Thursday, February 16, 2017

REVIEW: Christmas Caramel Murder

Christmas Caramel Murder
Author: Joanne Fluke

Christmas Caramel Murder is the 20th book in the Hannah Swensen series. This story is a novella of only about 200 pages or so, including the recipes sprinkled throughout the book.

Hannah's new husband, Ross, asks her why The Cookie Jar won't be selling Christmas caramels for the holidays. Hannah replies that she and Lisa, her business partner and good friend, believe the candies they made last holiday season are bad luck. When she made them last Christmas, she found a bag of them near a dead body. Then she settles in to tell Ross the whole story of the murder case and a Christmas spirit that appeared to her.

This story at first reminded me a lot of a prior Hannah Swensen holiday novella, Candy Cane Murder. Hannah saw something in the snow and walked through the drifts down into a ditch and found a body. Both stories started out the same with a naughty Claus dead in the snow, but in Christmas Caramel Murder, it's the local slut who was playing Mrs. Claus in the Christmas play who got iced.

This story was short, but enjoyable. It's pretty much fluff with lots of recipes and subplot like what they are baking for the holidays, the broken popcorn machine at the high school and Norman's new huge television. The mystery is simple and not that involved. But, this is a cozy fluff and light mystery is ok. That's how it's supposed to be. This would be a great cozy to read in front of the nice fire on Christmas Eve.

I can't help feeling a little disappointed in this book. Mostly because it's so short. If you leave out the subplot unnecessary-to-the-mystery portions and the recipes, the mystery itself is maybe 50 pages tops. The rest is fluff stuff. And I found some parts of the plot to be just too cheesy -- like Hannah's father appearing as a ghost visiting her to help solve the murder. Really? At one point he told her to throw a pen at him to prove he was a spirit. Ummmm.....yeah. A bit too hokey for me. Plus, this story is told to her new husband, Ross, as a flashback. The parts with Mike and Norman still acting all in love with her were just a bit weird and uncomfortable. I dunno....just seems like maybe Joanne Fluke wrote this hurridly without paying too much attention. I was left feeling like she took the basic plot of Candy Cane Murder, replacing the victim with a woman and making little tweaks here and there to form a new story on the fly. After 21 books, the series might just be getting a bit stale.

I'm surprised this wasn't another holiday collection like Candy Cane Murder that also included stories by Linda Levine and Leslie Meier. I could have justified the $20 price tag of the hardback book a little more if it had more than just the short, fluffy Hannah Christmas tale. But, it was an enjoyable read. I checked it out of the library, rather than buying it.

A new Hannah book, Banana Cream Pie Murder, is coming out February 28th! I have a soft spot in my heart for Hannah because this series is the one that started my love for cozy mystery novels. 21 novels later, I still enjoy reading about the gang from Lake Eden. :)

On to Banana Cream Pie murder -- then I'm caught up with this series and awaiting Joanne Fluke finishing another book! :)

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