There it was, winking at me from the corner of the table. It was my favorite color. It had an eye-catching title. And best of all, it had a skull.
A skull made of blueberries. Baked into a muffin. How could I resist?
I snatched it up, along with its lemon meringue and fudge cupcake buddies, hoping I’d found treasure. But I have to admit, I had my doubts.
Cute is great when it comes to baby animals. Or stuffed animals. Even a cute guy is fine. But I like my reading material a little less light.
I wasn’t expecting much when I cracked open Blueberry Muffin Murder by Joanne Fluke. I’m not into cutesy mysteries with a reoccurring theme…I’ve stayed clear of the cat ones and the alphabet ones. But these books were free, just waiting to be taken home, so why not? What did I have to lose?
Three books later, and I’m addicted. Thankfully, my parents got me an Amazon gift certificate for Christmas, which will feed my Fluke habit quite nicely.
For those not in the know, the Hannah Swensen mystery series features a thirty-something woman who manages to squeeze in some detective work while running her bakery and cafe. Seems Hannah is always stumbling over dead bodies, and someone always manages to convince her that she “really should” investigate. No one ever needs to twist her arm very much. (Although with so many people turning up dead, one wonders why anyone sane would stay in Lake Eden.)
The stories are set in small town Minnesota, with a memorable cast of characters, including a cantankerous feline roommate. And the plots are cute, all right. Sometimes they’re almost unbearably trite. The murder victim is either a bad guy or a woman with questionable morals. The murderer is always a minor character that you haven’t formed an attachment to. And Hannah, who continuously vacillates between two boyfriends–the bad boy and the boy-next-door–somehow manages to keep her virginity intact. Some pristine kisses are the most either guy is going to get.
There’s no swearing. No sex. And very little violence, considering these are murder mysteries. When Hannah gets into trouble, as she invariably does, you know she’s not in real danger. Even the discovery of the corpse manages to be cute…and yet….
Something about these books is so compelling that they managed to overcome my initial cynicism. Maybe it’s the original recipes, which are sprinkled throughout each story like edible gems. (It’s all I can do to stop myself from flipping forward to the next one, but that would ruin the surprise.)
As good as the recipes are, though, I think the real recipe for Fluke’s success is another secret ingredient…
Fluke’s books are just plain fun. They’re fun to read, and you can tell that the author had a hell of a lot of fun writing them. Even Hannah has fun as she goes about her days making cookies, eating too much, and solving mysteries.
Fine literature, they’re not. And you won’t learn anything from them, except maybe how to make a kick-ass cookie. But who cares? If it’s an escape you’re looking for, I can’t think of any place more appealing to visit than Lake Eden.
Have any of you read the Hannah Swensen books or another series like it? What did you think? And if you’re a writer, how do you keep it fun? Have you ever been tempted to write something purely for fun? I’m a writer of psychological suspense, but I have to say I’m feeling the urge. All that dark stuff gets pretty dreary after a while.
In the meantime, I can’t wait to sink my teeth into a Cherry Cheesecake Murder.
Oh yeah, did I mention Fluke is a NY Times best-selling author? She’s not just slinging cookie dough.