By Joanne Fluke
Series: Hannah Swenson #5
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
on February 1, 2005
Cover image and synopsis from Goodreads:
Bakery owner Hannah Swensen just can't keep her hands out of the batter when murder stirs things up in Lake Eden, Minnesota, leaving the sheriff dead, an innocent deputy accused, and a killer still on the loose...
For Hannah, life seems to be lacking a certain flavor. It's not that she doesn't enjoy teaching a weekly "Potluck Cooking Class" at the community outreach center. Or that she's not excited about her sister Andrea's bun in the oven -- watching the very pregnant Andrea try to sit on a stool at The Cookie Jar is worth it every time.
Maybe it's this year's sheriff's election that's got her down. For years, Sheriff Grant's been the iron hand in town. But now, Hannah's brother-in-law Bill is giving the old blowhard the fight of his long, dubious career -- and Grant's not taking it in stride, especially once the local polls (and The Cookie Jar gossip) show Bill pulling ahead.
But before anyone can get a taste of victory, things go sour. Just as Hannah's emptying the trash, she makes a very unappetizing discovery: Sheriff Grant's body in the dumpster behind the high school where she's teaching her cooking class. And if that weren't bad enough, the poor man still has fudge frosting on his shirt from the cupcake she gave him earlier. She'd been trying to find the secret ingredient left out of the recipe. Now she has a more important mystery to crack.
The number one suspect is none other than Bill. In fact, he's the only suspect. But Hannah's not swallowing it. Plenty of people had reason to hate Sheriff Grant, starting with all the deputies whose cases he stole during election years just so he could take the glory. Soon, Hannah's dishing up scandalous secrets, steaming hot betrayals, and enough nastiness to keep the gossip mill at The Cookie Jar going through several pots of decaf. And the closer Hannah gets to the truth, the closer she gets to smoking out a murderer with a very nasty recipe for silencing people. Will Hannah be able to stand the heat when someone wants her out of the kitchen... for good?
This is another enjoyable Hannah Swenson murder mystery, with a baking mystery thrown in: while Hannah is trying to clear her brother in law and solve Sheriff Grant’s murder, she is also working on a local cookbook full of recipes submitted by townspeople. Each recipe is tested by Hannah’s cooking class, and things are going according to plan until she is given a cupcake recipe that fails to identify the crucial secret ingredient.
I enjoyed the cupcake mystery. It was an amusing little subplot that gave me major cupcake cravings! The main story was good too. I figured out who the killer was around chapter 23, but didn’t sort out the ‘why’ until the end. I have come to realize that these books are much more enjoyable if I just let Hannah sort everything out for me, instead of trying to beat her to it!
The romances between Hannah and her two suitors, Mike and Norman, seem to be heating up as well, but I can’t see this going on for much longer before she has to make some sort of choice. Otherwise it just becomes a bit forced and not quite believable that either of these guys would be cool with her continuing to date both of them at the same time.
There is also the beginning of a romance for Hannah’s overbearing mother, which should prove to be quite interesting in the next book. It’s about time someone other than Hannah got a boyfriend!
Overall, I enjoyed this book; however, I felt that there was not much in the way of wrapping things up. It sort of felt like the killer was revealed, and then there was a brief chapter on the aftermath without much to it, and then it was over. I was actually expecting one last chapter, and was surprised to realize that the book was finished. If you’ve been reading the other Hannah Swenson books, though, I would recommend that you continue the series with this one.