Monday, 20 September 2010

The Hannah Swensen Mysteries - Joanne Fluke

I stumbled across this series whilst searching for a 'new' author in the crime, mystery and thriller genre.

My interest spiked somewhat when I came across the first books title The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder. I have a huge interest in cooking (I actually collect cookbooks) and having such a title as this intrigued me. I read the blurb and immediately become hooked.

The story is set in a small town called Lake Eden, in Minnesota and it follows the owner of The Cookie Jar, Hannah Swensen. She makes delicious sounding cookies and desserts whilst happening to stumble across a dead body or two. Not only does Joanne Fluke introduce you to the main character, she also pulls in Hannah's family, friends and customers. By the end of the first chapter, I was captivated by this woman, her family, her cat and yes her cookies. Hannah whose dry wit and wishes to be tactful combined with avoiding being married off by her mother makes her an immediately likable character.

The murder plots themselves are great; Joanne keeps you guessing right until the end, hinting at possible suspects along the way but still making you think when Hannah solves the crime "really? it was so and so??" - very Christie!

The real 'twist' you'll find is not who committed the murder but the fact that woven in between chapters are actual recipes for the cookies. I love that. It's one thing to read about how Hannah mixes the dough, bakes the delectable sounding bites and how people stop by for a coffee and a Chocolate Covered Cherry cookie - but to be able to bake them yourself and find your own favorite (at the end of most recipes, Hannah makes a note of who was partial to said cookie) is pure brilliance.

Joanne's prose is effortless; true there isn't the poetic descriptions used by P D James nor is it as gritty as Ed McBain, but there's a certain charm to these novels that makes them stand out. When I read them, I'm absorbed by the characters; I'm laughing with them, sympathizing with them...I almost feel I wish I was part of the Lake Eden community.

I may have stumbled across these books a little late on in the day (hardcover first printed April 2000), but I'm flying through them at the moment. I've just finished the 'Fudge Cupcake Murder' and about to get into the 'Sugar Cookie Murder'.

I'm a tad pedantic and like to read books that are part of a series in order (these novels are stand alone, but there are references made to previous murders and characters); so if you're like me, you can find
the full listing and the order in which to read them at Joanne Fluke's official website:

So sit comfortably and enjoy these great stories - oh and a few words of advice...don't read these mysteries on an empty stomach!

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