Christmas Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke
Published by Kensington on September 25, 2018
Series: Hannah Swensen #23
Genre: Cozy Mystery, Mystery
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It’s Christmas many years ago, and topping young Hannah Swensen’s wish list is becoming the go-to baker in Lake Eden, Minnesota. But as Hannah finds out, revisiting holiday memories can be murder . . .
With her dream of opening The Cookie Jar taking shape, Hannah’s life matches the hectic December hustle and bustle in Lake Eden—especially when she agrees to help recreate a spectacular Christmas Ball from the past in honor of Essie Granger, an elderly local in hospice care. But instead of poring over decadent dessert recipes for the merry festivities, she instantly becomes enthralled by Essie’s old notebooks and the tale of a woman escaping danger on the streets of New York. Hannah’s surprised by Essie’s secret talent for penning crime fiction. She’s even more surprised when the story turns real. As Hannah prepares to run a bakery and move out of her mother’s house, it’ll be a true miracle if she can prevent another Yuletide disaster by solving a mystery as dense as a Christmas fruitcake . . .
Christmas Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke is a prequel to the Hannah Swensen series. I’ve only read book 1 in the series so far, but I still enjoyed learning the origins of Hannah’s shop, The Cookie Jar.
When the story begins, Hannah has come home from college following her father’s death. Hannah and her sisters are worried about their mother, who has understandably fallen into a depression. Along with a few Lake Eden friends, Hannah and her sisters devise a plan to get their mom involved in recreating a Christmas ball from years past. The purpose of the ball is mainly to cheer up Essie, a local woman who’s recovering from a recent accident, but it also does the trick in shaking Mrs. Swensen from her depression since it takes her mind off her grief and keeps her busy.
While preparing for the ball, Hannah decides that she doesn’t want to finish graduate school. Instead, she wants to open a bakery. Her mom helps her set the wheels in motion as her true passion for baking takes shape in the form of The Cookie Jar.
In addition, there’s a story within the story when Essie’s old notebooks are discovered and it appears that she had started writing a crime novel. Hannah and her family soon become immersed in Essie’s story. As the Christmas ball nears, the lines between fact and fiction become blurred, and Hannah finds herself facing her very first mystery.
As I mentioned, I’ve only read one other Hannah Swensen book, so I don’t have much to compare to, but I did think that Christmas Cake Murder had a much slower pace. This is understandable, since it’s very much a prequel and establishes the Hannah backstory while also delving into the family relationships between Hannah, her mom, and her sisters. Even though the pacing was slow for me, I still enjoyed the book and found it rather comforting (a true cozy mystery)! I think it’ll be interesting to read the rest of the series now, having her origin story fresh in my mind.
Rating: 3 stars