Plum Pudding Murder

Ready for our next Christmas mystery?

christmascookies

Me too!

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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Lisa are decorating for Christmas when Hannah spurts out another one of her random factoid, this time that shellac was originally made from female insects.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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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…

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!!!

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

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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…

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And the door to his office unlocked…

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

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And that there are bullet holes in the room

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Meaning it is:

Murder

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Cream Puff Murder

cream puff murder

Cream Puff Murder (Hannah Swensen Mysteries #11)

So Hannah’s mother, Delores, is planing a huge party to celebrate the release of her newest Regency themed book. She has ordered special gowns for her daughters to wear to the event. The only problem? Hannah’s dress is much, much too small.

well that's just great anchorman

Only one thing left for her to do: Diet.

Diet

While she hates working out, she decides to join her sister, Andrea, in her new exercise regime at the newest gym, Heavenly Bodies. Now why is Andrea working out? Well even though she looks great, with Ronni Ward, three time bikini queen and always after men married or single, Andrea has been feeling insecure.

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And she isn’t the only one Ronni is upsetting. Almost every female in Lake Eden is upset with Ronni’s return and her putting the moves on their men.

Hate her that's so raven

But Hannah has other things to focus on: such as creating the perfect dessert for her mother’s party, and getting in shape to fit the dress.

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As everyone involved has agreed that Hannah’s cream puffs are the perfect choice for the party; Hannah does a few trial runs on flavors. Mike sees them and buys them for Ronni’s party as he thinks they will be just perfect.

Really Mike?

Really Mike? Really? Buy something from one girlfriend for another?

The next day Andrea and Hannah head to the gym, using their member key to get in really early. After they have worked hard, they decide to head to the jacuzzi for a reward.

fantastic

Andrea continues her workout a bit longer as Hannah goes first. There she finds a huge mess from Ronni’s party. Food and drink stuff, both of which are not supposed to be in the pool/jacuzzi area.

Come on, guys. You didn't even clean up?

Come on, guys. You didn’t even clean up?

But then as Hannah looks further, she finds a dead body. Ronni.

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She’s been Murdered.

Murder

Almost the entire sheriff’s department is suspended as they either had a relationship with her, like Mike, or was a friend, like Bill. With only two newbies left and having to bring in outside assistance; Hannah decides it is up to her group to solve the crime. She, Norman, Andrea, Michelle, Delores, and even Carrie set out on the case.

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Thoughts After Reading:

This is one of the few Hannah Swensen Mysteries I actually enjoy.

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I know, a real shocker. I liked this because the end wasn’t predictable. Fluke leads down a path that causes you to think is the end is totally obvious. It has to be this person, it just has to. They are the only one who makes sense.

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Fake information is  even given by another character to steer you away from who you think it is, but it makes you think even more that the person you are thinking of is the killer.

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But then at the end when you have the reveal, you are completely amazed as you discover you were looking in the wrong direction the whole time.

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And it isn’t one of those weird, completely out of left field endings either. This one made total sense.

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So that was the good. Now let’s look at the bad.

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Hannah and Mike’s Relationship

Really Mike?

Really Mike?

So there is this love triangle between Mike, Hannah, and Norman. And I really don’t know why it is there. Norman loves Hannah and Mike loves having a good time. Mike is a horrible boyfriend as he doesn’t want to commit himself, but have fun with other ladies as well. Norman on the other hand is perfect. Why can’t Hannah see that already. I mean, argh, it just makes me so upset to have to read about how she can’t decide when the answer is clearly in front of her face.

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So let’s begin out Mike is a loser countdown:

A) Hannah: “[Mike’s] not mine. I’m not even sure he is partially mine, not when Ronni’s living in the apartment across the hall from him.” (pg. 6-7)

If he “isn’t” yours, and so eager to bounce to the new babe in town; why are you even with him? Just dump the chump already. He’ll move on quickly.

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B) Mike: “Sometimes I wish you’d taken me up on my marriage proposal. Then I could eat like this every night.” pg. 66

  1. First of all, Mike only proposed after he heard Norman was going to. Norman built Hannah her dream house. Mike ran out and bought a ring just because he didn’t want Norman to “win”.
  2. Second, Mike hardly ever takes Hannah out; instead making her always cook for him, and usually late even though he knows she gets up early in the morning to bake.
  3. Third, he states the only reason he is sad that Hannah turned him down is because she can’t cook for him every night. Really? Why is there a contest again?

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C) Norman: “I love you too. And I know telling you what to do is a lost cause. You never listen anyway. I’ll see you in about forty-five minutes with steak and salad and two types of cookies.” pg. 76

When Mike hears that Hannah is going on a diet, he tells her that will be good she needs to lose weight. Norman asks why she needs to change when she is already beautiful. Mike tells Hannah read this book, investigate like that, blah, blah, blah; Norman shares his advice and then lets Hannah choose whatever she wants. When Mike calls to take Hannah “out” she always ends up cooking for him, with Norman he takes her to the restaurant or brings the restaurant to her.

He's perfect.

He’s perfect.

D) At Midnight Mike Calls and Wakes Hannah Up Having Her Meet Him in The Freezing Parking Garage and Having Her Bring Him Coffee.

Mike doesn’t want a girlfriend he wants a maid and assistant. And he knows she wakes up at like four in the morning and works all day. He’s suspended, he can wake up at four talk to her then and then go back to bed. He’s a jerk. Let her get her beauty sleep!

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E) Mike: “I just wanted you to know that there was nothing between Ronni and me. I know it looks bad, but there wasn’t…She needed a friend, a shoulder to cry on. I guess she was using me, but I didn’t mind being helpful…She was always calling me to come over for something and I went because…well…we had a lot in common since we both worked for the Sheriff’s department…I know it is going to come out that I slept at her place a few nights. We’d be watching a movie or something, I’d fall asleep on her couch. She never woke me. She’d go to bed and let me wake up on my own the next morning.” pg. 169-170

Really Mike? Really. So Ronni was your “friend”, the same way Shawna was your “friend”. In fact if Shawna hadn’t also been murdered; he would be messing around with her too.

And all these “she invited me over” crap? In every book 90% of the time Mike invites himself over or shows up on Hannah’s doorstep, like he’d be any different with Ronni.

He’s a jerk so cut him loose!

duh

F) Norman Makes Her a Low-Calorie Breakfast After Spoiling Her with the Incredible House, A Roaring Fire, Soft Bed, Plush Towels, and Two Cats.

Hannah stays the night at the master suite while Norman takes the guest room. It is an incredible and ritzy place. Then to top it off, he makes her an absolutely scrumptious breakfast, carefully measuring everything out so that he doesn’t ruin her diet.

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G) Mike: “Hannah…Where have you been? I’ve been calling you every hour since midnight!

Hannah: He’d called her at midnight. Again. Mike wasn’t concerned that she hadn’t had a full night’s sleep since Ronni was murdered. He’d probably wanted her to meet him in the garage again with a thermos of coffee and cookies so that he could give her more instructions on investigative procedure.” pg. 282

Hannah you said it. That is all he wants.

How rude

H) Mike: “I should have known someone would tell you, but I didn’t think you’s run to Norman on the rebound…It didn’t mean anything, Hannah. It was just…convenient, you know? She was right across the hall from me and…these things happen. You’re an adult. You know that.” pg. 283

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So first you lie, lie  about your relationship with Ronni? And then you try to excuse that behavior by saying it “just happened” and “that’s what adults do”?

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NO! NO! And NO! Good-bye.

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I) Nancy: “Keep your eyes open Hannah. If you find a man who doesn’t think he is the hero, grab him and give him a hug because he’s the only realist in the room.”

Hannah: “[To Norman] Do you think she modeled the Duke of Oakwood after you?

Norman: “After me?…What are you talking about, Hannah?…The Duke of Oakwood is about as far from my character as you can get.” pg. 333

Norman is fantastic. Pick him. Then the two could be the Tommy and Tuppence of the midwest. Besides that, he really loves her.

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For more Hannah Swensen Mysteries, go to Carrot Cake Murder

For more mystery reviews, go to The Harlot’s Tale

Candy Cane Murder

CandyCaneMurder

Candy Cane Murder (Hannah Swenson Mystery #9.5) by Joanne Fluke

So Candy Cane Murder is actually a collection of three stories: Candy Cane Murder (Hannah Swenson Mystery) by Joanne Fluke, The Dangers of Candy Canes (Jaine Austen Mystery) by Laura Levine, and Candy Canes of Christmas Past by Leslie Meir. I already reviewed Candy Canes of Christmas Past last December, as part of my countdown to Christmas. Today I will be looking at Fluke’s work.

It is Christmas time in Lake Eden, and Hannah is not very excited about it.

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You see, Hannah has agreed to be the Christmas elf for the County Children’s Home Christmas party. She will help Wayne Bergstrom, owner of Bergstom Department Store, hand out toys and candy canes to all the kids.

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The only problem? Her suit does not match the color of her hair and reveals more of her size than she would like it to. It appears that she has been snacking too many Christmas goodies.

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But when her niece tells her she looks great, she decides to move forward and get ready to make those kids happy.

Unfortunately, there are a few more curves in the road. Wayne has come down with a sore throat that is incredibly raspy, making him almost unrecognizable. They are afraid that the kids might become frightened, so Hannah makes up the dumbest story imaginable as to why Santa is hoarse. I don’t know what the author was thinking.

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That evening is the big Christmas party, and Hannah has a great time. She tastes some tantalizing tidbits and dances the night away with both her guys.

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Hannah grows tired from her partying, earlier work, and even earlier bakery hours. She decides to call it a night and is joined by both of her sisters. They head out to the car when they come across a candy cane. A candy cane like the ones they handed out earlier to the kids.

Very suspicious

On closer inspection, it turns out that there is a whole path of candy canes. Hannah had given them all to Wayne after they finished with the kids earlier. Hannah decides to follow the path and climb the snow bank to see what caused Wayne, a skinflint, to drop so many and not go back to pick them up?

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At the end of the candy cane path is Wayne, still in his Santa suit and dead.

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Soon they discover it is murder and set out to find the killer. Could it be his ex-wife, angry at him for divorcing her and giving her no alimony? Or maybe his current wife is tired of being married but doesn’t want a huge legal ordeal? One of his mangers or staff that he was always cruel to? Or one of the countless others who dislike him?

WhoDoneIt?

Thoughts After Reading:

*Spoiler Alert*

I never would have read this if I had known it was an “in-between” novel. Let’s just say her in-between novels tend to, for lack of a better word, suck.

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I thought the plot was terrible, the potential suspects two-dimensional, and I had it all figured out immediately.

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I mean it was obvious that Melinda and Cory weren’t brother and sister, even more obvious than Bo Derek and Rob Lowe being lovers rather than mother and son in Tommy Boy.

And once again the love triangle continues to be in play even though it is more obvious than ever that Hannah and Norman are perfect for each other.

Stop this stupid love triangle!

Stop this stupid love triangle!

I also didn’t care for the recipes in this book. None were really interesting, except for the Regency Seed Cakes, of which I will be making in the future.

I really just felt that this book was a way for the author to capitalize on the holidays rather than develop the storyline. You may think me a Scrooge, but I really feel like she was just trying to get those Christmas dollars with this one.

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For more on Hannah Swenson mysteries, go to Key Lime Murder

For more Christmas mysteries, go to The Unsolvable Mystery: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

For more in-between novels, go to Candy for Christmas

For more reviews, go to Cape May Court House: A Death in the Night

Cherry Cheesecake Murder

Cherry Cheesecake Murder

Cherry Cheesecake Murder (Hannah Swenson #8) by Joanne Fluke

So Lake Eden is up for quite a few interesting weeks. It’s headed for stardom as it will be the set for an independent film.

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So this book starts out a bit different from the others. We have a flash forward told by a different narrator than Hannah; cruel, rude, and hated by everyone: Director Dean Lawrence. As he acts out a scene for the actors; taking the unloaded prop gun to his head; he shoots it. And himself.

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So we flashback to before that all happened,

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Hannah’s double proposal from Mike and Norman have torn the town apart. People are split between which they believe Hannah should marry; and are not above using any pull they have to try and sway Hannah’s opinion.

what have i gotten myself into star trek next gen

Hannah on the other hand will not be swayed. Instead she determines that she will propose to her choice when she is ready to marry, and when she knows who she wants to marry.

That time is a long way off...

That time is a long way off…

But the town is not focused on her for long, as the film coming to town has set up an epidemic of movie mania. Hannah is hired to cater dessert for the crew, along with a cheesecake every morning to the director, Dean Lawrence.

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To make things even more complicated, an old friend and crush, Ross Barton, has come to town to produce the film. He starts wanting to revitalize the relationship, but Hannah’s not sure whether or not to start one.

Who done it?

Should I?

Dean Lawrence turns out to be one of the most difficult people to work with. He is cruel, rude, antagonistic, and constantly groping and harassing all the women in town.

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When Dean acts out a part to show an actor what he desires, winding up dead; Hannah and her crew have a lot of suspects to choose from. Lead actress, and old friend, Lynne Larchmont has the temperament to kill and could have chosen to remove him in order to be more in charge of the film or because of a possible romantic relationship.

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Tom Larchmont, Lynne’s husband, is smitten enough to be deadly jealous.

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Then there is Ross who has constantly been burdened with having to keep Dean in check, did he have enough?

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Or on of the locals, Winnie Henderson, who publicly threatened to kill Dean?

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Or how about star Burke Aston who argued with Dean the morning of the murder?

Hannah finds herself in a time crunch as she and her friends must solve the crime before the movie production wraps up and leaves town.

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Thoughts After Reading:

**Contains Spoilers**

I didn’t really care for this novel. I thought it was too easily solved and silly at times.

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First of all, I hated the whole Mike-Norman aftermath. I found it stupid and unnecessary to include all these scenes of people trying to convince her to marry in order to save the dentist or save the deputy. I have never lived in a town the size of Lake Eden so I don’t know of they react that way; but really? Like they can’t get new people to fulfill those positions. Shouldn’t these people who are her “friends” care more about her happiness than what will inconvenience them?

seriously

Plus I am sooooo sick of the love triangle in this. It is so clear that Norman should be the one she is with.

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I didn’t like the entrance of Ross and the switch to a confusion rhombus instead of a love triangle. I thought that was also unnecessary. His “pining” for Hannah over four years (overlapping the time he was in a serious relationship, engaged, with Lynne) was over the top. I mean it just sounds like a whole pack of lines, seriously Hannah I thought you were smarter than that.

really?

I also hate how extremely advanced they make Tracey. She taught herself to read at 3 and a half years old? And now can read at a 5th grade level? What’s next? She has magic powers like Matilda and is righting wrongs?

Norman is clearly the guy Hannah should choose. Unlike Mike who has all kinds of bluster and such; Norman cares deeply about Hannah and her happiness alone. He asks her if he has anything to worry about; and just accepts the answer that Hannah will let him know if he does. Norman takes it like a man, and just tells her he loves her. Awesome. Amazing.

And the constant corrections Hannah does. It is so annoying! If Hannah was my friend I would say see ya. Who wants to be around someone who is always correcting you. Rude. And irritating.

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I can’t believe how rude and annoying Mike is. When someone arrives home tired and has to get up at five the next morning, who decides to stay while they sleep eating their food and drinking their coffee? Rude. He should have just left. That would have been the gentlemanly thing to do.

How rude

The Bill cheating subplot os dumb as well. Really? She thinks him leaving behind a pink shirt from his conference is proof of cheating? Why do they make characters so dumb? Would any intelligent and rational being act that way? And why does she talk so poorly? She is a real estate agent, intelligent, logical, always having to talk to others; she would know how to talk eloquently.

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The worst thing about this mystery was how easily it was solved. Yes, everyone knows that Dean would act out the scene in how he thinks it should be. But Only one person could make that happen. Only one person could control him taking the gun, and that would be Burke. Burke is the only one who could have gotten the gun in Dean’s hand; the big clue being when he suddenly sucks and asks for assistance.

duh

And why do Hannah and Co. think that giving a tip to the police to solve a murder, the thing they are supposed to do, as a bad thing. That is incredibly dumb. Come on guys, you aren’t real detectives and you can’t arrest anyone. While your playacting as detectives is alright, it isn’t real.

seriously

And why is Hannah such an expert on random facts? Their input never makes any sense. She is like Encyclopedia Brown except not as fun or useful.

movingOnsherlocknotinterested

I hate how in this book they have to explain soooo much about acting. I feel like if Hannah knows all these famous plays from her one literature class on plays, she would have learned about stage directions and what they mean, after all they are written in the plays. I know they do it in case of readers who know nothing, but it still is boring.

im_bored_himym

To summarize, I did not like it.

IDon'tlikeit

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For more Hannah Swenson mysteriesgo to Peach Cobbler Murder

For more love triangles, go to Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters

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!

IDon'tlikeit

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,

cupcake_kisses-valentine's_day_cards_for_kids-nancy_kubo-daiquiri-pink

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.

jerk-gif

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.

fake2

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.

anyway-moving-on-gif

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.

paris-whenitsizzlesaudreyhmmHepburn

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.

jerk_alert32

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

 

Misdemeanor Mushrooms

christmastree

Time for another holiday recipe:

Sugar Cookie Murder

So this recipe of mushrooms comes from Sugar Cookie Murder and the fictional Lake Eden Holiday Buffet Cookbook.

Thoughts Before Cooking:

I love mushrooms and these stuffed ones sounded so great that I decided they would be an excellent one to try out.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 Pounds of Ground Sausage
  • 3 Cloves of Finely Chopped Garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons of Ground Sage
  • 8-oz package of Cream Cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon of Parsley
  • 1 lb of Medium to Large Mushrooms (Big enough to stuff)
  • Parmesan Cheese (to sprinkle)
  • Butter
  1. In a large, non-stick skillet, combine the sausage, garlic and sage.
  2. Sauté until sausage is browned and garlic is translucent.
  3. Drain the fat from the skillet and add softened cubed cream cheese and parsley.
  4. Simmer for 10 minutes, remove from heat, and cover.
  5. Wash mushrooms. Remove the stems and set the caps aside.
  6. Chop the stems very fine and stir into the sausage/cheese mixture.
  7. Brush caps with melted butter and arrange cap down on a non-stick baking sheet (if needed shave a bit from the bottom of the cap to make them flat).
  8. Fill each cap with a heaping mound of warm sausage mixture and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  9. Bake at 325 degrees F. for 15 minutes.

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MisdemeanorMushrooms

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Thoughts after cooking:

These were great! They were delicious and could make a great appetizer or mean if paired with a salad.

The cream cheese might make them a little rich for some, but I’m definitely going to make them again.

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For more Hannah Swensen recipes, go to a Hole in One

For more recipes, go to Gingerbread Men Cookies

Sugar Cookie Murder

Ready for our next Christmas mystery in our Christmas countdown?!

christmas-bells

I give you:

Sugar Cookie Murder

Sugar Cookie Murder (Hannah Swensen Mystery #6) by Joanne Fluke

So like that other Hannah Swensen holiday mystery, Candy for Christmas, I didn’t like this one. This book cemented my dislike for the Hannah Swensen Holiday Mysteries.

IDon'tlikeit

Why you may ask? Well I’ll tell you.

So this book has an interesting premise. In Lake Eden it is the annual Christmas buffet.

christmastree

This year things are a bit different as they are running the final test of the Lake Eden recipes for the Lake Eden Holiday Buffet Cookbook.

joker-yum

Recently divorced Martin Dubinski just got married in Las Vegas and to a Vegas showgirl type woman, Brandi; all about the fur, glitter, and lack of manners.

showgirls

Many people dislike her; including the former Mrs. Shirley Dubinski who wants Martin back and Martin’s mother Babs.

Not-Good

In other news, Hannah main rival for Mike’s affections, Shawna Lee Quinn is on her way out of town. Great news for Hannah, but also sad as Mike is taking her to the airport and will be missing out on most of the great party.

poutsad

Meanwhile, Hannah is not very happy about the romance between her mother Delores, and some Englishman, Winthrop the III.

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

Part of her doesn’t like her mom moving on, while the other half doesn’t trust him.

Things seem to be going great at the Christmas buffet. Music, dancing, Mike and Norman; but then Delores’ donated antique knife is stolen.

What?

Hannah searches everywhere, and finds it. In Brandi’s dead body.

StarTrekTheOriginalSeriesHesDeadJim

Whoever killed her returned to the community center; and with the storm ranging outside it is up to them to find the killer before they strike again!

theGamesAfoot-680x383

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Thoughts After Reading:

While the premise sounds good; killer in a locked building and they have to figure it out before they strike again, but it just falls flat.

horrible

The mystery’s resolution was seriously lacking.

And I seriously believe this book was just an avenue to promote her holiday recipes, a trap every one of her “holiday tales” seems to fall into. I give it zero stars.

thumbsdown

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For more Hannah Swensen mysteries, go to Fudge Cupcake Murder

For more Christmas mysteries, go to Sinister Sprinkles

For more reviews, go to Fudge Cupcake Murder

Fudge Cupcake Murder

Fudge Cupcake Murder

Fudge Cupcake Murder (Hannah Swenson #5)

So I know you guy think I just like to hate on Joanne Fluke.

Hate her that's so raven

But that’s not true.

Thats-a-Lie-how-i-met-your-mother-barney-gif

I just don’t like subpar writing. When it’s bad, I’m going to call you out on it. When it’s good, I will also point that out. And while I haven’t liked the first four mysteries, I actually enjoyed this.

likeit

So back in Blueberry Muffin Murder, Hannah Swensen discussed having a Lake Eden cookbook full of recipes only known to them. Well in this book, the Lake Eden Cookbook is in the middle of becoming a reality.

Besides The Cookie Jar, Hannah has taken on a temporary side job teaching cooking at the community college. As Lake Eden is getting ready to create a cookbook of family recipes, Hannah feels that there is no better opportunity than to have the class prepare the submitted recipes.

cookingfood

And there is no time like the present. It is days from Halloween, but all recipes must be typed, tested, photographed, etc.; in time for the cookbook to be completed and ready to be sold at Christmas.

lets-do-this-ucas-gif

Hannah is enjoying her new jobs as cooking teacher and head of the cookbook, when she is approached by her friend Beatrice. Beatrice asks her to include the Fudge Cupcakes that her mother-in-law was famous for. Only one problem, there is a secret ingredient, and with the mother-in-law dead, no one knows what it could possibly be.

what have i gotten myself into star trek next gen

Well, Hannah likes solving mysteries, and at least this one doesn’t have a dead body in it, so she begins working on trying to find the missing piece to the puzzle.

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In other news, Hannah’s sister Andrea is pregnant and her husband Bill is running for Sheriff. Sheriff Grant has been running the town for years, and when polls come out with him in the low numbers, he starts to pick up his game to get more support.  He approaches Hannah outside the center, and she gives him a cupcake, along with a promise that Bill will win.

Smirkity smirk smirk

Smirkity smirk smirk

Hannah then goes on to a productive day in class. The group cooks up a whole mess of recipes and solve some elusive handwriting. Hannah still doesn’t know the ingredient for the cupcakes, but hasn’t given up yet.

gotthis

That night, Mike picks her up for dinner, helping her clean up the kitchen first. She goes out to the dumpster to throw away the garbage and discovers a body. And not just any body, but Sheriff Grant.

AAAAHHHHH

Now Bill is suspended as he is the prime suspect and Hannah finds herself on the case.

veronicamarsinvestigatesleuth

This proves to be difficult, as Sheriff Grant was a hated man, hated almost by EVERYONE. Could he have been killed by a deputy for having stolen their “prime cases” in election years? Could he have been killed by someone he wrote up for absolutely nothing? Could it have been connected to the death of his son? Or could be for some other reason? And most importantly, what is the secret ingredient in the fudge cupcakes?!

urkelgif interesting hmm

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Thought After Reading:

So let’s start with the cupcake mystery. I first thought it was going to be annoying and distracting. Not to mention cruel to have Fluke make us wait so long to find out the answer, but it actually added to the story. It made you read more as you wanted to know what the ingredient is. And the cupcake sounds so good, I will be making them in the future.

chocolate-cupcake

Now I do hate the Mike storyline. Mike is the worst detective ever. He actually thinks that Bill, Bill who couldn’t plan his way out of a paper bag could murder Sheriff Grant? Bill is stupid, but honest. The only way he would murder anyone was on accident, turning himself in. Come on Mike, get your head out of your butt.

seriously

I mean they act like Mike is such a great detective, but he’s as dumb as rocks.

Icannotstandmorons_Laura

And it is clear that Hannah and Mike would not work long term as in every book she gets incredibly angry at him. Just break up already and get with Norman.

seriously

Shawna Lee Quinn comes to town, a recent plant and old friend of Mike. She is eager to be a new friend and is further proof that Mike is not right for Hannah. Dump that chump!

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Once again they also make Tracey act way too old.  And there is not enough Norman in here.

But on a whole I enjoyed the book. The mystery was easily solvable, once you were given all the clues, but it was a pretty good story.

likeit

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For more Hannah Swensen mysteries, go to Lemon Meringue Pie Murder

For more mysteries, go to The Princess Plot

Lemon Meringue Pie Murder

Lemon Meringue Pie Murder

Lemon Meringue Murder (Hannah Swenson #4) by Joanne Fluke

So before I even start reviewing this piece, I thought I would point out something I noticed on the back cover:

In her third top-of-the line culinary cozy…” –Publishers Weekly

Third? Third? I guess Publishers Weekly doesn’t know how to count. This is the fourth book. It goes 1)Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder

1.5) Candy for Christmas

2) Strawberry Shortcake Murder

3) Blueberry Muffin Murder

4) Lemon Meringue Murder

BacktothefutureThinkMcFlyStupid

So now to the review!

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So the winter blues have been kissed good-bye, as we now enter the summer months with the upcoming 4th of July.

applepie

Hannah is getting ready to wear her summer slacks, when she finds out that she cannot fit in them.

thisisbad

That means only one thing, a DIET

Diet

In happier news, Norman calls to let Hannah know that he bought a house! Or rather he bought the perfect land from Rhonda Scharf to build their dream house.

Wedding

While Norman is building the house they designed together, he doesn’t ask her to marry him. This tiny nugget becomes a huge part of the plot as Hannah wonders why Norman hasn’t asked her, but yet at the same time doesn’t want to be asked as she doesn’t want to get married. You know what I have to say on that?

movingOnsherlocknotinterested

Come on Hannah, Norman knows you better than you know yourself and can tell you would say no. Hearing you go on and on about it is completely boring.

blahblah

In fact I find the whole Norman-Hannah-Mike love triangle completely dumb and am over it. Please end it. I mean it is clear that Hannah and Mike are only physical and won’t work long term; just choose Norman and put us readers out of their misery.

Ijustwantittostop

Later Jed and Freddy stop by Hannah’s shop. Freddy is a developmentally disabled adult and Jed is his cousin. Freddy’s parents died and Jed has been helping take care of him ever since. The two form a handyman service, one of their regular customers being The Cookie Jar. Along with being paid, Hannah always gives them some treats.

cookies

Hannah notices that Jed seems to be spending quite a bit lately. Wonder where he is getting all the dough?

HMMM

The next day Mike returns from a trip and is mad that Norman is building a house for Hannah and that Norman proposed. All I can say Mike, if you weren’t such a rover maybe you would have the sense to ask Hannah yourself.

But the problem is, you just can’t give up other girls. But Hannah still likes this dude, and assures him she is engagement free. Mike is pleased and tells her “I don’t want to change anything. Everything’s great just the way it is.” Great for who? You. And with that attitude you can’t blame Norman for being a man and trying to move the relationship forward. But enough on that stupid drama.

movingOnsherlocknotinterested

Oh yeah, so in this mystery Hannah says that her pies are something she changes up every week. Pie? Funny that was never mentioned in the previous books. And it won’t be mentioned again, until Key Lime Murder.

coincidenceithinknot

So Norman, Delores Swenson (Hannah’s mom), and Hannah head out to the Rhonda’s house so Delores can pick over any pieces she wants for her antique shop before the wrecking balls destroy it.

When they get into the house they discover one of Hannah’s pies covered in ants. She also notices two takeout containers with osso buco. And inside the house are two wineglasses and a Chianti bottle. Sounds like someone had a party.

While Hannah and Norman are clearing things upstairs, Delores heads down to the basement and discovers a dead body, Rhonda’s.

AAAAHHHHH

So Hannah reassures everyone that she will not be investigating.

notbelievingyouyeahright

Whatever Hannah, you know you can’t help but put your nose into everything.

So while Hannah is “determined” to stay out of it, Delores wants to investigate, and urges Hannah to join her team.

veronicamarsinvestigatesleuth

Hannah tracks down who purchased her pies, three going to Claire who owns the boutique next to The Cookie Jar. There she discovers that Claire gave Rhonda one of her pies, and that Claire is dating the Reverend.

movingOnsherlocknotinterested

Later, after catering and other duties, Hannah returns to The Cookie Jar where she runs into Jed and Freddy, looking to get paid for their hard work. Through some very clunky, (and bad), exposition, we find out that Jed used to be in prison. He was supposedly only an outside contractor, and received a huge check which allows him to buy all these things he has been purchasing lately.

coincidenceithinknot

Hannah and Mike meet up that evening for dinner. They talk about the case which then leads into a discussion on Freddy and Jed. Hannah doesn’t like Jed as he introduces “ideas Freddy can’t handle.” Like buying a new truck or getting interested in girls.

Oh no Hannah, the horror! Freddy likes a new truck and will be riding around in it. Next thing you know he will be getting involved in drugs and end up in jail.

seriously

 And girls? Developmentally disabled people can get married and do regularly. Obviously Fluke doesn’t know anyone developmentally disabled. Although we really know why this is introduced, Fluke wants to establish Jed as the villian and killer.

seriously

SPOILER, you say? As soon as they announced Jed used to be in jail it is clear that he is being set up as the murderer. Totally obvious.

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Hannah then goes on the trail of the osso buco, trying to find out who Rhonda’s boyfriend was. One person who ordered take out was the Reverend, Hannah goes over to talk to Claire and finds out that he brought dinner for their night out. She also is told by Claire that Claire wants to be the Reverend’s wife. The only thing stopping her? She doesn’t know how to read sheet music or play the organ.

really?

Now it is things like this that really makes me question whether Fluke is living in the present time. This book is published in 2003, not 1962. Most churches do not have an organ anymore, they have switched to pianos or keyboards. And if they do have an organist, they hire someone. It is not a requirement for a minister’s wife. And how should I know such things? From experience, I’m a minister’s daughter.

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Hannah does manage to track down Rhonda’s boyfriend, figuring out that it is the high school principal. He apparently went there to break it off, not staying very long and Rhonda very much alive when he left. So it it wasn’t the boyfriend? Then who is the murderer.

Freddy comes by The Cookie Jar the next day. He drops off a surprise for Jed, that he “lost” in the trash. Hannah agrees to hold it, once again being clunky thrown in.

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As Hannah is investigating, another mystery crops up. Old bills from a bank robbery about 30 years ago have resurfaced. Who could be behind it? Is it connected to Rhonda’s death?

Hannah returns to Rhonda’s old house and takes some photographs in the basement. When they look at them again they discover that there is something wrong with the jam jars. They are not organized as they should be, with the jam on the wrong shelves. That means someone was over there and there must be something important there.

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There is also this moment when Andrea is planning on making red, white, & blue jello; but in the end can’t as they don’t make blue jello. I distinctly remember eating it when I was a child, and when I looked it up blue jello was invented in 1992. Andrea totally should have been able to buy it.

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Hannah gets caught up in a storm and finds herself at Beatrice’s and Ted’s apartment complex, the place that Rhonda rented from. Hannah comes in to call and let her family know she is safe. Beatrice offers to give her Rhonda’s clothes. Hannah uses that time to snoop and discovers a letter to Rhonda’s great-aunt.

The letter is from a prison inmate, Speedy. He talks about a treasure hunt they would go on and her peach jam.

suspicious Hmm

The 4th of July comes and everything seems great. That is until they find a bludgeoned Freddy. Luckily they get him to the hospital in time. There Freddy is in a coma, but will be brought out. Jed is disheartened, and Hannah tries to cheer him up telling him about Freddy’s surprise.

Hannah heads to the bakery the next morning to work on some dough. As she does she starts thinking about the note, Rhonda, etc and puts it all together. Speedy hid the money in Rhonda’s house, the one that used to belong to her aunt. Rhonda found it when she was cleaning things out. From there Jed found it and is the murderer as he he is spending a ton of money.

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To me that seems like an awfully big leap.

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Jed comes to get the “surprise”, but Hannah manages to beat him to it. He then locks her in her cooler. He admits it all, just as Hannah figured it out. Hannah tries to get out, becoming some super electrician and figuring the right wire to cut that will make someone investigate. How does she know such complex things?

What?

At least when Nancy Drew did it, she always explained where she got such knowledge from, and how she has done it before. Not just a casual conversation with her father 20 years ago.

seriously

In the end Lisa and Herb get engaged and Hannah discovers she switched pants with Andrea. She never had to diet after all.

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Thoughts After Reading:

As you can tell I didn’t really care for this mystery. There were a lot of plot pieces left out, such as how Jed figured out about the money. And some things didn’t make any sense. To be completely honest, to me it seemed like a slapped together, overly complicated mystery.

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For more Hannah Swenson mysteries, go to Blueberry Muffin Murder

For more midwestern mysteries, go to Thorns of Rosewood

For more reviews, go to The Princess Plot

 

Strawberry Shortcake

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Thoughts before cooking:

In Strawberry Shortcake Murder, they give a recipe for Hannah’s shortcake. But like in Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, I didn’t like the recipe they gave for their titular treat. It just wasn’t how I like my shortcake. So here is recipe my family likes to use.

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Ingredients:

  • 3 Boxes of Fresh Strawberries
  • 1-2 Cans of spray Whipped Cream
  • 2 1/4 Cups of All-Purpose Flour
  • 4 Teaspoons of Baking Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons of White Sugar
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/3 Cup of Shortening
  • 1 Beaten Egg
  • 2/3 Cup of Milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Grease and flour one 8-inch round cake pan.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour; baking powder, and salt.
  4. With a pastry blender, cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  5. Make a well in the center and add the beaten egg and milk.
  6. Stir until combined.
  7. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until brown.
  9. Let it cool.
  10. Wash and slice your strawberries
  11. Slice cake in half, horizontally, making two layers.
  12. One one layer, place strawberries, covering them with whipped cream, and another layer of strawberries.
  13. Place the second layer of  cake on top of the strawberry/whipped cream. Cover in whipped cream, and top with strawberries.

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Thoughts after cooking:

It was my first time making this cake and I loved it. I made for my niece’s birthday, and our only problem was that her birthday party occurred on cake one of the hottest days of the year. The cake melted, but it was so good we ate the whole thing.

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For more recipes inspired by the Hannah Swenson Mysteries, go to Butter Berry Cookies

For more dessert recipes, go to Peppermint Bark Chocolate Cupcakes

For more recipes, go to Broccoli & Tortellini Salad with Pesto

Strawberry Shortcake Murder

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Strawberry Shortcake Murder (Hannah Swenson Mystery #2) by Joanne Fluke

So as I have mentioned before, I didn’t read this series from book one, but came in the middle and am backtracking my way to the beginning. I’m glad I didn’t start at the beginning as these early books are bad.

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Like really bad. If I started at the very beginning I would have passed this series on by.

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So the first clue that this book would stink was the dedication.

For my kids.

You asked for your favorite recipes.

Here they are in novel form.

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NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO

You never, ever, ever, write a book based around recipes. That’s extremely stupid.

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So Lake Eden has been chosen for the first ever Hartland Flour Bake-Off. Hannah isn’t competing, but in between deliberations creating concoctions for the judges and how to do it for the viewers.

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One of the judges is Coach Boyd Watson, the wife beater from Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, is especially cruel and harsh in his criticisms, upsetting many promising cooks.

seriously

One night Hannah comes upon Coach Boyd Watson’s dead body, and facedown in her Strawberry Shortcake!

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The police think his wife is the killer, but Hannah believes in her innocence. She then sets out to discover the real murderer.

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Thoughts After reading:

I did not like this. I know I said before, but it bears repeating.

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So let’s start off with the first problem of the novel. It begins with Hannah hearing a crash  in her condo and “going after that person.”

really?

She decides that she isn’t a “Miss Priss” and would rather go after them with a bat instead of being a “sissy girl” calling the sheriff.

really?

Of course it turns out to her cat, (saw that one a mile away), but what if it wasn’t her cat? What if that was really a burgler or murderer. They could have a gun! It’s nice to think you can handle things, but much better to actually call the cops to have them do their job.

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And then we have the same old same old complaining about mom.

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I guess as the second book it is for the “new readers”, but it still bothers me. It’s like when The Baby-sitters Club would always review the same thing in the second chapter. It gets old, fast.

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And then there is Hannah’s niece Tracey. Once again Joanne Fluke has never been around small children, or at least doesn’t remember what it’s like. I know precocious children, but none of them speak as well as Tracey. Fluke just made her waaaay too advanced for a four-year old.

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So Boyd’s a jerk, but honest in his review of the bake off. So what? We are already hate him for being a wife beater, isn’t that a little overkill?

really?

Then we get the Hannah’s commentary. Ugh I hate this as it is always BORING!

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She wishes that they still made Big Chief notebooks. But they can’t because they aren’t P.C. to have Indian notebooks. Well Hannah now you will get my commentary.

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They aren’t Indians Hannah. I know you want to be ignorant and call them that, but they aren’t from India. And while you are right, most don’t wish to be called Native American, it’s not because their “family walked over the land bridge from somewhere else,” which by the way:

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But because they prefer to be called by their tribe name.

Okay, so this book was published in 2001 and is supposed to be set in modern times, but a lot of times she acts like she is from the past. A girl kicked out of college for being too “wild” [sexually]. They don’t kick you out for being “wild”, they kick you out for not doing your work, paying rent, or causes issues because of alcohol, drugs, etc.

seriously

Plus Hannah is really rude and judgmental. She realizes that having a good relationship with her sister Andrea is fun and that she shouldn’t have said all those horrible things when she was younger, “even though she deserved it.” She called Andrea an idiot for flunking her math test, when she should have helped her study. Uh, no! No one deserves that. Just because she isn’t that good in math you shouldn’t call her stupid. Rude Hannah, rude.

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Then there is when Hannah is all high and mighty about her crime solving skills. She’s all ” yeah Mike and Bill are good cops and would have eventually figured everything out, but what I did actually helped.” Well, let’s see why your way helped? Hmm? YOU BROKE INTO AN APARTMENT. The police can’t just do that stuff. They have to follow certain rules because of the rights our forefathers wanted to protect. What you are doing is EXTREMELY WRONG!

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The book was horrible, and Hannah was horrible.

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For more Hannah Swenson mysteries, go to Candy for Christmas

For more Midwestern mysteries, go to Fatally Frosted

For more book reviews, go to The Black Echo

Butter Berry Cookies

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Thoughts before baking:

This is called Merry Berry Cookies in the mystery Candy for Christmas, but I changed the name. I’ll explain later.

So when I first read the recipe for the jelly cookie it intrigued me. Could jelly be good in a cookie? I hate it in donuts, but a cookie? Could this actually work? Could a jelly cookie be tasty?

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I just had to find out.

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Ingredients:

  • 1.5 Cups of Butter
  • 2 Cups of White Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup of melted raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, or any berry jam
  • 2 Beaten Eggs
  • 1 Teaspoon of Baking Soda
  • 1 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 4 Cups of Flour
  • 1/3 Cup of White Sugar (for later)
  • Berry jam (for later)

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a large microwave-safe bowl. Add the sugar and mix it in thoroughly. Let the bowl sit on the counter while you do the next step.
  2. Melt the jam in the microwave or in a saucepan over low heat. Once it is the consistency of syrup, mix it in with the butter and sugar.
  3. Add the eggs, baking soda, and salt; stirring after each addition.
  4. Add the flour and mix thoroughly. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  6. Roll the chilled dough into small walnut size balls. Put the 1/3 cup of sugar in a small bowl and roll the dough balls in it. Place them on a greased cookie sheet. Flatten the dough with a greased spatula. Make a small indentation with your thumb in the center of each cookie, fill indention with jam.
  7. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes. Makes 8-10 dozen.

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Thoughts after baking:

First of all, I used strawberry jelly as that was what I had the most of. And the strawberry jelly was pretty good, I wonder how it would taste with a different one.

I’m not sure I copied the recipe out right, I think the salt and baking soda proportions are off. I’m pretty sure of the baking soda as the cookies came out really flat.

oopsmybad

After I took the dough out of the fridge, it was rock solid. I had to use an ice-cream scoop to get them out, that being the reason why they are so big.

Whoa

So after all that how did they taste? They are really good, but not very fruity. In fact, they have more of a buttery taste, which is why I changed the name from Merry Berry to Butter Berry.

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For more recipes inspired by the Hannah Swenson Mysteries, go to Special Ingredient Chocolate Chip Cookies

For more desserts, go to Peppermint Bark Chocolate Cupcakes

For more recipes, go to Chicken, Asparagus, and Tomato Pesto Pasta

Candy for Christmas

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Candy for Christmas (Hannah Swenson Mystery #1.5) by Joanne Fluke

This is a short story mystery that takes place sometime after the first novel. I didn’t enjoy it, but like show biz, the review must go on.

It’s wintertime and almost Christmas in Lake Eden. One day Hannah heads out to her bakery when she discovers the lights on in the building.

That'sOdd

Her business partner, Lisa, wasn’t scheduled to come in today, but maybe she decided to anyway. It is far too cold to hang outside so Hannah heads in.

When she gets inside she finds that her bakery has been cleaned, and whoever did it left behind candy.

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Hannah is pleased with this modern Elves and the Shoemakers, but at the same time is not happy with it. Who could have done this? Why would they?

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That night Hannah and Norman head to the bakery to check out who could be in there. When they arrive at the bakery they spot a young girl. Apparently “Candy” has run away from home. She’s been hiding out in different places, such as Hannah’s bakery.

They don’t get much out of the girl, but Hannah decides to give her a room in her condo and a job in her bakery. Unknowning to Candy; Hannah, Norman, and Andrea all band toogether to figure out who she really is.

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I didn’t enjoy this story at all.

Idon'tthinkso Idontseeit

I can see why the author wanted to right something different, and something that didn’t have murder but this was too scmaltzy and boring.

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It really seemed just a conduit to include more Christmas recipes than create an interesting story.

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I also thought their involvement in finding her parents was wrong. They shouldn’t have told them about Candy and bring them without letting Candy know. What if she had a valid reason for running away? What is she was being abused, molested, or worse?

seriously

This story is a dud. A complete waste.

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For more Hannah Swenson Mysteries, go to Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder

For more midwestern mysteries, go to Fatally Frosted

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder (Hannah Swenson Mystery #1)

So this is the first book in the series but not the first I read. I was introduced to the Hannah Swenson Mysteries by Apple Turnover Murder (Hannah Swenson Mystery #13)And I am glad I did because if I read this book first, I probably would have quit the series.

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Yeah this book was a clunker. I thought it was messy, the characters unrealistic, and the mystery too easy. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

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So the book starts off by introducing us to Hannah Swenson. Hannah is in her 30s and was studying English Lit at school. While she was in the midst of going for her masters, she has a bad experience at school and her father dies.

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She heads back to her small town, (Lake Eden, Minnesota) , to help her family out, starts a coffee and cookie shop, buys a condo, and adopts a huge orange cat. Things seem to be going good as she is building her business and life.

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Her only thorn? Her mother’s constant drive to marry her off. She is constantly setting her up with men, the latest being the son of her best friend, Norman Rhodes D.D.S. Hannah has barely met him but is rude and judgmental toward him. She thinks he is a loser because he is a dentist and therefore must be obsessed with teeth. And he is horribly ugly because he is balding. How rude Hannah. Like you’re such a prize with your constant judging and criticizing people.

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Besides just because he is a dentist doesn’t mean that’s all he thinks about. For real girl you need to give him credit that he is a person with actual thoughts and feelings rather than thinking he is the dentist from Little Shop of Horrors.

And it’s not like he wants to be balding or can control it. Jeez, girl! I’m sure he wishes he has a full head of hair too.

seriously

Anyways, it’s an average day for Hannah. She’s heading over to open her store and passes Ron LaSalle, a deliverer for the local dairy farm. Ron LaSalle is a loyal customer buying a box of cookies every morning.

Hannah also runs into her friend Claire, the owner of the fancy boutique shop and Hannah’s next-door business neighbor. Claire convinces Hannah to come over and shop for a dress, but Hannah doesn’t want to wear one. She is one of those cliché characters that hates dressing up/doesn’t realize how pretty they are/don’t understand why women act they way they do/etc. I’m really tired of that character and wish authors would stop writing it and do something new.

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Andrea, Hannah’s sister, comes by and drops her daughter off with Hannah while she gets her hair done. Now this is where I have a huuuuuuuuuuge problem. Andrea’s daughter Tracey is great in the later books but in this one she is only four but conversing like a twelve year old! Now I’ve known a lot of four-year olds, and even the precocious ones DO NOT speak that well. I don’t think this author has been around real children if she writes her that focused and well-behaved.

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Anyways, so Tracey saw Ron outside in his car and thinks it is weird. Hannah assumes that Ron is having car trouble and goes out to check when she discovers that he is dead!

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And not just dead but:

Murder

Ron was shot in the head.

Hannah’s brother-in-law, Andrea’s husband, is a deputy with the Sheriff’s department and is heading up the investigation. He gets Hannah’s statement, and while they are discussing what happened, Hannah realizes something important. Ron was behind schedule. This is really odd as Ron was a stickler for being on time.

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Bill then asks Hannah to help with the investigation, as he wants to solve the case and get promoted to detective.

Now here is where I have a huge problem again. There’s no way as a law enforcement he would ask for help in his investigation from a civilian! Come on!

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And to be honest, if he can’t solve it than he doesn’t deserve the promotion.

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He should be telling her not to investigate as she is a civilian.

Now I’m not saying that I do not want her to investigate, I love stories with amateurs, it’s just that there is no way a cop would ask a civilian for help. No way!

Its-Not-Going-to-Happen-Mean-Girls

Anyways, at a catering event at the school she discovers that when Ron dropped off the milk, he had a women with him. Apparently the school leaves coffee for him every morning, and when the secretary came to clean it up she found two cups, one of which had lipstick on it.

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Hannah and Bill set out to track it down, with Hannah finding it being sold by an Avon-like woman. There she discovers that the lipstick belongs to Danielle Watson.

Hannah meets up with Danielle later and discovers that she is a gambler going to Gambler’s Anonymous and that Ron was her sponsor. She received a check from her stocks and headed over the casino, running into Ron who was passing out GA flyers. He got her out of there, following her home to make sure she was safe, and the two went to his apartment to talk and make sure she didn’t give in again. He got up late and took Danielle with him on his deliveries.

Hannah also finds out that Ron had a toothache and was going to the dentist that day. She calls around seeing who worked on him, ending up with Norman Rhodes. She tries to ask him questions, but he refuses as he wants to see her in person to discuss everything.

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That afternoon Hannah finds herself being manipulated again, giving into Claire and purchasing the gown picked, planning on wearing it to the Woodley’s annual party.

So Hannah and Andrea head over to have lunch with Norman, Hannah planning on keeping his attention while Andrea snoops. Hannah discovers that Ron got his tooth taken care of , but even more interesting is that Norman is a funny, sweet, nice guy. She agrees to go with him to the Woodley party.

Hannah continues her investigations and discovers that Danielle’s husband Boyd has been dropping a lot of cash on glitzy gifts, too much for his job as a high school football coach. She also discovers that he was gone for the window of the murder. Could he be the killer?

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Hannah and Lisa decide to go investigate the casino where Ron was passing out GA flyers as he got into a fight with a bouncer. While there we get this long rant on how stupid gambling is and how Hannah doesn’t understand the drive for it. Or the superstitions that people have. Another cliché as guess who wins the grand prize, her of course. I understand not liking gambling or believing that one should do it, but not understanding the draw? Come on, everyone knows what draws people in, is the hope for winning!

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Then we get a flashback as Hannah reminisces about her and her sister’s lives growing up and how things changed when she went to college. Here is where we get the whole story of why Hannah left. She had a fling with her professor, only to discover that he didn’t love her but was actually engaged to be married, his fiancee walking in on them.

AAAAHHHHH

Hannah goes to the Woodley party and has a lot of fun with Norman. Unfortunately, Benton Woodley, son, heir, Andrea’s ex-boyfriend, and the bane of Hannah’s existence is back in town. He says he missed the small town experience and loves Lake Eden, but something is fishy to Hannah. He always hated being here before and swore never to come back.

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At the party, Hannah talks to the dairy secretary, Betty, to get more info on Ron and finds out that Max, the supervisor is missing. He was supposed to go to a convention and give a speech, but he never checked in and no one has seen or heard from him. Could Max have killed Ron for some reason and gone on the run?

urkelgif interesting hmm

Hannah mentions Max to Norman and discovers he can’t stand the guy. It turns out that Norman’s father, who was also a dentist, needed money to get improvements for his practice but all the banks turned him down. Max lent him the money, if the Rhodes put their house up for collateral. The Rhodes took the deal and when they were only one payment away from owning their house, Max called in the full loan. Luckily, Norman was able to get a loan from a bank, which he gave his parents, who paid Max. But clearly Max was a shark up to no good. But, is he a killer?

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Hannah decides that of they can’t get the answers they need from Max, as no one can find him, that she is going to break into his house. Andrea comes with her and the two break into the garage first. There they find Max’s car, with everything needed for his trip to the convention. Odd, as that must mean he didn’t leave. They check his house but there is no sign of him. Hannah steals his keys and decides the two need to set out to check the dairy.

When they get to the dairy, they find nothing. Hannah has not given up yet and decides to check out the remains of the old dairy. The building was burned and rebuilt with only one section of the original left. They head over there and find Max…Dead

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They also find his stash of loans. This means someone killed him over it, but who? And how is Ron connected? Did he see something? Did he walk in on them?

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Thoughts After Reading:

I really didn’t enjoy this book at all. The characters were all bland and generic Midwestern clichés. The main character was annoying, judgmental, cocky, and rude.

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The police were incompetent, but what made it really sad was that they knew they were incompetent. I mean it is funny to see them match wits when the police officer is arogant and totally missing something, or, as in Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and Miss Marple; over time and succesful stream of solved mysteries they realize that this is someone much smarter and one they should work with. But when someone is incompetent and knows it, asking for help to get PROMOTED when they clearly stated before that they were not ready as THEY CAN’T DO IT ON THEIR OWN BUT NEED HELP FROM AN ENGLISH LIT AND COOKIE BAKER (that’s right, she doesn’t even read mystery novels, or teach psychology, or do something slightly relevant) it is just sad, just sad indeed.

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The mystery was extremely obvious as to what they answer is. Now it is one thing if you have a mystery where it is easily solved, but the characters are fun and adorable so you don’t care. This was neither, it was just a disappointment. And the recipes weren’t all that intriguing either.

This one was a stinker, but some of the later ones are actually really good. I guess you just have to decide how invested do you want to get.

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For the previous book review, go to The Emperor’s Edge

For more Midwestern mysteries, go to Fatally Frosted