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Book Critique - Fudge Cupcake Murder (Hannah Swensen Series #5)

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.

Fudge Cupcake Murder is the fifth book in the long-running Hannah Swensen Series by Joanne Fluke published in March of 2004. The plot is set in October of the same year that Andrea got pregnant in Blueberry Muffin Murder, 2 books ago.

Hannah Swensen is back with some more yummy baking treats, while she is busy solving a murder again. This time she is working fast to save her brother-in-law. Bill Todd is running for Sheriff against the current Sheriff, Jim Grant. But someone murders Jim Grant a couple weeks before the final election. And Bill is the primary suspect. Now off goes Hannah on her investigation despite strong objections from Mike Kingston, the resident homicide detective. And we get to solve another case right along her side.

This book was made into the movie as part of Hallmark's Murder, She Baked series. It was released as Murder, She Baked: A Deadly Recipe, in June of 2016. So I was prepared for the scenes in the book to be very similar to what they showed on film. It was no surprise that I found the same differences between the book and movie, as I found when I was reading Blueberry Muffin Murder, and a few more.

But the biggest surprise was to find out about Hannah having another youngest sister, Michelle, who was totally absent in the movie. And the most important one being the shift in the plot ending that was miles away from where the book landed. I wonder why the plot shifted so.

Although Hannah is growing on me, I am still irked at the fact that she is so indecisive between Norman and Mike. To top it, she doesn’t feel jealous when Norman is working along-side another doctor to whom he was once engaged. But, she gets jealous when she sees Mike with another female at a restaurant. It is obvious that she is leaning towards Mike. I just wish Joanne hadn't dangled them both in front of Hannah and create a triangle, that seemed to have dragged on for pretty much the entire series. 

Having not read all the books, I was a bit confused about one character in the book, Max, the owner of Cozy Cow Diary. He was murdered in the very first book, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder. Although I didn’t read the book, at least in the movie he does get killed. The character is mentioned again in this book. Not sure if he is alive or mentioned as a reference to past. But, it did create a confusion. 

I like that Joanne uses a lot of phrases and idioms all through her books, like "goose walking over my grave", "a diamond of the first water", etc. It is interesting because I end up digging more about those phrases and idioms, origin and meaning, making my time with the book all the more longer, and exciting. On flip-side, Joanne has references to films and TV shows scattered along, even an 80s commercial on a perfume, which you can see below.

However, she has one of her character, Winnie Henderson, who was on an all-woman baseball team during second world war. The brief glimpse of what Joanne wrote about Winnie's past reminded me of the characters from the 1992 American sports comedy drama film, A League of Their Own. Perhaps she picked her inside scoop from that film. 

As much as she has her mystery surrounding recipes and baking, Joanne doesn’t forget to share tips and tricks for baking, not just along with her recipes she includes, but also during the plot that she causally inserts via the conversations between her characters. She also gives the reader a Baking Conversion Chart at the end of the book, so if one uses her recipes, we get the right measurements. I also liked that she gives an index of her recipes at the end, it was easier to find the recipe I wanted to make as opposed to searching through the novel. I am learning a lot about baking though.

Again I tried two recipes listed in the book. Although this time I forgot to take a whole lot of pictures while I was actually making it. So here are the finished projects - Hannahs's Bananas and Hole in One - a dessert and a savory dish. If you want to know more about my baking journey of these two dishes, check my blog post here.

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.

Another cozy mystery that would sweeten your tooth while the author takes you on a mystery solving ride while appeasing your stomach, increasing your cravings. Despite the sugar coma I got at the end, I still enjoyed reading this book. 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.

That concludes the second book I have in this series. On to the last one and it's review coming up soon.

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Plot Reveals:

a. Joanne Fluke includes the following recipes in this book - Boggles, Cherry Winks, Cashew Crisps, Hannah's Bananas, Surprise Cookies, Andrea's Pecan Divines, Corn Cookies, Hole in One, Fudge Cupcakes, Apple Orchard Bars, 

b. Dr. Norman Rhodes was engaged to Dr. Beverly Thorndike at one time, long before he started dating Hannah. 

c. One of the contributions to Hannah's cookbook is Fudge Cupcakes recipe by Beatrice Koester's mother-in-law Alma, with a secret ingredient. Hannah and her partner Lisa dig into their doughs and batters to find the secret ingredient. 

d. Hannah says that she had let Delores find a dead body last time. I am guessing the book that I missed reading between Blueberry Muffin Murder and this one, had Delores on the spotlight as opposed to Hannah.

e. Andrea and Bill Todd's calling bell is the Viking's fight song. Having been lived in a small town on the border of Wisconsin and Minnesota for a while, I had seen first hand the rivalry the residents had supporting between Packers and Vikings - town was divided between the two teams all the time. Being a honorary Wisconsin resident, I was bound to support Packers. And yet sometimes I got to hear the Vikings stuff too. And yes, I had heard their fight song too. Been a while heard it though.

f. Delores seems to be dating her dancing partner Winthrop Harrington

g. Jim and Nettie Grant's son, Jamie, was killed in an accident three years ago. He was dating Luanne Hanks who gets pregnant with a baby girl, Suzie. 

h. Joanne has Hannah baking Corn Cookies with Candy Corn. Oh Yuck! Candy Corn is one thing that I don’t think I ever want to eat. Not sure how the cookies would actually taste though. 

2. Sub-Plots:

a. Hannah's family - her cat Moishe; mother Delores Swensen; sister Andrea & brother-in-law Bill Todd & their daughter Tracey; youngest sister Michelle "Shelly", dating Deputy Lonnie. Andrea is ready to give birth around Thanksgiving in this plot. Regina Todd is Andrea's mother-in-law. 

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

c. Hannah's Love Interests - Norman Rhodes, a dentist. Has a mother Carrie Rhodes; Mike Kingston, head of the Winnetoka County Detective Division.

d. Other people in the town - 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; Larry Kruger; Barbara Donnelly, Sheriff's secretary; Nettie Grant, Sheriff Jim Grant's wife, 

e. Delores and Carrie Rhodes partner in the antique business, Granny's Attic, right next door to Hannah's The Cooking Jar.

f. Hannah starts her cookbook, in this plot, and takes recipes from everyone in her town for contribution. 

g. Bill Todd becomes the new Sheriff of Lake Eden at the end of this plot.

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