Cream Puff Murder

By Joanne Fluke

I love the bright blue on the cover of this book! Anyway, after reading a couple of somewhat dark, serious books lately, I decided it was time for some lighter fare. Enter Hannah Swenson! This is number 11 in the series, after Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder; Strawberry Shortcake Murder; Blueberry Muffin Murder; Lemon Meringue Pie Murder; Fudge Cupcake Murder; Sugar Cookie Murder; Peach Cobbler Murder; Cherry Cheesecake Murder; Key Lime Pie Murder; and Carrot Cake Murder.

Here is the summary from the Kobo website:

Bakery owner Hannah Swensen has a dress to fit into and a date with her sister, Andrea, at Lake Eden’s new health club, Heavenly Bodies. Dragging herself out of bed on a frigid Minnesota morning for exercise, of all things, is bad enough. Discovering the body of man-eating bombshell Ronni Ward floating in the gym’s jacuzzi? Okay, that’s worse. Nor does it help that there’s a plate of The Cookie Jar’s very own cream puffs garnishing the murder scene. Trying to narrow the list of Ronni’s enemies down to fewer than half the town’s female population, Hannah has her plate full. Trouble is, when it comes to cookies–and to murder–there’s always room for one more…

I really liked this book. I think it’s one of the better Hannah Swenson mysteries.

Hannah’s mother, Delores,  has written a historical romance novel, under a nom de plume, and it’s going to be published. To celebrate, Delores is throwing a big party, which Hannah will cater. Delores wants all three of her daughters – Hannah, Andrea, and Michelle – to attend the party in dresses from the book’s time period. The problem is, when Hannah tries her dress on mere weeks before the party, it’s way too tight. Eek!

Andrea encourages Hannah to work out with her at Heavenly Bodies, the new health club, and to stick to her diet for the next two weeks. I really felt for Hannah – her diet seemed so strict! Working in a bakery every day and not letting yourself have even a single cookie seemed terrible!

Mike, one of Hannah’s sort of boyfriends, is proud of her. Being a cop, he’s quite fit himself. Norman, on the other hand (Hannah’s other sort of boyfriend), loves Hannah just the way she is. Aawww.

Of course, one morning while at the gym, Hannah discovers a dead body. This time, it’s the body of Ronni Ward, who worked as a fitness instructor at the gym as well as the police station. Hannah had always been suspicious that something had been going on between Mike and Ronni, but given that she was seeing Norman while she was seeing Mike, she knew she shouldn’t get upset with Mike.

Of course, when Mike, Bill (the sherriff, and Andrea’s husband), and Lonnie (Michelle’s boyfriend), all cops, have to remove themselves from the investigation due to possible personal involvement with the victim, the Swenson sisters are upset. But Hannah plans to solve the murder and clear the Swenson women’s men!

Ronni Ward was not well liked by anyone in Lake Eden except the men, it seemed. The women were all very catty about her, and for a while I felt sort of bad for Ronni – that is, until Hannah’s investigation reveals some pretty bad things about her. I was hoping that the author would at least try to give Ronni some more depth or complexity, but she didn’t. I was left with the impression that Ronni was a mean, bitchy girl who didn’t care whose husband or boyfriend she stole. It was interesting to read about Hannah trying to solve the murder of someone that she didn’t even like!

The triangle between Hannah and Norman and Mike was interesting this time around, because Hannah couldn’t communicate too much with Mike in this story, as he had to distance himself from anyone remotely involved with the murder investigation. Hannah therefore spent a lot of time with Norman, who clearly loves Hannah and is very sweet. Hannah is reluctant, though, to give up her independence and ‘settle down’ with either Mike or Norman.

I do appreciate that Hannah wants to stay independent and refuses to settle down just because her mother or society expects her to. And for the first time in the series, Hannah spends the night with one of her boyfriends (I won’t say who) – but of course, being the nice, chaste series that it is, Hannah and her boyfriend sleep in separate rooms! As silly as it may seem, in this day and age, part of what I like about this series is that it isn’t full of sexy love scenes or vulgar language. It’s a refreshing change of pace.

I figured out who the killer was a few pages before Hannah did, and Hannah is almost killed in a terrible way! (I won’t give it away, but it would have been a terrible way to go!) The lead up to the big reveal was done better in this story than in some of the other Hannah Swenson novels, which I appreciated.

Having solved another murder, Hannah is off to her mother’s party – but I’ll leave you in suspense about whether or not her dress fit!

Overall, this was another light, fun read in the Hannah Swenson series, and I think that it was one of the better ones. If you’ve been reading this series, I recommend that you keep going with this one!

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