Fudge Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke

March 12, 2009

fudge-cupcake-murder I know I swore off Joanne Fluke’s brand of “cozy mysteries” a long time ago, but I recently started up again. What can I say? There weren’t any other decent audiobook choices at the library, and I needed something to put on one of my ipods for my three weekly trips to the health club! So I picked up Fudge Cupcake Murder, the fifth in the Hannah Swensen mystery series. Surprisingly enough, this one wasn’t as bad as the last (Sugar Cookie Murder), so I was able to get through it relatively quickly.

Plot summary (with possible spoilers): Hannah Swenson is running a night cooking class at Lake Eden High School in order to try out and select a handful of recipes to go into the upcoming Lake Eden Cookbook. Things seem to be going well, as the students are having fun making the recipes and testing them afterwards. But then, as Hannah is taking out the trash after class one night, she finds the body of Sheriff Grant in the dumpster. He’s been murdered!

Unfortunately, the number one suspect in the case is Bill Todd, Hannah’s brother-in-law. Bill was running against Sheriff Grant in the local election for sheriff, so he definitely had a motive for wanting the man dead. Mike Kingston, one of Hannah’s boyfriends, is heading up the investigation and doesn’t want there to be any hint of impropriety in the proceedings. He therefore suspends Bill from active duty until Bill can be cleared.

Hannah’s sister Andrea begs her to conduct her own investigation in an attempt to clear Bill that much quicker. Hannah agrees, and sets out to work. From there, the novel runs the typical course of finding out who else had reasons to want Sheriff Grant dead, questioning suspects, eliminating suspects, and putting the pieces of the puzzle together until the killer is unmasked. Along the way, there are the usual romantic and personal subplots involving Hannah and her Lake Eden friends, as well as lots of dessert recipes for readers to try at home.

My Reaction: As I said, Fudge Cupcake Murder wasn’t as terrible as some of Fluke’s other offerings. This time around, she at least made it difficult to guess who the killer was, which is definitely an improvement over past books. And I thought the motive for the murder was actually pretty well presented, unlike the very thin excuses that this particular author has used in the past.

Unfortunately, there were still a number of quirks and style issues with this book. For instance, I thought Fluke had WAY too many subplots going on in this novel. We had Moishe’s diet restrictions and vitamin challenges, the ever-present Mike vs. Norman love story, a love story and possible scam involving Hannah’s mother, Halloween preparations at The Cookie Jar, and the Lake Eden Cookbook as well. It was hard to keep track of all these things, and made me feel as though Fluke simply didn’t have enough “meat” to carry the murder mystery through the length of the novel.

Moreover, it seems that Fluke herself got overwhelmed with all th subplots, as she left the Lake Eden Cookbook part hanging when she typically wraps everything up nice and neat before the end.

Overall, I thought Fudge Cupcake Murder was one of author Joanne Fluke’s best efforts in the series thus far. Granted, that’s not actually saying a whole heck of a lot, but that’s okay. As long as you don’t expect Ellery Queen, I think this book can be enjoyable. It’s a quick, easy read, so you might want to check it out! I give this book 3 stars out of 5.

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