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Book Critique - Blueberry Muffin Murder (Hannah Swensen Series #3)

For review of all books in this series: Go here.

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation: A cozy mystery with a pinch of family dynamics, a twist of love triangle along-side a huge dash of mystery, is a recipe that would not only sweeten your tooth while appeasing your stomach, but also increasing your cravings and keep your grey cells active.

Blueberry Muffin Murder is the third book in the long-running Hannah Swensen Series by Joanne Fluke published in February of 2001. 

I was first introduced to Hannah Swensen in the Murder, She Baked series of TV films made for the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel during 2015 and 2017. Alison Sweeney had portrayed the role of Hannah Swensen in all of the five movies produced so far. And now finally I got to pick one of the books that became the basis for the series of movies, and my review on it.

Normally I prefer to read a series from the beginning, but this time I am starting at #3, as that is what I have at home. If I like this as a book as well, probably I will start it from the beginning, if not just finish the three books I have in this series and put a full stop there. :)

Hannah Swensen is in full-speed geared up to prepare a feast for the Lake Eden's Winter Carnival festival. However, that honor goes to celebrity chef, Connie "Mac" MacIntyre, the "Cooking Sweetheart" of America. But someone murders Connie Mac and now it's up to Hannah to solve case before the cops do it, so she can get her bakery back before she gets bankrupted in the process.

Couple of reasons why it took so long to pick up these books, although I normally read the books immediately if I liked a movie. In fact, in my post with regards to various cozy mystery movie series airing on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel in 2016, I had given this movie series last position among the four movie series that had aired in June of 2016.

It’s not that I didn’t like the movies. Alison Sweeny was not a particular favorite of mine. Her action sometimes came across false and plastic. To add to that her character, Hannah, was so indecisive between who should be her steady love interest - Mike Kingston, the detective or Norman Rhodes, the dentist. However, now at least in movies she is engaged to Mike Kingston, and also her recent series, Chronicle Mysteries Series for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries in 2019, changed my mind. It also made me realize that I should not judge a book by it's cover, or in this case, by the actors who portray the roles. Although I am curious to see whom did Joanne pair her with in the books, hoping eventually she did.

The other reason being that, I take up on cozy mysteries when I want to get a respite from intense fiction or mystery or romance plots, have a little change when those books overwhelm me and my emotions. And usually I fill them with Murder, She Wrote books by ghostwriter Donald Bain or read the young adult fiction books by Rick Riordan or Chris Colfer and the likes. Since I already had quite a few of those books to read, picking up this series took a back burner. 

I have to truly say that I did warm up to Hannah Swensen. Although her mother Delores and sister Andrea sounded more whiny in the book as opposed to how they were portrayed in the movie. This book had not been made into a movie as part of Hallmark's Murder, She Baked series. Now that Alison moved on to Chronicle Mysteries, I am not expecting any more of these books made into movies.

However, I see quite a lot of differences between the books and the movies so far made. First the city that Hannah Swensen lives in is called Lake Eden, Minnesota; while the movie has it as Eden Lake, Minnesota, which actually exists for real. In the book, Hannah lives in a condo in a building of four units. In the movie, it seemed like she is living in an independent home. Lisa Herman is Hannah's helper in the movie, while she is her partner in the book, at least from this book onwards.

Hannah's sister Andrea is a real estate agent in the book while she is an interior decorator in the movie. Also Moishe seems to not like Hannah's mother Delores, which again is different in the movie. And of course the movies did move into 2015 and beyond with respect to technology, fashion and life in general, at least 15 years past the first book was published. But I do have to mention this from the book. I didn’t realize there were electric vehicles in 2001. Joanne has Hannah driving a truck that gets hooked to an electric outlet when on stand mode. Interesting!!

Not only that, if I had read this book in 2001 and wrote a review, I am sure it would be different. Since I am reading almost 19 years later, I cant help but see and feel how different world was back then, and how different it is now. Something that was new and fresh had become a given now. It did cause a pang in my heart for all the forgotten and faded.

One thing I did notice. Joanne had her characters, at least Hannah and Andrea, carry a pair of shoes in their purses, so they could change from their outdoor boots to the shoes when they enter a house or an inn, to be able to walk indoors. I always wondered, specially in movies, how do people walk around outdoors and indoors without dragging the outdoors to indoors during snow or rain season. At least one solution Joanne gave us, although it begs to ask, how do the men do?

Joanne had provided an email id at the end of the book, through which readers could contact her. It's obviously an old one, since no one  I sent a test email to that address, just for the kicks of it to see if the email still exists. So far haven't heard back. :P

There is gentle humor all around the plot, even though there is morbid air of the murder on the edges, and I must say with several sweet treats that would keep your taste buds active along with the grey cells in your brain. Although I was left hungry too at the end, what with all the food-talk that was woven through.

As you all know, one of my other passion is cooking. Since Joanne provided quite a few recipes in the book, I decided to try a few. What better one to try than the one that this book is named after - Blue Blueberry Muffins. I am not a baker normally, but the recipe was simple enough to do and I managed to make them moderately successfully.

Another recipe I tried was what the author Joanne called it as one of Hannah's cooking mistakes, her famed Grilled Cream Cheese Sandwiches. Interestingly enough this past September, when my youngest brother's family visited me, my SIL, Sumina, showed me these. And I got hooked. Believe me, if you try them once, you want to eat them always. Yum! Yum!

For my complete cooking post, go here.

A truly cozy mystery that would sweeten your tooth while the author takes you on a mystery solving ride while appeasing your stomach, increasing your cravings. However, for someone like me who doesn’t eat a whole lot of sweet stuff, it felt a little over loaded. I got sugar coma just reading about them and was left really hungry. I did enjoy baking in the end. So for now, I will read the remaining two books I have in the series, but will put it on hold to read the entire series though.

But, if you are into cozy mysteries, love food that comes with romance, and die for a happy ending by solving crimes, Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen series is the one to go for.

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Plot Reveals:

a. Author Joanne Fluke, in the acknowledgements section, mentions about Hannah Swensen's official website - www.murdershebaked.com but the website is getting re-routed to https://joannefluke.com/, the author's official site. Perhaps they changed it once the movies started being filmed with the same prefix in the title.

b. Joanne Fluke includes the following recipes in this book - Peanut Butter Melts, Blue Blueberry Muffins, Twin Chocolate Delights, Little Snowballs, Grilled Cream Cheese Sandwiches, Lisa's White Chocolate Supremes, Short Stack Cookies and Multiple-Choice Bar Cookies.

c. Hannah decides to write a cookbook featuring her recipes at the end of this plot; while Delores and Carrie decide to go into antique business together. 

2. Sub-Plots:

a. Hannah's family - her cat Moishe; mother Delores Swensen; sister Andrea & brother-in-law Bill Todd & their daughter Tracey. Andrea is pregnant as of this plot. 

b. Hannah's business family - Lisa Herman, her partner; 

c. Hannah's sometime boyfriends - Norman Rhodes, a dentist. Has a mother Carrie Rhodes; Mike Kingston, head of the Winnetka County Detective Division, and Bill is his partner.

d. Connie Mac's entourage - Janie Burkholtz, her personal assistant; Paul MacIntyre, her husband; Spencer, her Chauffer; Alan Carpenter, her lawyer; Rhea Robinson, manager at Connie Mac's new store; Helen, her cook; Kristi Hampton, her beautician; 

e. Some of the other townfolk we meet - Mayor Bascomb; Howie Levin, Lake Eden's only lawyer; Mr. Purvis, Principal of Jordan High; Sally Laughlin, chef at the inn & her husband Dick, infant son Danny; Marge Beeseman, the Librarian; Edna; Kurt Howe at Savory Press; Alexandra "Alex" Matthews, Sally's assistant; Larry Kruger; Sherriff Grant; Danielle & Boyd;

3. Grammatical / Character / Location / Geographical / Historical / Mythological Errors:

a. On Pg. 13, Hannah muses that the Winter Carnival sweatshirt only had the legend as "Lake Eden", as opposed to "Lake Eden Winter Carnival" as the manufacturer had a ten-letter minimum. However, on Pg. 23, while looking at the banner, Hannah muses that how much the mayor had to pay extra for getting the entire message, "Lake Eden Welcomes You To The Winter Carnival", since the manufacturer had a ten-word limit. Very confusing here if it is a ten-word or ten-letter limit. If it is ten-word limit, then the sweatshirts could have the entire legend and mayor would not have had to pay more since all the words were below 10 each. If it is a ten-letter limit then it makes more sense, and that the author made a mistake on Pg. 23.

b. Most part of the book, the author Joanne, keeps referring to the town as Eden Lake and Lake Eden alternatively. 

c. On Pg. 118, 2nd line from bottom, shouldn’t it be "…must be in love with you…"?

d. On Pg. 224, Line 23, shouldn’t it be "…I'll go with you…"?

e. On Pg. 238, Line 23, it should be "…not going to be happy about…"

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