Book Critique - Candy Cane Murder (Hannah Swensen Series #9.5)

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

For review of all books in the anthology: 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.

Candy Cane Murder is the third novella in the long-running Hannah Swensen Series by Joanne Fluke published in October of 2007, as part of the anthology Candy Cane Murder, titled the same as Joanne's novella. She co-authored this anthology with Laura Levine and Leslie Meier.

It's close to Christmas and everyone is happy to see the Santa Claus, played by the owner of the Bergstrom Department Store. And a little while after he is found dead by the snow bank outside the inn. And who do you know finds the body. None other than our very own amateur detective and full-time baker, Hannah Swensen. Now, Hannah wears her investigator's hat to find who killed Santa Claus.

I like that Joanne uses a lot of phrases and idioms all through her books, like "when pigs fly", "carrot & stick routine", "a slip of a girl", 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.  

She even uses the phrase "A Bone To Pick" which incidentally happens to be the title of another cozy mystery series, Aurora Teagarden Series, by Charlaine Harris, published in October of 2012, a good 5 years after this book was published. 

However in this book, Joanne also expands Hannah's interests to gardening and scientific facts, giving the readers some very interesting knowledge, perhaps one day would come useful when you are on Jeopardy! :) Though she does mention that game show too. :P

There is a card insert for a recipe contest for the next Hannah Swensen book. Joanne Fluke had asked readers to submit cheesecake recipes as part of the contest. I wonder if she used the recipes in her future books. I will only know if I end up reading them sometime in future. 

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 like the previous books, I did try one recipe from this book too. Instead of baking, I went on to try a drink this time. Tried the Pepper Mint Martini (note the space between Pepper and Mint, it is not Peppermint, it is Pepper and Mint in the recipe), that did not go well at all with any of my friends who tried. I am not sure if the Pepper Vodka I tried, I actually used Spicy Vodka, was right or not. Anyways, here was the end result.

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 includes. 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. 

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 third and last book I have in this series. Watch this space for more reviews on this series, if and when I pick up.

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Plot Reveals:

a. Joanne thanks the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore from San Diego, CA, in the preface of this book. I wasn’t sure that the bookstore still existed. Apparently it does. Check them out here.

b. Joanne Fluke includes the following recipes in this book - PepperMint Martinis; Pepper Mint Martinis (both are different); Regency Seed Cakes; a lot of Quiche recipes (Quiche Lorraine, Holiday Quiche); Christmas Date Cookies; Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies; Devil's Food Cookies; Linda's Pecan Shortbread Cookies; Angel Pillows; Candy Cane Bar Cookies; 

2. Sub-Plots:

a. Hannah's family - her cat Moishe; mother Delores Swensen; sister Andrea & brother-in-law Sheriff Bill Todd & their daughters Tracey and Bethany; youngest sister Michelle "Shelly", dating Deputy Lonnie Murphy. Hannah's full name happens to be Hannah Louise Swensen.

b. Hannah's business family - Lisa Herman Beeseman, her partner, married to Herb Beeseman.

c. Hannah's sometime boyfriends who seem to have proposed to her between Fudge Cupcake Murder plot and this one, but she hadnt accepted either one - Norman Rhodes, a dentist; Mike Kingston, head of the Winnetka 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; Alexandra "Alex" Matthews, Sally's assistant; Larry Kruger; Barbara Donnelly, Sheriff's secretary; Carrie Rhodes, Norman's mother; Regina Todd, Bill's mother;

e. As of Fudge Cupcake Murder, Delores and Carrie Rhodes partner in the antique business, Granny's Attic, right next door to Hannah's The Cooking Jar. Delores seems to be dating her dancing partner Winthrop Harrington.

f. Hannah's cookbook has been completed in this plot and is titled Lake Eden Cookbook. 


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