Ever had to put up with a neighbor’s noise pollution? That’s what Hannah Swensen is faced with early on in “Gingerbread Cookie Murder.”
The last in my “A Taste of Murder” discussion series, Gingerbread Cookie Murder features the talents of three authors: Joanne Fluke, Laura Levine, and Leslie Meier each of whom contribute a novella-length mystery to this collection. They previously teamed up with 2007’s Candy Cane Murder.
Joanne Fluke leads off the collection with Hannah Swensen, owner of The Cookie Jar, attempting to bake cookies. Unfortunately, she can’t concentrate with the racket coming from next door. Inconsiderate Ernie Kusak is clearly the victim du jour, but it’s not until the third chapter that this discovery is made. Who could have wanted to bash in Ernie’s skull? Empty beer bottles in his apartment suggest he knew his killer. Inevitably, the police arrest a suspect who might have wanted to kill Ernie simply because he played blaring music that drove all the neighbors to homicidal thoughts.
In a busy world, novellas can be a great way to introduce new readers to a series. Alas, in this instance, the opportunity is lost. Too often I felt adrift because I wasn’t familiar with this series or Hannah and her staple or recurring characters. When Hannah protests the above mentioned arrest, the police—including one of her two boyfriends—insist on their suspect being the only plausible scenario—ignoring the beer bottle clue. One even tells Hannah, “I know you’ve solved murder cases in the past. We really do appreciate your efforts to help, but this time you’re dead wrong.” OMG! How long has this series been going on? You’d think they’d know better by now.
Speaking of the two boyfriends, I thought that scenario seemed implausible, but of course, not having read previous books, I’m sure I was missing a lot of backstory there.
As a culinary mystery, there are numerous recipes included—perfect for the holiday season. Unfortunately, they interrupt the flow of the story by being inserted between the chapters rather than at the end. Overall, I thought this was the weakest story of the three. Reviews on Amazon and elsewhere seem particularly focused on Fluke’s contribution, making me wonder if they read the other entries. A shame if they didn’t…
This Hannah Swensen story was not the best introduction to the series. I would, at least, try a full-length novel to get a better sense of Fluke’s series and style.