Friday, March 17, 2017

What I Read in March 2016 Part VII . . .

What I Read in March 2016 Part VII . . .

Hannah Swenson Mysteries

Gingerbread Cookie Murder (Hannah Swensen, #13.5)
Christmas Cookie Murder (#13.5)

This review is only for the Hannah Swenson novella.

Hannah Swenson and her cat Moishe have had enough of their neighbor Ernie Kusak's crazy Christmas sound and light show, and so have all the other neighbors. Ernie promised Hannah he'd turn it off once the kids got home so Hannah baked him some gingerbread cookies as a thank you. Several hours later, the sound and light show is still going and Ernie won't answer the door to Hannah. When Mike shows up with authorization to shut off the electricity, Ernie's ex-wife Lorna comes by with a key. She was worried her ex was off drinking and her teens would be left unsupervised again. When Mike and Hannah enter the apartment, Hannah gets a nasty shock. Her uncanny ability to find murder victims has not left her- this time it's Ernie, face down on the kitchen floor with a plate of Hannah's cookies crumbled on the floor. Obviously Lorna is the chief suspect but she has good reasons to want Ernie to stay alive. His lottery winnings, doled out on Ernie's whims, will benefit their children. The police then find another suspect. Hannah isn't convinced and Mike and Bill won't listen so she and her mother tackle the task of unmasking a murderer on their own.

The whodunnit is fairly obvious; even Hannah figured it out. The big mystery is finding proof that that person was or was not the murderer. I thought I was wrong at first but I turned out to be right all along. The transition from questioning to danger is very abrupt and threw me out of my reading rhythm for a bit. Since this is a novella, it has to wrap up faster. I think the plot would have been better dragged out into a full length novel. There's any number of people who wanted Ernie dead and people who might be after his money.

Hannah isn't dating Mike or Norman right now. The romance belongs to Dolores. Hannah isn't quite comfortable with the idea of her mother marrying again. She would prefer her mother to "wear the willow" (as Dolores would quote from one of her Regency novels) forever. Dolores is quite a character and has a mind of her own. She knows what she wants, she just has to find it.

As always, some of the recipes sound to-die-for amazing! This one includes some non-sweet dishes too, but of course, being a baker, most of Hannah's recipes are cookies and cakes. I don't think there's enough time to ever make all of Hannah's great recipes!

Cinnamon Roll Murder (Hannah Swensen, #15)Cinnamon Roll Murder (#15)

The famous jazz band Cinnamon Roll Six are scheduled to play at the Inn's jazz festival, but before they can arrive, the bus overturns in a ditch. Hannah, almost overturning herself, seeing the bus tipped over, offers her assistance. Her sister Michelle comes along to help before the police can arrive. They meet Buddy Neiman, the band's infamous leader and keyboard player who has a broken wrist; the other band members and groupies. Sadly, the bus driver has been killed in the crash, or has he? Help arrives and the band members are taken to the hospital. Next time Hannah sees Buddy, he's lying dead with surgical scissors sticking out of his chest. Hannah believes that Norman's fiance, Dr. Bev, has secrets she's hiding about Buddy and Hannah would like nothing better than to pin the murder on Dr. Bev. With the help of her sisters and mother, she slowly uncovers the clues but can she solve the mystery before the wedding and Norman is lost to her forever?

This mystery was really intriguing because it revolved around Norman and Dr. Bev. I couldn't wait to find out all the secrets but some of them were left out of the conclusion, including one of the most important secrets. However, we do get enough answers to solve the case. I wondered what Norman would do and how he would decide what to do. I was bothered by the fact that Doc Knight was willing to do something probably illegal, on the down low, just because Dolores asked him and because no one likes Doc Bev except Norman.

This book has the extra added benefit of a new puppy! One of the band girlfriends rescues a stray puppy from the freezing cold and mud. She passes the puppy on to Hannah who has to figure out what to do with him. Hannah may be the best prepared to deal with a terrier because of her experience with an ornery cat. The puppy's new home will be in for a rude awakening if he is indeed a terrier. A terrier does not equal a Golden Retriever! I hope the puppy becomes a part of the regular cast of characters. I just love puppies!

Hannah is a little more logical than Andrea here. Usually Hannah thinks on her feet and Andrea is the planner, but Andrea comes up with some really wild ideas. I love learning more about her relationship with Bill and how solid it is after seeing all the bad marriages in Lake Eden. Hannah has more sense than she usually does in this story but she and Andrea do something not illegal but not quite right either. Dolores is not a huge part of the story but she gets to discover the body this time and plays a part in the beginning of the story. Norman appears a few times in the story and I was beginning to wonder just how nice and honorable he was going to be, regardless of the truth. He seems a little too good to be true. He must be the most patient man on the planet. Lisa is up to her old tricks, baking up stories in addition to delicious cookies and running the shop.

There are several new characters introduced in this story. The band, Cinnamon Roll Six, their manager Lee and their wives, girlfriends and groupies. Only the women really have fleshed out personalities and like Hannah, I was forced to revise my opinion of them. Lee was incredibly nasty and Buddy seemed to be cut from the same mold. We are left wondering about Buddy though and his story, despite the few answers that come out at the end.

Questions I want answers to (potential spoilers):
Why is Buddy's blood type different from the one listed on the license? Did he simply not know or was there a reason? Who was he really? Did he often change his name to dodge ex-lovers and other people he didn't want to see? What happened to the bus driver? Did he accidentally take too many pills or was he murdered? Would Norman have married Bev anyway even if he wasn't Diana's father if Bev hadn't been a nasty liar?

Also introduced are Dr. Bev's mother and daughter Diana. Bev is not supposed to be a likable character, I guess but there's no reason for her to be so awful. Her mother seems like a very kind and honest person - too kind and honest for she lets Andrea and Hannah inside for a cup of tea even though Hannah's made up story doesn't add up with what she later tells Bev's mother. Diana doesn't appear in the actual story but she sounds like a normal 4 year old child, unlike Hannah's niece Tracey (now a 2nd grader) who is way too precocious.

As always, there are recipes included. The title cinnamon rolls sounded fabulous until I saw coffee listed as the first ingredient. I HATE coffee and I can always taste it when it's included in a recipe. Some of the others, including Grandma Elsa's Butterama cake, sound heavenly!

I am dying to read the next book in the series and soon!

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