Cherry Cheesecake Murder by Joanne Fluke

July 1, 2010

Plot summary (with spoilers): A movie crew has come to Lake Eden to make an indie film called Crisis in Cherrywood. This has Lake Eden residents, including Hannah Swensen, sister Andrea, mother Dolores, and the rest of Hannah’s inner circle excited — particularly since the film crew will need extras and walk-ons to fill various roles. To make things even more interesting, one of the producers of Crisis in Cherrywood is Ross Barton, an old college friend and roommate of Hannah’s.

It’s not all smooth sailing for the film crew, however. There are problems with securing the right locations, and the director, Dean Lawrence, who has a reputation for boozing and womanizing, seems to be intent on keeping up with those two pastimes during filming. Moreover, there is some friction on the set when one of the leading actors, Burke Anson, says some damaging things about Lawrence during a TV interview.

Things come to a head when Lawrence tries to demonstrate what he wants from his actors during a particular scene. The scene is to be a suicide, and Burke was to use a gun with the firing pin removed. But when Lawrence pulls the trigger, it turns out to be a real gun, killing the director instantly. Who switched the guns? And was the intended target Lawrence, who was known for his demonstrations with props, or Burke, the man who was supposed to be in the scene in the first place?

Mike Kingston is the acting sheriff during this time because Bill Todd is away at a conference in Miami. He handles the official part of the investigation, while Hannah (of course) gets involved in the unofficial aspects. She goes about solving the crime in the usual way, which consists of asking people questions and trying to figure out the motive.

Along with the murder investigation, one of the main subplots in the book is the answer to the marriage proposals that Hannah received in the last book when both Mike and Norman popped the question. Not surprisingly, Hannah turned them both down, saying that she wasn’t ready to make up her mind yet.

Liked:

  • I thought the movie storyline was pretty good. I know it’s kind of a cliché in these “cozy mysteries” to bring a movie crew to town, but there are so many other clichés in these types of books that one more isn’t going to bother me. Crisis in Cherrywood actually sounded like a decent film, and Fluke revealed so much of the movie plot that the reader could tell she thought it out very carefully.
  • The killer reveal was more believable this time than in books past. At least Fluke didn’t make Hannah out to be some sort of super sleuth in her detective work this time. Instead, Hannah stumbled across the killer’s identity more by accident than by detective work.

Disliked:
*I used to rip Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen novels, but then I discovered that the author is 68 years old. Now I’d feel like I’m tearing into my own mother if I’m too harsh here, so I’m going to tread a bit more lightly.

  • The Hannah-Norman-Mike triangle still grates, and needs to be resolved sooner rather than later. Fluke really shows her age when it comes to handling this relationship, because it’s something straight out of the 1950s. There is absolutely no way in hell these two men would continue to allow themselves to be strung along by Hannah, while being friends with each other in process. And the fact that there’s no sex involved just makes the whole situation even more eye-rollingly annoying.
  • I still cannot stand the way little 6-year-old Tracy is portrayed as some kind of perfect genius. She does everything right, acts like someone three times her age, and is beautiful to boot? Whatever. Fluke is probably idealizing a favorite granddaughter on these pages….
  • There were tons of recipes in this book, which interrupted the flow of the story. I know this series is called “Murder She Baked”, but 14 recipes is going a bit overboard. Do people actually try all the recipes in these books? If I did that, I’d need a year’s supply of the best diet supplement to even have a chance of maintaining my figure!
  • Another potential lover for Hannah. Sigh. She’s depicted as 20-30 pounds overweight, has unruly red hair, and is very condescending to everyone around her. So I have to ask: Why is it that all these men are supposedly swooning over Hannah? I don’t get it.

Rating:

I think the key to enjoying Joanne Fluke’s books is not to hold them to the same standards as other mysteries. After all, these are of the “cozy” variety and have way different elements and conventions than other potboilers. So I’m just going to take these books as they come, warts and all. I guess the fact that I keep reading them even after I say I’m going to stop is an indication that they’re at least enjoyable on some level. I give Cherry Cheesecake Murder 3 stars out of 5.

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