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Christmas Cake Murder (A Hannah Swensen…
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Christmas Cake Murder (A Hannah Swensen Mystery) (original 2018; edition 2018)

by Joanne Fluke (Author)

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19418108,589 (3.33)14
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 . . .… (more)
Member:mandyp50
Title:Christmas Cake Murder (A Hannah Swensen Mystery)
Authors:Joanne Fluke (Author)
Info:Kensington (2018), 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
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Christmas Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke (2018)

  1. 00
    Tough Cookie by Diane Mott Davidson (JenniferRobb)
    JenniferRobb: Both are culinary themed cozy mysteries
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» See also 14 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
I have been a fan of the Hannah Swensen series for years. Although there are a lot of culinary cozy series now, this series was one of the first. After 23 books, this series is still one of my favorites, despite some....disappointments....in the last couple of books (not going to say what so I don't spoil things for newer readers but those who have read the entire series know I'm talking about R.) This book is a prequel taking readers back to before Hannah opened her bakery, The Cookie Jar, ....so it circumvents the R debacle. I was so excited when I saw this available for review. A Hannah prequel! Yep -- I'm up for it!

I'm going to delve into what I love about this book first, then get to several problems I see. Always the good first! :)

I love the fact that the plot of this book is a bit different....a bit of a story inside a story. Hannah comes home after college, not sure what to do with the rest of her life. She settles back into life in Lake Eden, helping her mother and sisters after the recent death of her father. An elderly much-loved resident of the little MN town has fallen on hard times and is in the hospital recovering from a fall. Hannah and her mother discover that the woman has been living in squalor in the old theater building in town. They come up with a plan to recreate the annual Christmas Ball, an event that Essie remembers fondly. And, they go to the old building Essie has been living in to pack up some of her belongings to bring to the hospital. While looking for items Essie has requested, they find some old notebooks. Essie was writing a story. Hannah, her sisters and mother all get totally sucked into Essie's story, which turns out might be a real mystery about the past. So...a story within a story. Nice creative touch for a Hannah Swensen Christmas tale!

I liked the fact that this story was completely pre-love triangle. For those new to the series, through most of the series, Hannah was torn between two men in Lake Eden. Things just dragged on too long, and when it finally did resolve, it was disappointing. But, in this prequel tale, Hannah is busy deciding to open her bakery and coffee shop. No love triangle. No male competition. Not even Moishe, Hannah's kitty cat.

Lots of recipes! From pork roast to breakfast burritoes and peach pie to mint cookies, there is a recipe to tempt almost everybody!

There is some nice character development in this prequel. Dolores has just lost her husband and is having difficulty dealing with the loss. Hannah has just finished college and wants to change her life plan of teaching college to something she will actually enjoy -- baking. The story gives some nice insight into Hannah, her sisters and her mother. I'm invested in these characters after years of reading this series. It was nice to read about what things were like for them before Hannah opened The Cookie Jar.

Much as I love, love, love getting a Hannah-fix, I do have to give an honest review.... Some problems evident in the past several books in this series are still a problem with this one.
Clunky, clumsy dialogue. Overuse of characters' names. Over explanation of situations, or characters unnecessarily repeating conversations or situations to other characters. It's just different (and more amateurish) writing than what I'm used to from this series. I went to my library's digital site and downloaded an early book in the series to see if I'm imagining things.....and no, I stand by my analysis. The writing style is completely different, and much less polished than the rest of the series. The last 3 books have been problematic. Ghost writer? Different editor? Something has changed. I'm invested in this series after 23 books and years of reading, but I'm disappointed by the changes in quality of writing and in the characters' behavior.

But.....all in all....I love this series and the characters. This was a nice Christmas story with some new elements that I enjoyed. But I have to be honest and say that the story should have gone through another round of editing to tighten things up, bringing it up to the standard of the first 20 books or so of this series.

I can't wait for my next visit to Lake Eden! Luckily I don't have long to wait! Book 24, Chocolate Creme Pie Murder, will be out in February 2019! And all of us die-hard fans will finally find out the ending of the R debacle! I hope Hannah punches him in the mouth multiple times and kicks him in the .....well somewhere rude. We shall see!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. No cookies were baked during the reading of this book, although I was sorely tempted to completely sabotage my diet.**
( )
  JuliW | Nov 22, 2020 |
I thought it extremely odd that this particular book was #23 when one of the storylines is how Hannah started the Cookie Jar. i felt that Fluke threw this one in as an afterthought, esp. when Hannah is still searching for her husband in #22.
Now having said all of this, I still enjoyed the cozy read. When reading Fluke's books, I do not have to cringe over bad language and bedroom scenes.
This was a story within a story as Hannah was reading a manuscript that an elderly friend wrote. Since I do not want to give anything away, I will stop at that.
There were some grammatical errors and words left out of sentences and not everything made sense in the story that Hannah was reading out loud to her friends and family. All in all, I still gave it 4 stars ( )
1 vote travelgal | Aug 5, 2020 |
I am a huge fan of Fluke and loved this installment. It was a fun look into Hannah’s past, showing readers how she started her bakery. The unique format of the women reading a short story as the premise for the mystery was a fresh approach. Still a fan and will always be. ( )
1 vote amybooklover45 | Dec 6, 2019 |
This is a "prequel" to the Hanna Swensen series. It gives the background of how Hannah was able to open her cookie shop after dropping out of college and returning to Lake Eden.

It is shortly after her father passed away. The whole family is dealing with the loss, each in their own way. Her mother, Delores, seems to have withdrawn from all her activities and this worries the girls.

Delores is asked by Grandma Knudson to help put together a Christmas Ball for Essie Granger, one of the Lake Eden elders, who is in hospice. This is something that Delores excels at and it is just the thing to bring her out of her mourning. She also recruits Hannah and her sisters to make this recreation of times past an elegant and successful event.

When Hannah and her mother go to Essie's rooms, where she used to live, to find a particular ball gown and beaded purse, Hannah also finds a stack of notebooks. They contain the story of a young girl. Essie was know as a wonderful storyteller, so Hanna and Delores wonder if these are a book Essie has written. This is a mystery of its own.

I've read almost all the books in the series and was not really interested in how Hannah got her shop started. It seems a little late in the series to bring this in. I'm more interested in what was happening in the last book.

I did enjoy the mystery of the notebooks and what the solution was. ( )
1 vote ChazziFrazz | Nov 7, 2019 |
I have not read Joanne Fluke for quite a while and I enjoyed Christmas Cake Murder. Joanne Fluke constantly discusses food that lead me to believe that life revolved around food. I must applaud Joanne’s recipes for being extremely thorough in the directions. My biggest complaint is that no pictures accompany the recipes in either the novel or in the cookbook. I always enjoy seeing what the recipe should be in living color. The mystery happens in the end of the book, and quickly comes to resolution. Joanne Fluke employs much conversation in the story, but still presents a basic amount of setting and characterization. Lars Swensen, Hannah’s father, must have saved bundles of money for his 3 girls, because Delores always buys each of her daughters expensive gifts. Money seems to grow on trees. ( )
1 vote delphimo | Nov 7, 2019 |
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This book is dedicated to my dear friend, Trudi Nash. Thank you so much for the bundt cake concept! I had so much fun with it.
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Chapter One: Hannah Comes Home From College Hannah Swensen took her mother's potholders off the hook by the stove and removed a sheet of cookies from the oven.
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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 . . .

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