Saturday, January 08, 2011

Another Hannah Swensen Adventure Keeps Me Light and Fluffy (Emphasis on the Fluffy)

(Image from Indiebound)

(Note: Although the books in Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen series work quite well as standalones, I'm reading them in order. Thus, while this review will not contain spoilers for Lemon Meringue Pie Murder, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier books. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

In order to enjoy Fluke's cozy, culinary mysteries, there's a little mantra I have to repeat to myself before opening one:
  • Even though our cookie-baking heroine talks, acts and dresses like a frumpy 65-year-old, Hannah Swensen is supposed to be in her late 20s. So what if she doesn't own a cell phone, wears elastic-waisted slacks to work, and dates a guy named Norman? She's not even 30! Just accept it already.

  • No small town has as many murders as Lake Eden, Minnesota. Nor do real cops allow ordinary citizens to interview witnesses, creep around crime scenes, and chase down killers. Just sayin'.

  • Lake Eden's finest are the naivest, most bumbling police officers on Earth - if Hannah Swensen wasn't around to guide them toward clues, motives and possible suspects, they would never solve a crime.

  • Just because I have the mysteries figured out by Chapter 2 doesn't mean I can't enjoy Fluke's books for their light, fun, mostly clean content.

Repeat ten times, then read on ...

In Lemon Meringue Murder, the fourth installment of Joanne Fluke's popular culinary mystery series, Hannah is gearing up for Lake Eden's annual Fourth of July celebration. She's got cookies to decorate, a float to put together for the parade, and a pair of slacks that are suddenly way too tight. Even though she spends the majority of her days baking cookies, Hannah's never thought of herself as overweight. But, as any amateur detective knows, the evidence never lies - not only are her pants too tight, but her boyfriend's building the dream house they designed together and planning to live in it alone. If she were 10 lbs. lighter would she be showing off a diamond engagement ring right about now?

With so many thoughts clanging around in her head, Hannah's really not in the mood to go treasure hunting with her mother. And yet, somehow, she finds herself scouring the old Voelker house for antiques, Dolores by her side. While the pair discover full sets of Carnival glassware in the kitchen, the real discovery is in the furnace room where Rhonda Scarf's body lies, half-buried in the dirt. Rhonda was a drugstore cosmetics saleswoman who flirted with every customer, but not an unlikable sort. Who could have wanted her dead?

Although Hannah vows to keep out of the small town's latest murder, she gets roped into investigating. The only real suspect in Rhonda's death is a supposed boyfriend, the identity of whom none of the townspeople know. As Hannah digs deeper, she uncovers the man's surprising identity. That's not the only mystery in Lake Eden, though - someone's spending suspicious bills at local businesses and Hannah's growing more anxious about the troubling past of her maintenance man. Are the mysteries related somehow? Or is Hannah's tiny town becoming some kind of hub for illegal activity? One thing's for certain: she's going to get to the bottom of things.

Lemon Meringue Murder is typical Fluke fare: the writing's nothing special, the characters have as much depth as a kiddie pool, and the mystery's not all that mysterious. I knew who the killer was pretty much from the get-go, even though the case had Lake Eden's finest stumped. Hannah, conveniently, followed all the right leads, taking her to yet another showdown with a vicious murderer. Far-fetched? Oh yeah. Such is life in a Fluke book. A willing suspension of belief is a must in order to enjoy them (see mantra above). And I did enjoy this one, simply because it's a light, fluffy read that requires very little brain power. Willpower, on the other hand, can be a problem when reading this author. Unlike Hannah, I can't resist sweets and each book is filled with scrumptious recipes, few of which are low-cal. So much for light - if I keep reading these books and drooling over the desserts, I'm going to be as "fluffy" as Garfield.

(Readalikes: The other books in the Hannah Swensen series by Joanne Fluke)

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for some violence and vague references to extramarital affairs

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find

2 comments:

  1. I read either 7 or 8 books from this series but the love triangle got far too ludicrous for me. I still own a couple that I haven't read, but I don't know if I will get to them or not.

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