Carrot Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke

October 12, 2011

Plot summary (from the publisher): Summertime has finally arrived in Lake Eden, Minnesota, and Hannah Swensen, owner of The Cookie Jar bakery, is looking forward to warm, lazy days, eating ice cream, and sharing picnics with friends. But when a family reunion takes a deadly turn, it’s up to Hannah to find a killer…

Between baking up a storm for The Cookie Jar and unravelling the mystery of her cat Moishe’s recent strange behaviour, Hannah Swensen has a lot on her plate. But she’ll always make time for her business partner, Lisa, who’s in the midst of preparing for a big family reunion. Everyone is delighted when Lisa’s long-lost uncle makes a surprise appearance. No one has heard from Gus in twenty-five years – and his arrival has everyone buzzing with excitement. Uncle Gus is immediately the hit of the reunion, telling tales of his great success and flashing money for all to see. He’s almost as popular as Hannah’s scrumptious carrot cake, which is also Gus’ favourite dessert. But the next morning, as the whole family gathers for the group photo, one person is missing. Hannah offers to track down Uncle Gus, but her search leads to a shocking find.

Warning: Spoilers below!


  • The recipes sound delicious, as usual. I swear, one of these days I’m going to get around to trying them out!
  • At this point in the series, the only enjoyment I derive out of the books is rolling my eyes at them and sputtering about how stupid and unrealistic they are. It’s a waste of time for sure, but at least I can turn my brain off for a couple of days while I read.


  • I have never seen an author stick to a formula as stubbornly as Joanne Fluke does. I wouldn’t be surprised if she has actual chapter templates that she fills in for every book. It would look something like this: 1) Create some schmaltzy small-town event for Lake Eden; 2) Have a stranger or long-lost relative show up unannounced; 3) Stranger/relative gets killed; 4) Hannah finds the body; 5) Mike warns Hannah to stay away, Norman and Andrea encourage her to investigate; 6) Hannah interviews everyone with the slightest connection to the victim — and they actually talk to her; 7) Hannah figures out who the killer is, confronts the person, and nearly dies; 8) Mike swoops in for the rescue. *Yawn.*
  • The Mike-Norman-Hannah triangle is beyond tiresome at this point. The situation might be believable if Fluke were writing about the 1880’s, but certainly not for 30-somethings in this day and age. You mean to tell me that these men are perfectly content to “share” Hannah, and that after however many months/years it has been, they’re just fine with asexual pats on the shoulder and a quick kiss here and there? Yeah, right! Fluke really shows her age when she writes about this triangle.
  • Don’t even get me started about Gus having a Honus Wagner baseball card. It is the rarest, most valuable card in the world, with only a handful (less than 200) even produced, let alone circulating. The card would have already been rare when Gus was a kid, so it’s highly unlikely that he would have had one to begin with. Oh, and the part where Gus’s sister clearly recalled exactly what the card looked like 30 years later (even though she wasn’t a baseball fan and didn’t realize the thing was valuable) was just laughably ridiculous.
  • Fluke’s dialogue is just clunky and awkward. Like when Mac’s wife was trying to convince him not to kill her, she said, “I’ve been a legal secretary for 30 years, so I know…” Would a wife really need to explain that to her husband??? As if he didn’t know what kind of job she had or as if she strolled out in nurses uniforms every day instead of business attire suited for a law office?
  • Oh, don’t look now, but Hannah’s perfect niece once again came in first place in some stupid competition.
  • Honestly, there was a bunch of other stuff that I hated, but what’s the point of spelling everything out?


This is a typical paint-by-numbers Hannah Swensen “mystery.” I suppose if you like cozies that deliver the exact same product each and every time, this will be to your taste. I read the book simply because I have it (I have the whole series, actually) and because I like to roll my eyes at Fluke’s grandmotherly ways. I give this one 2 stars out of 5.

4 Responses to “Carrot Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke”

  1. Who was the actual killer?

  2. Mac was, I think. I don’t remember the motive, though.

  3. Oh my goodness, I was laughing out loud the whole time I was reading this. I’m like you…at this point I read the latest books in this series just to see how much more ridiculous they can get. LOVE the chapter template thought – you just nailed it with that!

  4. I started reading this at the DMV. I was bored while reading it there, however, it being the DMV I got 100 pages into it. I see that “Mac” was the killer- can someone tell me the relationship or reason? I can’t bring myself to read the rest of the book but would like to know. I get the rare baseball card thing was in there – unbelievable- but in there- so was it over the card? Would like to know if anyone would care to share;D

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