Shortly after I finished Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, I got that twitchy feeling that I get when I'm in book limbo, i.e. in the terrible in-between phase where I've finished a book but am yet to choose my next one.
I still felt a little in awe of the whole thing though so decided that a little cozy fluff would make my brain all better! Enter...
..Strawberry Shortcake Murder by Joanne Fluke!
I read the first in the series, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, way back in my fledgling blogger days and reviewed it here. If I remember rightly, it was also the first eBook I read! If I were that kind of person, I'd be all kinds of sentimental! Instead of getting all misty-eyed, however, I shall dish you up a review in the style of my early blogging days...because it makes sense to me!
What the blurb said
The stakes start rising faster than dough when a judge from the Hartland Flour company's Dessert Bake-Off is found dead in Hannah Swensen's strawberry shortcake. Can she catch the killer before he or she cooks up another recipe -- for murder?
What I would say
As with the first, Strawberry Shortcake Murder features the nosy and interfering (but somehow loveable) cookie shop owner, Hannah as she bumbles her way through a murder investigation. Despite being the second in the series, you could jump right in here if you wanted because all of the characters' back stories are pretty well recapped.
Speaking of, the other characters in this book are as wacky as ever - as well as Hannah's family, this book features an 'out of town' film crew and cast of TV presenters. My favourite is Norman the dentist (yes, really!) who is just so lovely and actually seems to be one of the only people who you could talk to in real life without wanting to smack him.
One character I went right off in this series was Mike, Hannah's potential love interest. He's a policeman/actual detective yet he doesn't really seem to mind Hannah running about town investigating a murder and bodging up evidence because he's too distracted by being macho and telling her off for being involved because it's too dangerous. Not because it's blatantly illegal and conducting your investigation unofficially through your maybe-one-day-girlfriend is just very silly. Ok, so maybe that's the lawyer in me...let's move along...
The mystery is cute (if a murder can be described as "cute"...) with classic clues, such as a blurry photo and a scandalous letter, a la 'Murder She Wrote'. There are of course some red herrings to keep you guessing and that guy who you know is dodgy but you can't work out why. If you poked at it too much, you'll possibly find some plot holes or things not to like but if you just suspend your brain a touch and get stuck in, you'll get swept along and be done before you know it! Yes, it's cheesy, but in an endearing way!
My only disappointment was that, in the first, Hannah was a cookie shop owner first and an accidental investigator second. That dynamic is flipped in this book; thanks to the ever-helpful (but slightly wet and annoying) Lisa, Hannah barely has to spend any time in her own shop...so she doesn't, really! Of course, the book mentions her general baking prowess and cookie generosity all the time so that you don't forget that Hannah is the greatest baker in the town!
To add some sugary realism, the chapters are interspersed with the recipes that feature in the story. I know that to some this might be distracting but it was actually the reason I started reading the series in the first place! They're "annotated" by Hannah so that they do fit into the story and sound just scrumptious! Except for Hawaiian Flan, which doesn't grab me at all...
This isn't the kind of series that I want to run out and buy all at once just so that I can keep going. In fact, I think if I read more than one in a row, I would find myself with murderous tendencies! They are fun though, and if I spot Blueberry Muffin Murder going cheap, I'll almost definitely pick it up for a day when only baked goods will do!
Overall: The literary equivalent of curling up in a squishy chair, grabbing something sticky and sweet to eat and sipping endless cups of coffee. A delicious spot of 'whodunnit' fun that's perfect to while away a rainy afternoon or two!
I didn't realise but this series is still being expanded pretty rapidly by Ms Fluke and now boasts an impressive 16 instalments! For more information than I could possibly give you, Joanne Fluke's website is pretty comprehensive!
Also, back when I started my blog, I didn't use a rating system. If I had, this one would have got 3 stars...