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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cinnamon Roll Murder by Joanne Fluke

The Cinnamon Roll Six are the hottest touring jazz band around, and Hannah Swenson is the baker providing sweets for their local gig. When the driver of the tour bus dies behind the wheel and the band ends up in the hospital, everyone thinks that the keyboard player's sprained wrist is the worst thing that could have happened. It's not. Meanwhile, Hannah's ex-boyfriend is about to marry a woman who claims to be the mother of his child, but his friends are suspicious and Hannah is downright miserable about it.

I'd always wanted to read one of Joanne Fluke's books, but hadn't gotten around to it. Kensington Press was a prize donor for the Eljay's Books 2012 Read-A-Thon (it's over but you can check out the prize page and some info HERE) and along with all the great prizes they sent, I got my very own copy of Fluke's March release.

Now there has been a lot of talk about how much reviewers might be influenced by free copies of books. I'm going to get into that in my next blog post, but for now I'm just going to promise you that my enjoyment of this book had nothing to do with it being a free copy. (And if you'd like to discuss this with me I'd be happy to, just wait until I get the next post up and you can look at my whole argument before you respond please)

So, on to the book under review.

I'm a sucker for cooking cozies but until I read this book I never considered for a second that I'd make something from a cozy I was reading. The Chocolate Avocado cookies sound so good, I think I'm going to try making them. And probably the Hamburger Bake too. And maybe the German Pancakes. And while none of this really has that much bearing on how much I liked the book, I'm impressed that the recipes got my attention.

The plot is strong, the mystery is good (although I did figure out who the killer was before the reveal) and the writing is solid. One of the things that always jars me in reading cozies about cooks and bakers is that time seems to magically expand to allow them to make absurd amounts of food while eschewing sleep and mundane things like grocery shopping. Fluke neatly avoids this by making Hannah part of a multi-person business, and her interactions with the people she works with (and her clients) is realistic, as are the characters responses to the events around them. The posturing of the jerky keyboard player and the behavior of the "groupie" type girls touring with the band rang true enough to move away from just being stock characters.

Even the obligatory romantic element wasn't annoying (I have such a sore spot for reading romance, sorry). I have missed the first 14 books in the series, but at the point I started, Hannah's boyfriend has broken up with her because his ex claims to have given birth to their daughter and refuses to let him be part of the child's life unless they get married. Of course the ex is suspect (as is the child's paternity), and Hannah isn't just investigating a murder, she's also trying to find out what is up with this woman. Again, Fluke's writing makes what could be very flat characters in stock situations seem fuller, more real.

My only complaint was that the final reveal may have solved a few too many problems too easily. But honestly, if the last few pages were a little "pat" for my taste, but the rest of the story was so compulsively readable, I can live with it. I will absolutely be reading the rest of this series enthusiastically.

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