Key Lime Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke

May 15, 2011

Plot summary (from the publisher): It’s Tri-County fair time and Lake Eden, Minnesota, is buzzing with more than mosquitoes. Hannah Swensen, owner of The Cookie Jar, is hot on the trail of a killer whose perfect carnival prize would be getting away with murder…

It promises to be a busy week for Hannah Swensen. Not only is she whipping up treats for the chamber of commerce booth at the fair; she’s also judging the baking contest; acting as a magician’s assistant for her business partner’s husband; trying to coax Moishe, her previously rapacious feline, to end his hunger strike, and performing her own private carnival act by juggling the demands of her mother and sisters.

With so much on her plate, it’s no wonder Hannah finds herself on the midway only moments before the fair closes for the night. As the lights click off, she realizes that she’s not alone among the shuttered booths and looming carnival attractions. After hearing a suspicious thump, she goes snooping – only to discover Willa Sunquist, a student teacher and fellow bake contest judge, dead alongside an upended key lime pie. But who would want to kill Willa and why? Before long Hannah is sifting through motives and a list of suspects which include a high school student Willa flunked, the hot-blooded brothers of a disqualified beauty contestant, a rodeo cowboy, a baking competitor who failed to win her yearly blue ribbon, and the college professor Willa was dating.

As fair week draws to a close, Hannah cranks up the heat, hoping that the killer will get rattled and make a mistake. If that happens she intends to be there, even if it means getting on a carnival ride that could very well be her last…


  • Hannah seemed to be much less of a know-it-all in this book than in previous volumes. She didn’t figure out who the killer was, nor did she even so much as correct anyone’s grammar (not out loud, anyway). That was a refreshing change, for sure.
  • The Hannah/Mike/Norman triangle was kept to a minimum. Yes, there were still the usual eye-roll inducing passages about how both of the men are just crazy about her and about how she can’t decide which one to choose, but I guess that’s to be expected at this point. At least there were no dueling dates or anything too ridiculous.
  • There were no scenes of precocious Tracy talking like a full-grown adult! Hallelujah!


  • The murder didn’t take place until about 1/3 of the way through the book, and even then Hannah didn’t really investigate. Why does Fluke wait so long to get to the point? It’s not as though she spent that time developing Willa’s character or setting up possible motives for the murder. She just went on and on about the stupid fair. Yawn.
  • Do Hannah and her immediate circle have to win EVERY SINGLE CONTEST ever held in Lake Eden? Norman won the photography contest, Lisa’s mother-in-law won the baking contest, Andrea and Tracy won the mother-daughter lookalike contest in their matching t shirts, Michelle won the beauty pageant. Give me a break!!!
  • The cat story was predictable right from the beginning, and didn’t deserve the number of pages Fluke devoted to it.


I have grown accustomed to the relative cheesiness of the Hannah Swensen mystery series, so I always lower my expectations when reading these books. As such, I found Key Lime Pie Murder to be your average Joanne Fluke offering. Heavy on small-town neighborliness, and light on actual plot. At least the writing is competent and the story flows along at a decent clip. I give this book 3 stars out of 5.

Leave a Reply