cover image Christmas Cake Murder

Christmas Cake Murder

Joanne Fluke. Kensington, $20 (270p) ISBN 978-1-61773-232-4

Bestseller Fluke’s diverting 23rd Hannah Swensen mystery (after Raspberry Danish Murder), an origin story, finds college student Hannah home in Lake Eden, Minn., with her grief-stricken mother, Delores, three weeks after the funeral of Hannah’s father and Delores’s husband, Lars. When several of Delores’s women friends come up with a project that will cheer her up, Hannah is all for it. Lonely widow Essie Granger is in the hospital recovering from a fall, and the women decide to recreate the annual Christmas Ball that Essie always loved. In the course of their preparations, Hannah and Delores discover a set of notebooks in which Essie began a mystery novel, and they read a few pages from it each night, unaware that Essie’s thrilling tale is based on real events and that everything is poised to come to a head the night of the ball. Series fans will enjoy learning how the Cookie Jar bakery came to be, but others should be aware that the mystery element is slight in an entry with a heavy focus on food descriptions and Hannah’s recipes. Agent: Meg Ruley, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (Oct.)