Christmas Cake Murder

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 28 Sep 2018

Member Reviews

I have never read any of the Hannah Swensen mysteries front to back, but I did have the opportunity to read this installment in the series and it did not disappoint.
  This one was especially satisfying to read because it provided the backstory of Hannah and how her set up came to be, and how she established herself in Lake Eden after her father's passing.
The intrigue was in a set of notebooks found while helping an elderly friend in the community and the twists and turns that take the reader to the conclusion.
  Very smooth, entertaining and now I feel like baking some cookies!
This ARC was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for my thoughts and opinions on the book.
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Christmas Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke is the latest release in the Hannah Swensen series of cozy mysteries.  If you're not familiar with them, Hannah is a baker in small-town Minnesota, who (along with her family and friends) gets involved in all kinds of mysteries.

In this story, we venture off the main series and go about a decade back in time, to when Hannah is in grad school and her bakery, The Cookie Jar, doesn't even exist yet.  The town of Lake Eden is preparing for Christmas, but the Swensen family isn't in much of a holiday spirit since Hannah's father suddenly passed away.  Hannah and her sisters are managing, but they've tried everything to engage their mother, Delores, without much success.  But then friends come by with the perfect Yuletide project that will help Delores and her girls rekindle the holiday spirit: the chance to fulfill a dream of Essie, an elderly friend, by recreating a Christmas Ball from Lake Eden's days gone by, complete with a Christmas cake parade!

As they plan this magnificent event, the Swensen women uncover a set of Essie's old notebooks, in which she's penned an amazing mystery story.  But as they progress through the tale, they come to believe it's not all fiction, and they have to figure out what that means for Essie, Lake Eden, and the Christmas Ball!

Now, if you don't want spoilers, proceed with caution, especially if you aren't caught up on the full series but plan to read in order!

There are two things I really liked about this book.  One is the twist of the mystery... usually in Lake Eden, someone is found dead and the residents have to solve the case.  But in this case, the mystery comes to them in writings from the past.  I was hooked on Essie's writings from the very beginning and though I suspected the answers, it ended up a little differently and it was fun to figure out.

The other thing I enjoyed was the look at a younger Hannah.  It was interesting to see how events unfolded to send her on her baking path, and it was refreshing NOT to have her in the middle of a romantic mess.  (Well, there are some references to a relationship gone bad for her, but it's before the Mike-Norman-Ross fiasco that has everyone frustrated.)  We got to see Hannah with her mother and sisters, finding new family dynamics after the loss of Mr. Swensen, and new paths for some of the characters.

What I didn't love as much: the writing.  Many long-time fans of this series have noted in reviews that the writing seems to have changed in recent years, and that the quirky conversational tone of the earlier books has been replaced by somewhat stilted dialogue.  Unfortunately, that's still true here.  Conversations between characters didn't flow naturally, and there were some sections with long unwieldy descriptions.  One example was when it took Hannah a page and a half to tell another character how to turn on a gas fireplace and how that worked.  It was distracting.

The interesting thing about this was that Essie's tale (the story-within-a-story) wasn't this way... it was well paced and really interesting.  I assume the same person or team wrote both the main book and Essie's story, so it perplexes me that Hannah's dialogue has become so cumbersome. 

Now... this wasn't my favorite title in the series.  But I care about this community and these characters (isn't it funny how real they become to the reader?!?), and I'd really love to see the story, with another book or two, come to a satisfying end, or at least get back on course with the plucky Hannah and snappy dialogue.  So I will continue to read and hope this series comes full circle.  I give this 2.5 stars, rounded to 3 because I'm still invested in Hannah's story!

If you love a good holiday-themed mystery, and if you're a loyal reader of this series, you'll want to pick up this title for the sweet story and the insight into Hannah's background and Swensen family history!  Christmas Cake Murder is available now!

(Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for a complimentary review copy of this title.  All opinions are my own.)
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This was a good prequel to the series. It takes place in the aftermath of Hannah father's death, Hannah comes home from college to help her mother and sisters and we find out how she comes to open The Cookie Jar, buy her Cookie Truck and move into her apartment. All the while trying to solve the mystery of one of Lake Eden's residents.
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This was a cute little cozy.  Let me tell you what I did like.  I like the characters.  Hannah and her family sound like nice, sweet people.  Actually everybody in Lake Eden  sound friendly.  The mystery was light and intriguing.  The writing style is easy-to-read.  Now, let me tell you why I gave it 3 starts instead of more.  The mystery was a very small part of the book.  In fact, I kept waiting for a crime and there really wasn't one (at least that involved Hannah or Lake Eden).  They other thing that bothered me was the continuous use of "dear".  Hannah's Mom called everyone dear and did one or two other characters.   I haven't really known anyone that calls everyone dear.  The other thing that got on my nerves was how formal people seemed to be.  By that I  mean the use of names.  In one paragraph Hannah's Mom called her Hannah as did her sister Michelle and Michelle's friend.  Really?  Pronouns weren't used much.  That is why I'm giving this 3 starts.  I have read other books by this author and I don't remember these things bothering me.
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Christmas Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke is a prequel to her Hannah Swensen Mystery series. The story begins three weeks after the death of Hannah's father (not by murder in case you're curious) and explains how she became the owner of her coffee shop. After the death, her mother's grief has caused her to give up all her many interests and take to her bed. Since three weeks is much too long for grieving apparently, Hannah, her sisters, and friends devise a plan to snap her out of it. Another woman who was injured while trying to navigate the steps in the abandoned inn in which she lives has fallen and is now in a hospice. She has talked about the heyday of the inn and the Christmas Ball that had occurred there some twenty years ago. Hannah and friends will have her mother help organize a ball.

In fairness, cosies like this one are more a holiday treat for me and I rarely follow a series. This is, in fact, the first book I have read by Joanne Fluke. I did think it was well-written overall although the dialogue was a bit stilted. But I guess I was hoping for more felonious Xmas cheer and less details about baking,cooking, eating, and other domestic details of life in the Swensen household. The most interesting part of the book for me was a book-in-the-book written by Essie, the woman who fell at the inn. Hannah reads the story in small installments throughout the novel and she and her family wonder if it's fiction or based on reality. Unfortunately, Essie hadn't finished the story and it is only at the end, we learn the answer.

Anyway, for me, this book was just okay but I suspect, judging from other reviews I have read, that it works very well for fans of the series. For anyone else, I would suggest either give it a miss until or unless you are planning to read the series.  

Thanks to Netgalley and Kensington Books for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review
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A Christmas Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke is another wonderful installment in the Hannah Swensen series and this one takes you back to the beginning. I highly recommend this book to anyone that loves food, murder and family.
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I honestly don’t think there is any book in this series that I haven’t loved from beginning to end. It is always one of the first out of my mouth whenever anyone asks me for a good mystery series. Readers fall in love with Hannah and the rest of the Lake Eden characters. Plus the amazing recipes are always a bonus. The latest edition to this series didn’t disappoint in the least. In fact it makes me want to go back to book one and have an all day marathon re read. 
I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book provided by NetGalley.
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The Christmas Cake Murder turns the clock back to before Hannah opened her bakery, The Cookie Jar.

In a short prequel set before the rest of the books in the series, Hannah returns home from college to attend her father’s funeral. Her mother, Delores, is understandably depressed so she is given a task to take her mind off her troubles. She is asked to help a local older woman, Essie, who has broken her hip. Essie wants to return to her youth by recreating the old-fashioned Christmas Cake Ball. Delores, Hannah and her sisters work together on the project by renovating an old ballroom and baking lots of cakes. Most of the cake and frosting recipes are shared with the reader. 

Meanwhile, Hannah decides to drop out of college and forego her dream of becoming a college professor. Why quit college? Over a man (foreshadowing the issues many had with the previous book in the series). Also, the family reads a unfinished crime novel by Essie they find in her room.

The mystery in the Christmas Cake Murder is painfully obvious from the beginning. However, Essie’s crime story is good and drives readers to finish the book. It was also nice to hear why and how Hannah started her business. In addition, there is a heartwarming Christmas story ending. However, the lack of any mystery in a cozy mystery is a serious plot problem. For completists out there (like me) who have read the entire series, this is an interesting read. For others, I wouldn’t recommend it. Do not start the series here—start at the delightful series beginning. 2 1/2 stars rounded up to 3 stars.

Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.
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Welcome back to Lake Eden to visit Hannah and her family in this prequel to the series. After Hannah's father passes away, her mother goes into a depression. Organizing an charity event to help a needy friend pulls her back and along the way we learn how Hannah's cookie shop came to be. Light on mystery but long on charming backstories, this book will satisfy true fans of the series. Others will enjoy the delicious recipes.
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In this yearly holiday treat from Joanne Fluke, we are taken back in time and meet Hannah before the Cookie Jar , Norman , and Mike. Hannah helps and elderly resident of Lake Eden recreate a precious Christmas memory. This is a wonderful Christmas story weaved with mystery. This is a perfect holiday story that pulls at your heart strings. I highly recommend this book.
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While this is numbered book 23, it  is more like the first book. If you’re new to the Hannah Swensen series, read this one first.  You don’t have to worry about picking up a book so far along because it’s a great introduction to the characters, location and how Hannah started her business. I have seen books numbered 1/2 before, and that might have been a good way to number this. 

This book has an interesting story within  the story that takes years ago. Hannah and her mom discovered some old notebooks when the are picking up things from home for another character,  Essie, who has fallen, broken her hip and is recuperating in a hospice of all places. (She is not terminally ill.) The journals are fascinating to Hannah’s family, and and Hannah  is reading them to her mom and sisters. She had permission from Essie who said they were from a novel she had been writing years ago. The ending wraps the book up nicely. 

I have read many of the books in this series and I have enjoyed them all. This was a good  addition.
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Getting back to Lake Eden, MN & hearing from my old friend, Hannah Swensen is like slipping on the most comfortable pair of slippers. I wonder why I ever left.

In case you didn’t know, I’m a huge fan of the Hannah Swensen series. While in college, I was reading way too much James Patterson & watching way too much CSI. I began to feel paranoid, nervous & I was in dire need of an escape. One day, I spotted Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder & thought to myself, now that looks different.

I remember looking at the bright yellow cover & thinking, this seems nice. I love baking & I do love a good mystery, so I guess I’ll try it. Well, I freaking LOVED it. Instantly, I was hooked. I spent the summer catching up on the series & I was first in line to buy Fudge Cupcake Murder when it was published.

I’ll be honest. The last few years I haven’t kept up with the series. Initially, I was Really Into it but none of my friends were reading it. That sounds so lame, but I really love talking about what I read with my friends. Thus began my unintentional break from Hannah Swensen.

I turned back to my old stand-by murder mysteries with some chick lit thrown in to keep things light. Then, I found my bookstagram community. I didn’t even know these types of books are categorized as “cozy mysteries”. But, that’s EXACTLY what they are. This was like an Oprah A-HA moment for me. I had found my fellow cozy lovers & my obsession had a name!

Maybe you’re new to cozies, but let me tell you there is no better time to start the Hannah Swensen series. Christmas Cake Murder is a prequel. Yes, that means read this book first & then you can binge the entire Hannah series. If you’re already familiar with the series, then you’ll enjoy Christmas Cake Murder too. The story takes place right before Hannah opens her bakery, The Cookie Jar.

If you’re a baker like me, you’ll swoon over the recipes featured throughout the books. I’ve made at least one recipe from every book thus far. To this day, I still I LOVE the chocolate chip cookie recipe with cornflakes. Another thing I love about this series is that food is a central character. Hannah and her family are making a pot of coffee at 8 PM & are eating the second round of cobbler topped with ice cream. If there’s dialogue, there’s a discussion about food. Some people may find the food talk a bit excessive, but I like it. These are my kind of people!
It’s been so long since I read a Hannah book that reading this prequel is like starting over. Immediately, I’m transferred back to Joanne’s fluid writing. It’s so easy to fall into her books. Joanne’s books are so cozy, warm, inviting & filled with food, friends & family, how could you not want to be a part of it? And why the heck did I ever leave it?

Christmas Cake Murder is a great addition to my beloved series. Hannah has a wonderful family & it’s so cool to meet them when they were a bit “younger”. Hannah lives in Lake Eden, MN  & it is a quaint little town full of friendly people. Sure, there are murders, but there has to be a mystery to solve, right? Christmas Cake Murder is where Hannah starts her sleuthing & really starts her life. After reading this prequel, it does make the rest of the series a bit more special.

I am Really Into This book & I am Really Into This series. Christmas Cake Murder rekindled my love for this fantastic series.

You’ve got to check out the fantastic Hallmark movies based on Joanne’s books. They are a TON of fun!

Special thanks to Joane Fluke, Kensington Books & NetGalley for providing our copy in exchange for an honest & fair review.
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There are three things I love to indulge in when the weather starts to get a little colder: cozy mysteries, delicious desserts and Christmas parties. The newest book in Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swenson series, “The Christmas Cake Murder,” is a great combination of all three. I am a recent convert to this series, mostly drawn in by the fact that every book has a delicious dessert in the title. In fact, after 23 books, I think Fluke needs congratulated on the fact that she still is able to come up with a new dessert every time a book comes out!

I was a little worried when I got this book, mostly because I haven’t had the chance to “polish off” all of the mysteries in this series. But, thankfully, this book is a prequel and it is perfect for dedicated fans and people picking up one of these books for the first time. It still has all the elements of a Hannah Swenson mystery including lots of decadent dishes, quaint scenes of small town life and lots of Swenson family antics as Hannah and her mother, Dolores, push and prod each other into happier people.

But while I loved following the adventures of Hannah and her pushy mother, I was disappointed that the book’s mystery didn’t make itself known until I got through 90% of the book.  Clues that would ultimately help solve the mystery were scattered throughout the story but ultimately, there wasn’t anything to be worried about. The main source of adrenaline in the story was the passages of a thriller novel that Essie had started writing a long time ago. While I applaud Fluke for trying something a little different, it just didn’t feel like a mystery to me and that was a little disappointing.

With the family, snow, and Christmas season, this book was an extra cozy addition to the series. As always, there are a number of delicious recipes and I have already marked a few for when the winter season gets a little closer. I am especially excited to give the Minty Dream cookies a shot this Christmas . This was a pleasant addition to the series, I just wish that this really intriguing mystery could have had a bigger part of it.
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I went into this book hoping that it would possibly capture the charm that the first half-dozen or so books in this series had, but I was once again let down. This book felt like Ms. Fluke was just grasping at straws, desperately looking for a story – any story - to try and keep the series alive. There was way, way too much “telling not showing” in this one. For example, did we REALLY need to know that the Hannah was serving five types of sliced cheese, how exactly the cheese plate was built (I never would have guessed they used a knife AND a cutting board!), and that napkins were actually folded paper towels? No, we really didn't, but it filled up six never-ending and entirely skim-worthy pages. And that kind of “stalling” writing kept happening repeatedly throughout the story. Did we NEED five pages of Hannah's breakfast making-routine (interrupted by three pages of bird-watching talk) and then seven more pages of breakfast-making talk. UGH. As a reader, when stories ramble on about nonsensical details such as what the characters ate in crazy long detail, I assume that the author was just bulking the story up to reach a publisher-set word count. So disappointing considering how great the first few books of this series were. Is Ms. Fluke really writing these books, or are they being ghostwritten? They feel like they're being written by someone else entirely. 

This story about Essie was good, and it could have carried the book because it was interesting and I didn't actually figure out who shot her until the end, but that story was ruined by the nonsensical ramblings about Hannah's day to day life that did nothing but make me skim page after page, hoping for something worth focusing on. 

And once again this book had more recipes than any one book should ever have, making me wonder just how the publisher can justify charging such a high price for these books when half of the content is totally useless. 

I tried, Ms. Fluke, I really did. I went into this story hoping and praying it would recapture the magic because I loved the first books in the series and will go back and re-read them, but I'm just done with this series. 

I will not be reviewing this on Amazon or Goodreads, but want the publisher to hear the voice of people who are so frustrated by the way this series is being ruined.
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Christmas Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke
Have read most all of other books in the series, can be read as standalone also.
This one starts out when Hannah is just in college and they've lost their dad. Delores, their mom is taking it bad spending a lot of time in bed, napping.
One day her friends come up with a suggestion that might help get her going again. Only she'd be able to handle the huge event.
She accepts and we learn about how it all came together and what she has to do to make the event a huge accomplishment.
What I like also is that Essie has notebooks of stories she had written and it's played out by other characters. Love getting two stories in one book.
Love hearing how the cookie shop started-had no idea after 25 books. 
Like hearing of the regular day when their dad was alive and how he'd spill food on his clean shirt-reminds me so much of my husband also.
There are many components to the Christmas Ball and a cake parade is one of them, sounds so yummy and colorful. 
Loved lerning new things: spray Pam in spoon before measuring molasses! it won't stick!
Quite the mystery surrounding Essie, glad it got solved! Conversion tables at th eend of the book. 
Recipes included after every other chapter that relate to the topics in those chapters.
Received this review copy from Kensington Books via Netgalley and this is my honest opinion.
#ChristmasCakeMurder #NetGalley
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Christmas Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke is the 23rd book in the Hannah Swensen series, and an enjoyable read.  This book goes back in time before opening of The Cookie Jar.  It's Christmas time, and Hannah agrees to help with the Christmas Ball to honor Essie Granger.  Hannah is determined to learn all she can about Essie, but when fiction become fact, Hannah is determined to find answers.    I found this book interesting,  I enjoyed getting a look at how The Cookie Jar started.  Looking forward to reading the next book in the series.  I recommended this book and series for cozy book lovers.  Recipes included.  

I received this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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I will always read Joanna Fluke, there I have said it and I no longer feel guilty. I have read and reviewed all of the books and the past couple have been the brunt of some critical reviews. Christmas Cake Murder falls into the “let’s say the same set of facts over and over and over” it makes me wonder if for this short novel (novella) Joanne was told it has to be over 200 pages and she went back through and added in the same points so that the reader would not forget that Essie is in the hospice wing of the hospital but only because she has a broken hip, is not terminal but just cannot climb the flight of steps to the two rooms she occupies in the hotel. This is not a spoiler and will also not be the last time you hear about this. 
The recipes in this one like all of the others look super easy and delicious. Many made my mouth water. A fun easy read in all, but I wish there was more Murder and intrigue.

I received an ARC from the publisher and chose to write a fair and honest review.
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A Christmas Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke is the latest in the Hannah Swensen  mystery series. 
Fluke takes us back in time to how Hannah came to start the cookie shop. It is also before Moishe and her love triangle.
It is a quick read and will get you in the mood  for Christmas. 
There is of course, a mystery, along with humor, and some yummy recipes.
I enjoyed the story though it was different then any of the others in this series and I have read all of them. I feel that Fluke is back as I have been some what disappointed in the last couple books.
I was given an ARC from Netgalley for an honest review.
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Lovers of the Hannah Swenson murder/recipe series will certainly be in for a real treat with Joanne Fluke's lasted release in the series, Christmas Cake Murder.

This book veers from Fluke's usual mystery as it opens with our heroine Hannah Swenson still in college, her sister Michelle and her friend Lisa in High School, her sister Andrea pregnant with her first child and sadly with Hanna's dad's recent passing.  During the story we learn how Hannah moved from a college student to a bakery owner.  A great backstory idea I might add!

Intertwined is a story about a Lake Eden elderly resident, Essie Granger.  She has fallen on hard times and the whole community comes together to create a fundraiser called the Christmas Ball which is a party she had attended years ago. They also try to duplicate a Christmas Cake Parade in which there are multiple cakes with candles walked around the room....see all the yummy recipes which are gathered in the book for holiday baking ideas.

Essie had dabbled in writing years ago and Hannah finds her notebooks and begins to read them and hence begins the Christmas Cake Murder,

As with all of Fluke's books recipes are attached to many of the chapters, a few I will be trying for sure. Oh, and reader beware! DO NOT READ THIS WHEN YOU ARE HUNGRY!

The Christmas Cake Murder is a fast-paced enjoyable cozy mystery waiting to be read with a cup of hot chocolate and some yummy cookies.
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I really enjoyed THE CHRISTMAS CAKE MURDER by Joanne Fluke. I had never read any of Fluke`s novels before but now can`t wait to start from the beginning and read them all.
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