The Cookie Jar Mysteries

June 7, 2008 at 6:44 pm Leave a comment

I have been known to read the odd mystery, which is why I didn’t balk when my mother dumped three of Joanne Fluke’s novels on my bed and demanded I at least look at them.

And look I did, because if there’s anything I love more than a mystery, it’s a mystery that involves food. And since all of Fluke’s works have the word “Murder” combined with some sort of baked good in the title, I figured they were worth a shot. And, lucky for you, three books means a triple review.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder

The thought struck Hannah like a lightning bolt of dread. Bill had told her to be careful about asking questions and she thought she had. But what if the killer had the misguided notion that she was hot on his tail?

I’m a little mystified (har har) about the title of the book. The murder victim was found with chocolate chip cookies scattered about, yes, but that’s a minor detail and they had nothing to do with the death, so why do they get such a place in the title? That aside, though, the book really wasn’t bad.

This is the first in the series, and though some of the characters are a little shallow and Fluke’s idea of an attractive male character involves a mustache, it wasn’t bad. The small-town atmosphere was cute, the requisite romantic entanglements and a miraculous transformation from frumpy to sexy were all there, and I actually grew to like Andrea, the protagonist’s sister, very much.

Hannah Swensen herself isn’t bad either, as female detectives go. Not as witty as Amelia Peabody Radcliffe and not as sexy as Rei Shimura, Hannah seems like a genuine human being with her own set of problems (including a stunning caffeine addiction). I’ll always take a realistic coffee-swilling baker over an international detective who falls into bed with two to three different men in every book.

Strawberry Shortcake Murder

Same dilemma about the title, frankly. Murder victim found with his face in a plate of Hannah’s strawberry shortcake – recipe included! Side note, my mother tried this recipe and hated it, which is probably good because I don’t know how I’d feel about eating shortcake knowing that the victim in the book had bled all over a similar piece.

But I digress. I liked Hannah even better in this book, though I think if Fluke is going to try to have this sexual tension involving the two men in her life, she needs to make sure it’s clear that Hannah actually likes both of them. The more handsome prospect is so overwrought as to be laughable, and the other, balder man seems like he’s never really going to be more than a friend.

The plot wasn’t badly executed, though, and it kept me interested through most of the book. I do think that Hannah, being the detective she is, would not have so easily missed those last few clues that led to the murderer’s capture, but I see why Fluke needed to make Hannah momentarily stupid. Clumsy writing, yes, but also understandable.

Carrot Cake Murder

Possibly this woman needs to stop handing out baked goods. This time, she gives a few slices of carrot cake to a man who is later discovered with an ice pick in his chest. Yikes.

What struck me most, though, about this particular book is the amount of times Fluke seems to introduce a topic just to show off the trivia she knows. I noticed it a little bit in both Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder and Strawberry Shortcake Murder, but it came out in full force in this book around page 44, where Fluke takes a whole half page to talk about the weights of regulation and practice hockey pucks, as well as the different types of hockey pucks and what they are used for. All this while Hannah’s phone is ringing and her cat is running around inside the bathtub like a whirling dervish. Am I supposed to believe that anyone would take that kind of time to ponder sports equipment, especially at that particular point?

The series as a whole is definitely worth checking out and reading, if not re-reading. There are 10 total books in the series, starting with Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder and ending with Carrot Cake Murder, so far as I’m aware, but there might be more. Not sure if the recipes are any good, though – I’m dying to try the Scandanavian Almond Cake from that last book, but my mother’s attempts at Fluke’s recipes didn’t yield great results. Possibly they’re more of a gimmick than anything else.

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Entry filed under: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery.

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