Christmas Cake Murder
by Fluke, Joanne

Juggling the responsibilities of opening her shop with the demands of Christmas, Hannah Swensen is surprised by the writing talents of an elderly local whose murder story chillingly comes true.

JOANNE FLUKE is the New York Times bestselling author of the Hannah Swensen mysteries, which include Raspberry Danish Murder, Banana Cream Pie Murder, Wedding Cake Murder, and the book that started it all, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder. That first installment in the series premiered as Murder, She Baked:  A Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel. Like Hannah Swensen, Joanne Fluke was born and raised in a small town in rural Minnesota, but now lives in Southern California. Please visit her online at

In this holiday mystery, which flashes back to an earlier point in small-town baker Hannah Swensen's life, Hannah's father has recently passed away, and her mother, Delores, is inconsolable. To help bring Dolores out of her depression, Grandma Knudson requests Dolores' help with a project-the re-creation of the famous Christmas Ball (including the celebrated Christmas Cake Parade) formerly held at the now-crumbling Albion Hotel. The re-creation is the ailing Essie Granger's dearest wish, and the residents of Lake Eden pull together to make it happen, largely because many remember the charming storytimes Essie provided for their children at the hotel. While working in the hotel, Hannah finds Essie's unfinished novel about a young woman running for her life in New York. Fiction and fact become intertwined at the Christmas Ball, and Hannah solves the long-ago mystery of the woman in Essie's story. While the solution will be readily apparent to many readers, fans of the series will appreciate the delicious-sounding recipes, the holiday frame, the familiar characters, and the backstory about how Hannah started her bakery, the Cookie Jar. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Fluke takes her popular series way back in time, chronicling the start of Hannah Swensen's success as Lake Eden's premier purveyor of tasty treats. Delores Swensen is in a bad way after the death of her husband, Lars. She just picks at the meals her daughter, Hannah, prepares and hides in her room most of the day. To snap her out of her doldrums, her longtime friends Annie Winters and Grandma Knudson hatch a plot to entice Delores, who never met a party she couldn't plan, into helping frail old Essie Granger fulfill her dream of re-creating the Christmas Ball she and her husband, Alton, hosted each year at their Albion Hotel. Of course Delores recruits Hannah to bake the cakes for the famous Christmas Cake Parade. As she witnesses her daughter's kitchen skills, Delores develops a plan of her own to help Hannah, whose interest in grad school has fizzled along with her romance with assistant professor Bradford Ramsey, open her own bake shop. Fluke fans win a trifecta of treats. There's the origin story of Hannah's Cookie Jar. There are the complex and challenging preparations for the Cake Parade, complete with recipes for a bevy of Bundt cakes. And there's a mysterious manuscript Essie has written, which Hannah doles out to her pals more sparingly than her Cashew Butter Blossom cookies, leaving them all to ponder how much of the novel is based on Essie's own life. Fluke's prequel cleverly reinvigorates a series that had been somewhat stalled by her heroine's marriage (Wedding Cake Murder, 2016) and the subsequent disappearance of her groom (Raspberry Danish Murder, 2018). Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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