Now Gloria, I’m with ya on murder, but I don’t think she forced him to marry her. A hot 2o year old with the perfect body can easily beat out a pretty, but middle-aged woman.

Sad but true.

Sad but true.

Gloria found out that Vanessa was there, made the retreat there, and went to talk to her to try to get her to confess. When she got to the bakery she found Vanessa dead, but then got closer and saw it wasn’t Vanessa but Shawna.

Before Hannah and Andrea can process all that, they get called by their mom to come over as she has something important to share.

Uh-oh

Uh-oh

They get over there and it turns out that when their mom was snooping in her boyfriend, Winthrop’s, house, she found a picture of Shawna Quinn. She sends her girls over to investigate whether or not he is a cad.

At his place, they discover that Winthrop has no real pictures but fakes to look “homey”. Only one type of person would do such a thing. A CONMAN.

Charles Ponzi

Charles Ponzi

The next morning Hannah thinks about everything, and starts to wonder is it Shawna or Vanessa in the picture? And what is the connection?

IndianaJonesHmmMaybe

They come up with the idea to check the photo to see who took/printed it. When they find out they call, pretending they want a copy of the photo. It turns out a Bobby Joe Peters paid for it. Who is Bobby Joe?

What?

Norman does his usual vague, but perfectly problem solving computer research, and finds out that Bobby Joe and Winthrop are the same person. He is a con artist and usually has a female accomplice.

Uh-oh

Uh-oh

Hannah sneaks into Winthrop’s house to return the photo to his apartment. While there, who should come in but Winthrop? It turns out that he and Vanessa planned together to kill Neil. Vanessa was supposed to cut him in on the inheritance and insurance money, but turned on him and he ended up in jail. He was trying a new scam on Delores, but when Vanessa came to town, he was ready all about payback.

paybacktime

Only problem, he accidentally killed Shawna.

oopsmybad

Delores comes in and saves the day. They then get Vanessa, and Hannah trades the best lawyer for buying everything in the bakery for the cheap sum of $1000.

YayHappy-Success-GIF

At the end of the book both guys ask Hannah to marry them. And she tells them to wait for her to decide.

thenannygasp

Guess one wedding wasn’t enough.

Wedding

But who will it be?

Sad but true.

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Thoughts After Reading:

I thought it was a pretty good mystery. I mean it had a few problems: like that whole mousing subplot

im_bored_himym

And the fact that no one was suspicious of Winthrop?

seriously

And the fact that Hannah still wants to see Mike?

2013-11-27-bradpitt friends ugh slap face stupid

But the actual mystery was good. And the rest was an enjoyable read.

likeit

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For more Hannah Swenson Mysteries, go to Sugar Cookie Murder

For more mysteries featuring the murder of the wrong person, go to A Dark and Stormy Knit

For more mystery reviews, go to The Saint Valentine’s Day Cookie Massacre