This book is a throwback to when Hannah first started her cookie business, which was fun to learn. There is also a bit of a mystery that is quite different, which I liked. All in all, it held my interest and was entertaining.
Christmas Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke is the twenty-third novel in A Hannah Swensen Mystery series. It has been three weeks since Hannah's father, Lars passed away. The three Swensen girls (Hannah, Andrea and Michelle) are worried about their mother, Delores who is spending her days in her room. When the girls run out of ideas, Grandma Knudson and Annie Winters stop by with the perfect project for Delores. Essie Granger who owns the Albion Hotel fell down the steps and broke her hip. Essie used to entertain the children of Lake Eden on Saturday's at the hotel with her stories. Essie wishes she could go back and revisit the splendor of the first Christmas Ball she attended at the Albion Hotel where she met her deceased husband, Alton. There was also a Christmas Cake Parade at the event. Grandma Knudson and Annie want Delores to recreate the ball for Essie. Delores has the organizational skills plus the needed charm (to coerce donations from local business owners) to pull off the project in two weeks. Delores agrees if Hannah will bake the cakes and desserts. In Essie's rooms at the hotel, Hannah finds a stack of notebooks that contain an intriguing story. With Essie's permission, Hannah reads the stories to Delores, Michelle and Lisa about a woman, who is pregnant and on the run, who finds a safe haven in Minnesota. They discover that the story is unfinished. Hannah is on a break from college, but she does not wish to return in January. When the family asks what she would like to do for a living, she tells them about her idea for a cookie and coffee shop. Soon, with the help of her family, Hannah's dreams are coming true. Come along for a Christmas adventure in Lake Eden with the Swensen family in Christmas Cake Murder.
I found it delightful to go back and see how The Cookie Jar came to fruition. I found the Christmas Cake Murder to be well-written and engaging. It has a steady pace and a conversational writing style that makes for an easy to read story. All our favorite characters are in the book (Delores, Hannah, Michelle, Andrea, and Lisa). It was nice to get to know our main characters a little better. Delores has suffered a devastating loss and must find a way to move forward with her life with her husband, Lars. Hannah is at a crossroads in her life. She is given an opportunity to make her dream come true. We also get to know more about Lisa, Michelle's friend. There is plenty of cooking and baking (as usual). The recipes for the delectable desserts and meals that Hannah creates for her family are included. I wish the publisher would put them at the end of the book instead of between chapters (it messes with the flow of the story). I liked the story from Essie's journals. It captured my attention and intrigued me. We get a story inside of a story. It is easy to keep track of the two storylines. The mystery is one that plays out instead of one that readers can solve (just go with the flow). The dialogue is off. I find it awkward at times, but I was enjoying the story and just let it go (it was the middle of the night and I was wide awake). I am giving Christmas Cake Murder 4 out of 5 stars. Christmas Cake Murder is a charming book that reminds me of the earlier novels in A Hannah Swensen Mystery series.
In this book we go back to the beginning when Hannah is getting ready to start up her business. A mystery revolving around an unfinished book makes this a nice cozy read.