Book Review: “Carrot Cake Murder” by Joanne Fluke

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I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “Carrot Cake Murder” by Joanne Fluke! I’ve read many of Fluke’s books from this series before, and I either enjoyed or despised them. Here’s a quick summary so we know what the book is about:

“Between baking up a storm for The Cookie Jar and unravelling the mystery of her cat Moishe’s recent strange behaviour, Hannah Swensen has a lot on her plate. But she’ll always make time for her business partner, Lisa, who’s in the midst of preparing for a big family reunion. Everyone is delighted when Lisa’s long-lost uncle makes a surprise appearance. No one has heard from Gus in twenty-five years – and his arrival has everyone buzzing with excitement.

Uncle Gus is immediately the hit of the reunion, telling tales of his great success and flashing money for all to see. He’s almost as popular as Hannah’s scrumptious carrot cake, which is also Gus’ favourite dessert. But the next morning, as the whole family gathers for the group photo, one person is missing. Hannah offers to track down Uncle Gus, but her search leads to a shocking find. Over by the bar at the pavilion, she spots two slices of her infamous carrot cake, frosting-side down on the floor – and Gus’ corpse with an ice pick jutting out of his chest! A little snooping reveals that not everyone was celebrating Gus’ return. And when Hannah unearths more secrets from Gus’ past, she discovers even more people with an axe to grind. Now Hannah’s got to sift through a long list of suspects to find a killer – even if it could mean a recipe for her own demise…”

Plot Development: 1 out of 5 stars

The pacing of investigating the mystery was incredibly slow. I think many aspects of the investigation, such as tracking witnesses and other associated people in the case, could be easily shortened.

The story also spent too much time involving everyone talking about Gus. I know his past was a big factor in solving the mystery and narrowing down possible suspects, but I think much of it could be more easily summarized and made less confusing. I also felt that there were many scenes that were supposed to be tense, but then were spoiled by characters constantly asking each other for recipes or eating tons of food. This may be a cozy mystery book filled with recipes, but most of the scenes didn’t require people needing to eat (save for having quick meals or the family reunion meal as exceptions).

Character Development: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Gus is probably one of the least sympathetic murder victims in this entire series. The book spends about one-third of the book going into detail about his past, and he had the most development despite being the murder victim. As a reader, I got to see exactly how terrible he was from childhood to death. Though I appreciated seeing how bad he was and how he was connected to the main situation and such, it felt like he was given too much development for someone that was killed off.

I also appreciated the character development given to Norman, one of Hannah’s love interests. Some of his past is revealed as well, and I liked that it showed that even though he’s a nice guy now, he wasn’t always perfect—and that makes him more endearing to read.

However, many other characters fell flat and made me care little for them. The only thing they had as part of their development were family connections to Gus, previous other relationships (such as Delores, Hannah’s mother, being Gus’ ex-girlfriend), and so on.

Overall, I’m rating this book 1.5 out of 5 stars!

This is one of Fluke’s weakest works in the series, in my opinion, and I would not recommend reading this one in the series.


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