My rating: 2.25 of 5 stars
I signed up for the Goodreads Giveaway of Coconut Layer Cake Murder for my mother who’s been a fan of the series for a few years now. She enjoyed this 25th book in the Hanna Swenson series enough to give it 3.5 stars, saying that the steadiness of the familiar character was comforting like a warm cookie and the precise explanations made the story easy to follow even when her attention was divided. She did admit, though, that she prefers to listen to the audiobook versions.
I’ve been wanting to check the series out myself since my mother and I have similar tastes in books and, I must admit, because the books are so pretty (It isn’t judging by the cover if you’re just observing that they are attractive, right?) so, after she read it, I decided to give it a whirl. I was a little worried that in starting with book #25 that I’d be lost but while I did have some questions about the characters and past events that they referred to, that wasn’t one of my problems with this book.
The first thing that caught my attention was the stiff, stilted nature of Fluke’s writing, especially in the dialogue. It felt as if Hannah was talking to strangers or acquaintances rather than her family and friends. Also, the characters often said the name of the person they were speaking to way too many times as if Fluke had read books where pronouns had been overused causing confusing and she wanted to make sure that didn’t happen here. I get that; I’ve read books like that too but her was just as annoying. Then there are the detailed explanations of what each character is doing – step-by-step lists of mundane actions that have little or no bearing on the story or the mystery. This attention to detail works very well for writing recipes; in fact, I loved the way she wrote the recipes with so many details, tips, and suggestions, but their inclusion within the story was distracting. As was the characters’ talking about the recipes. There was more about the baked goods than any actual sleuthing which begs the question: Why not just write a cookbook? (which Fluke has done with her Lake Eden Cookbook).
As for the story itself, I expect certain things from a cozy mystery. Either it is a really good mystery with an interesting amateur detective or there is a bit of fun mixed into the character’s story or the detective work. This book had neither. The mystery was interesting for a while but I figured out ‘whodunit’ pretty quickly and just had to wait for Fluke to stop writing recipes and Hannah to focus on the task at hand to find out if I was right. I was though the murderer’s explanation left a bit to be desired. At least it was a quick read. I don’t think I’ll be reading any more of Hannah Swenson’s mysteries though I’ll probably ask my mother which great guy Hannah chooses and how that works out because that part of the story was more interesting than the murder case at the center of it.
I don’t read a lot of mysteries but when I do they are usually cozy mysteries like this. If you enjoy a good cozy mystery with interesting characters and a bit of fun, I recommend M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin series starting with The Quiche of Death. If you’re looking for a really intriguing mystery written by a master mystery writer, you cannot go wrong with Agatha Christie. I’ve been reading her Miss Marple mysteries which may be the gold standard of cozy mysteries.