cover image Christmas Caramel Murder

Christmas Caramel Murder

Joanne Fluke. Kensington, $20 (204p) ISBN 978-1-61773-228-7

In Fluke’s tasty 20th Hannah Swenson mystery (after Wedding Cake Murder), the Lake Eden, Minn., baker discovers promiscuous Phyllis Bates’s frozen corpse in the snow. Distressingly, a nearby lunch bag belongs to nice Herb Beeseman and contains caramels made by Herb’s wife, Lisa—Hannah’s partner in the Cookie Jar bakery. Flashback to two hours earlier. At a rehearsal for the town’s annual Christmas show, Hannah and Lisa see Herb, dressed as Santa Claus, kiss Phyllis, scandalously underdressed as Mrs. Claus. It’s “a stage-kiss,” the director says, but Phyllis—Herb’s erstwhile high school girlfriend—clearly meant the kiss and didn’t care who knew. Unlike many cozy sleuths, Hannah cooperates with local police, especially Mike, who counts on her to find the killer. In Fluke’s bestsellers, which spawned a popular TV series, recipes aren’t frosting, they’re the cake. Meticulously detailed, using common ingredients, the dozen sprinkled throughout the text outshine the plot. But Hannah is irresistible as a cookie fresh from the oven, especially in scenes with her father’s ghost. Agent: Meg Ruley, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (Oct.)