Joanna Fluke has an entire series still in publication in 2013 of culinary mysteries. The first is The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder. In this story, we are introduced to a variety of characters including the main character, Hannah Swensen. As with many new authors, the first book shows a marked difference in craft from those later on in the series.
The storyline is set in small town Minnesota, although there is no sense of place. Although the arc of the story runs well, the characters are flat and there are loose ends that are not tied up before the story ends. The storyline is dated, no cell phones or wifi here. It is one of the aspects that bring the reader out of the story often. In addition, the author is trying to set the stage for future books by introducing elements and back story on some of the secondary characters who presumably will return with larger roles further along in the series. However, in this particular tale the details seem irrelevant and confusing.
Some of the characters undergo dramatic changes in character or lifestyle with little or no explanation as to how or why they did it. For example, a fleeting reference to a difficulty between Hannah’s sister and her husband is referred to at the end of the story in fuller detail, but it was such a brief reference that I had to return to the beginning of the story to figure out what the author was talking about.
In another case, amateur detective Hannah is single-handedly responsible for her brother-in-law’s promotion to detective in the story. This brings up issues about the character of her brother-in-law. I am not sure which is more concerning, his lack of ethics or his ineptitude.
Hannah’s cat, Moishe, had a leading role in the story as confident and sometimes comic relief. In one section of the story, Hannah kept coming home to make telephone calls and talk to the cat, many, many times in a day. It broke the story down and from that point on it became a plodding read.
Fans of culinary mysteries might be better off reading a few books further down the series and returning to this one for back story if needed. For those readers looking for a culinary mystery other than Fluke, Laura Childs teashop mysteries are wonderful.
NB: I read this as an ebook which I purchased. No compensation was given to me to write this review.