Plum Pudding Murder

Ready for our next Christmas mystery?

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Lisa are decorating for Christmas when Hannah spurts out another one of her random factoid, this time that shellac was originally made from female insects.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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Blueberry Muffin Murder

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Blueberry Muffin Murder (Hannah Swenson Mystery #3) by Joanne Fluke

This is the third book in the series following Hannah Swenson, ex-English Literature major and now owner of cookie shop, The Cookie Jar, in Lake Eden, Minnesota. She accidentally runs into dead bodies, or people ask her to investigate, causing her to solve crimes before the police even have a smidgen of a clue.

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It’s late February and things are pretty slow. Christmas and News Years? Parties galore and business is booming. With Valentine’s Day, another flurry of activity. But once that’s over it’s dead. Snow, cold, and nothing until Easter.

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So this year, the city decided to do something different to bring in tourist and boost the economy. This year marked the first annual Lake Eden Winter Carnival.

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The Jordan High School shop class redid old sleighs to give sleigh rides. Hannah’s mother Delores helped the Historical Society create a full-scale replica of the first mayor’s house, Ezekiel Jordan. And of course Hannah, is one of the many people who has a booth for her business.

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As she is heading out to her shop, a guy attacks her from behind warning her to get against the wall or else she will be killed!!!!

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It turns out to be an old friend, Greg Canfield. Greg had moved back a few years ago and opened an import store at the Tri-County Mall. His store closed down recently, and after he sold his house he moved in with his grandmother (who lives in the same condo building as Hannah). He was out that morning and thought he’d pull a prank on his old pal. Greg leaves to get back to his stock trading, he’s making a bundle on the company Redlines and Hannah heads over to her shop.

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Hannah’s friend Lisa, has recently become her partner, and has been busy at work baking and dressing the window for the Winter Carnival.

It turns out that the Winter Carnival is going to bring much more to town. Connie MacIntyre, the star of the hit cooking show Cooking With Connie Mac, has come to town. She has numerous books, a string of kitchen boutique stores, a monthly magazine, etc.

With Connie Mac, comes Janie Burkholtz, Connie’s personal assistant, and Hannah’s sister Andrea’s very best friend. Looks like the Winter Carnival is going to be loads of fun.

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The Mayor asks Hannah to drive Connie Mac around town and Hannah agrees as she figures it will be fun.

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Andrea comes over to speak to Hannah and when she hears all about Hannah giving the tour, and of course invites herself along. Hannah agrees as she thinks it will make a boring situation more interesting.

The girls reach the inn where Connie Mac is staying and meet a grade-A jerk.

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She is rude, cruel and picky about how everything has to be. From her salad to pressing of her clothes, nothing is ever quite right and must have a thousand details done to it.

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The first stop is the library, where Connie will be signing her cookbooks, along with raising awareness for the library and the programs offered there. However, Connie doesn’t care about the library, all she wants is the money and publicity and she sure doesn’t want to be at the back of the building, but in the lobby.

Then she decides the best sleigh shouldn’t be used for the Winter Royalty, but what she should ride in on.

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I guess that is correct, as she is a royal pain.

Sorry, had to do it.

Sorry, had to do it.

After they iron out that detail they go on to the school kitchen to talk about the big banquet they are going to have. Connie manipulates people to get what she wants, and succeeds every time. She wants her cake to be on the pedestals reserved for the crown of the Winter Prince & Princess. Edna, the school cook, is very against it, until Connie promises to gift them a dinner set for 200, including glassware, silver, and tablecloths.

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Hannah can see right through everything and thinks Connie is just plan rude. She also thinks that her show is nothing special, as it seems presentation heavy over tasty.

Hannah leaves Andrea with Connie and heads back to the The Cookie Jar. There she makes some blueberry muffins, using frozen berries instead of real ones as Minnesota in February, there is no way she is getting fresh. That’s one great thing about living on the West Coast, fresh fruit all year long.

That afternoon Hannah receives a frantic call from Janie. It turns out that the van carrying Connie Mac’s Winter Carnival Cake was ruined when the car went into a ditch. And she needs a place to to cook a replacement. They want to use The Cookie Jar.

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Hannah does not want Connie Mac in her kitchen, and suggests other places; but it turns out none are available, the only place it can happen in is Hannah’s.

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Against her better judgement, Hannah agrees.

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Besides cooking there, Norman will be taking Connie Mac’s picture as well. So it can be immortalized forever that Connie Mac cooked at the Cookie Jar.

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That night as everyone is bringing stuff in for Connie Mac, Hannah tells Lisa to take the morning off. Before Hannah leaves, she lets Janie know that there are blueberry muffins in the pantry. Janie wants some, but Connie Mac has forbidden her to have sweets as she “needs to lose 20 pounds”. She doesn’t really need to, but Connie is rude and a jerk.

Norman and Hannah both leave and Norman is just as angry at Connie as Hannah. Connie is clearly super at making enemies. You all know what that means.

Murder

Norman invites Hannah to dinner, but she refuses, wanting to rest. Unfortunately, Bill is working late, and since Janie can no longer meet her and with Andrea all alone; Hannah is convinced to go out. It turns out Bill does come and brings Mike. The perfect set-up.

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The next day Hannah goes to her shop and finds it a huge mess.

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The door is open. Flour is everywhere! Mixing bowls are filled with dry batter. Sticky spoons, beaters, and other utensils spatter the kitchen. Burning cake in the oven!

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Her shop is a total mess and could have burnt to the ground!!!! What is Connie Mac’s deal? How could she have done this?!!!

As Hannah begins cleaning, she spots Connie’s handbag. Along with her coat. Janie was gone, her car, coat, etc. So….

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Connie must never have left. As Hannah looks in the store she finds her. Dead by a blow to the head, mid muffin bite.

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And a blow on the back of a head means only one thing:

Murder

Mike and Bill come and close off Hannah’s shop. Indefinitely, until the murderer is caught. This becomes a huge part of the storyline as Hannah is angry with Mike for being so stubborn and not letting her come back. Now this really bothers me, as can the police really do that? It seems in shows that they don’t keep a place of business or residence forever.

So I looked it up, and it turns out that the police can keep a place as long as they want, however they choose to revert it back to the owner as soon as possible. So there you go, Mike is just a big ol’ jerk and I hate him.

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Moving on. Not only is Hannah locked out from her own kitchen, but she is forbidden to speak to any Connie Mac employee as Mike doesn’t want her meddling. They suspect Janie as being the murderer, but Mike knows that Hannah will refuse to accept that and try to find who she believes the “real murderer is.”

And of course Hannah does not listen.

See ya Mike

See ya Mike

She goes to the Inn and talks to Sally. There she finds out that EVERYONE hated Connie and all have reasons to kill her. All the maids at the Inn hate her; Connie fired the delivery truck driver;  she threatened to fire her long-time lawyer, Alan Carpenter; Paul, her husband, was cheating on her; he keeps postponing her book, and Kurt Howe, her publisher, is looking at getting fired if he can get her to commit; etc. Plus there is always money, the Connie Mac empire is enormous, and whoever inherits will be getting a lot of moolah.

WhoDoneIt?

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Thoughts after reading:

This was an okay book. I thought the mystery was so-so and the investigation kind of blah.

eh

At one point Mike is convinced Norman killed Connie because she made a difficult photo shoot. Really? Really?

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This was dumb. Come on, Mike. Get your head out of your butt. Dumb. Why are the two cops so stupid in this series? I mean really. Come on son.

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And they spend a long time talking about ice fishing. Really? Really?

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And it turns out the reason Paul, Connie’s husband, was trying to get close to Janie is that he is secretly her biological father. It was pretty obvious and overdramatic.

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So not horrible, but not fantastic. Just okay.

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For more Hannah Swenson Mysteries, go to Strawberry Shortcake Murder

For more Midwestern Mysteries, go to Thorns of Rosewood

For more reviews, go to The Barter