Plot summary (with spoilers): Sixth in the Hannah Swensen mystery series, Sugar Cookie Murder represents a departure from Fluke’s usual style. The action takes place just a few months after Fudge Cupcake Murder, so many of the subplots in this novel are the same. For instance, Hannah is still working on the Lake Eden Cookbook, Andrea is still pregnant, and Dolores is still dating Winthrop Harrington II, who Hannah thinks is shady just because he’s good-looking and dating his mother.
The only setting in this novel is the Lake Eden Community Center, where most of the residents have gathered for a special Pot Luck Christmas party to sample all the recipes that are going into the cookbook. The usual townsfolk are there, including Hannah, her sisters, Norman, Mike, Lisa, and many others.
New characters are included as well, which, for Fluke’s books, is a pretty clear indication that one of them will end up being the victim. This time around, the newbies are Lake Eden resident Martin Dubinski, and his new wife Brandi Wyen, a gorgeous Las Vegas “dancer”. Brandi shows up at the dinner wearing a $20,000 fur coat, a $50,000 diamond ring, and a very expensive necklace, which immediately inspires whispers and jealousy among the other women in attendance, including Martin’s ex-wife and ex-girlfriend. So when Hannah discovers Brandi’s body in the parking lot, with Dolores’ antique cake knife stuck through her heart, there are plenty of suspects.
Det. Mike Kingston is convinced that the murderer is still inside the community center, since the blizzard that night makes it impossible for anyone to leave. He decides to keep everyone in there while he conducts his investigation — without revealing that a murder has taken place. Hannah of course gets involved as well, and as usual, she solves the case well before Mike does.
- I thought locking down the community center was a good idea. It added a sense of urgency to the proceedings and really gave the mystery an Agatha Christie feel.
- Hannah wasn’t quite as annoying in this book as she was in the last one. It’s important for her to be likable since she’s the main character. She was likable in the first couple books of the series, but had been going downhill after that. It was good to see her climb back up a notch or two here.
- I thought it was total b.s. that Fluke called the book Sugar Cookie Murder, and then passed the whole thing off as an accident! I don’t care that she made Brandi’s death an accident (actually, Lake Eden has far too many murders for a small town anyway), but she should have called the book something else. Sugar Cookie Incident. Sugar Cookie Mystery. Whatever, just not Sugar Cookie Murder.
- Sometimes Fluke’s writing style just irks me to no end. I cannot stand how she over-explains stuff. It’s as though she thinks her readers are idiots that need everything spelled out. For instance, one of the characters was talking to Hannah, and couldn’t think of the right word for what she wanted to say. So Hannah said, “Surreptitious?” And the other character replied, “Thanks, Hannah! I couldn’t think of the word that’s a nice way to say ‘sneaky’.” Uh… cue the eyeroll, please.
- I still don’t buy how Hannah manages to get everyone to spill their secrets to her. If someone like that ever came up to me and started demanding to know my whereabouts, I’d tell her to shove off and I’d wait for the real police to come. Even in this small town setting, I can’t believe that people open up to Hannah so willingly — especially about personal things like affairs and stuff.
- There wasn’t a whole lot of substance to this book. The body wasn’t found until 30% into the story (far too long for a mystery), and more than a quarter of the book was taken up by recipes.
Joanne Fluke made some strides in Sugar Cookie Murder, but there are still too many shortcomings to allow me to give it a decent rating. I’ll continue listening to the audiobook versions because my library has them all, but I don’t really recommend them to others. I give this book 2 stars out of 5.