cover image Red Velvet Cupcake Murder

Red Velvet Cupcake Murder

Joanne Fluke. Kensington, $25 (304p) ISBN 978-0-7582-8034-3

Despite the 26 sweet and savory recipes scattered throughout, crime buffs may find little nourishment in bestseller Fluke’s 16th Hannah Swenson novel (after 2012’s Cinnamon Roll Murder). As the owner of the Cookie Jar coffee shop and bakery in Lake Eden, Minn., Hannah helps cater the Albion Hotel’s grand reopening, where the main event proves to be the return of the notorious town floozy, “Doctor Bev,” on the arm of the hotel’s owner, wealthy playboy Roger Dalworth. More than gossip is in the air, though, after the Lake Eden sheriff’s secretary, Barbara Donnelly, falls from the hotel penthouse, sustaining serious brain damage. A subsequent fatal automobile accident suggests to Hannah that murder is once again stalking the small town. Fluke fans should appreciate the reappearance of series regulars like Hannah’s two boyfriends, Mike Kingston and Norman Rhodes (who turns out to be an old flame of Bev’s), but the tepid humor and meandering storyline are unlikely to win newcomers. Author tour. (Mar.)