Book Review: “Red Velvet Cupcake Murder” by Joanne Fluke


Cover of "Red Velvet Cupcake Murder" by Joanne Fluke.
Cover of “Red Velvet Cupcake Murder” by Joanne Fluke

I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “Red Velvet Cupcake Murder” by Joanne Fluke! This is yet another book in the Hannah Swensen series that I’ve read by this author, and those of you that read my past reviews know that I have a love-hate relationship with this series. I liked a few books, but others felt underwhelming. However, I felt that it would be nice to pick up another book.

Here’s a quick summary so we know what it’s about:

“It’s a hot, muggy evening, and the last thing Hannah wants to do is squeeze into a pair of pantyhose for the Grand Opening of the refurbished Albion Hotel. But with Hannah’s famous Red Velvet cupcakes being served in the hotel’s new Red Velvet lounge, she can’t bring herself to back out.

The party starts off with a bang with the unexpected arrival of Doctor Bev, a Lake Eden legend who left town in shame after she two-timed her fiancé one too many times. Bev’s splashy appearance on the arm of a wealthy investor is the talk of the night. But the gossip comes to a screeching halt when a partygoer takes a mysterious dive off the hotel’s rooftop garden.

The victim is the sheriff’s secretary, Barbara Donnelly, and she is barely clinging to life. The question is, did she fall–or was she pushed? As the police investigate, the only one who isn’t preoccupied with the case is Doctor Bev. She’s too busy trying to stir things up with her old flame Norman, who’s reunited with Hannah.

Just as Hannah’s patience with Bev runs dangerously thin, her rival is found dead at the bottom of Miller’s Pond. The only clue the police have is the Red Velvet cupcake Bev ate right before she died–and the tranquilizers someone seems to have baked into it. To everyone’s shock, Hannah is now the unlikely target of a murder investigation–and she’s feeling the heat in a way she never has before. . .”

Content Warning:

This book contains actual murder and multiple attempted murders. There are also discussions of (speculated) suicide but no actual suicide happens. If you are sensitive to any of this content, you may want to skip reading this one.

Plot Development: 3 out of 5 stars

For those that are unaware, this book takes place after “Cinnamon Roll Murder,” and this is important because the woman that tried to marry Norman is back. However, she dies after about halfway through the book, which was a fun twist to read (even if it was spoiled in the summary alone). I did not like her as a person, but I liked that she brought some tension into an otherwise-typical storyline.

Another thing I liked about this book was that it got to the first attempted murder quickly in the opening chapters, rather than waiting at least a quarter of the book to get to the action. I think that helped the plot’s pacing be a bit together overall. As for the overall story presented in this book, it’s nothing entirely out-of-the-box in terms of creativity, save for the actual murder of Doctor Bev and the initial victim surviving the first murder attempt and saving herself from the second murder attempt. Unfortunately, other than the elements I just listed, the rest of the story is fairly typical for a murder mystery story with finding clues and suspects, and none of it felt super-interesting to read.

Character Development: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Those familiar with this series know that Hannah, Norman, and Mike have a triangle romance going on, but this book didn’t touch too much on it so I won’t discuss it in this review. How I felt like all of the characters individually suffered from being too static in development. The only real developments are the eventual reveal of who the killer is, on top of Barbara being able to not just survive her first attempted murder and saving herself from her second attempted murder.

Overall, I’m rating this book 2.75 out of 5 stars!

This is not the worst book in the series, but I think it was on the underwhelming side thanks to its predictability and static characters.

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