Book Review: “Strawberry Shortcake Murder” by Joanne Fluke

Warning: This book review contains spoilers for “Strawberry Shortcake Murder” by Joanne Fluke.

Happy March, everyone!

I hope your February was a good one, and that March is just as good or even better! I also hope that all of you are staying safe, well, and reading lots of books.

Cover of "Strawberry Shortcake Murder" by Joanne Fluke
Cover of “Strawberry Shortcake Murder” by Joanne Fluke.

I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “Strawberry Shortcake Murder” by Joanne Fluke! I’ve reviewed many of her books in this series before, and I figured it was about time I picked up another one to read and review. Here’s a quick summary so we know what it’s about:

“When the president of Hartland Flour chooses cozy Lake Eden, Minnesota, as the spot for their first annual Dessert Bake-Off, Hannah is thrilled to serve as the head judge. But when a fellow judge, Coach Boyd Watson, is found stone-cold dead, facedown in Hannah’s celebrated strawberry shortcake, Lake Eden’s sweet ride to fame turns very sour indeed.

Between perfecting her Cheddar Cheese Apple Pie and Chocolate Crunchies, Hannah’s snooping into the coach’s private life and not coming up short on suspects. And could Watson’s harsh criticism during the judging have given one of the contestants a license to kill? The stakes are rising faster than dough, and Hannah will have to be very careful, because somebody is cooking up a recipe for murder…with Hannah landing on the “necessary ingredients” list.”

Content Warnings:

This book contains discussions and somewhat-graphic mentions of domestic abuse. Also, this is a murder mystery, and the murder scene itself is actually somewhat-graphically described as well. If you are uncomfortable with this content, you may want to skip reading it.

Plot Development: 4 out of 5 stars

I think this may be the first time that I’ve read a Hannah Swensen mystery book covering domestic abuse in its plotline, but I may also be wrong (though I’ve covered multiple books in this series, I did read them somewhat out of order). However, I like that the book didn’t fall into victim-blaming when discussing the abuse situation. Both Hannah, the main protagonist, and Mike, the police officer and one of Hannah’s love interests, are quick to reassure the domestic abuse victim, Danielle, that her being abused 1. wasn’t her fault and 2. even if she was acquitted for murder, it would be likely in self-defense since the murder victim was the person abusing her in the first place. I appreciate the discussion and understanding around this topic being covered well in this book as a reader.

In terms of the actual mystery, I was genuinely surprised by one of the plot twists in the latter half of the book. I won’t say what it was to prevent major spoilers, but it was quite well-written. In fact, I actually thought the main mystery in this book was well-written overall. The only thing I disliked was that the plotline felt rather slow in the middle. The story’s pacing could be a bit tighter overall.

Character Development: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I love how Hannah easily showed up Mike with how thorough she was in investigating this mystery. At this point, she might as well just take over being the police (as the police seem to be near-useless in every single book in this series). I also enjoyed how she managed to outdo the true killer and get the upper hand when he was cornered.

Unfortunately, most of the other characters fall flat. I was hoping for more development on Danielle than given, as she was a victim of domestic abuse from the murder victim abusing her. I thought she would have much more involvement than what she was given, especially with her initially being the prime suspect.

Romance Development: 3 out of 5 stars

The romance took a backseat in this book. Nothing much happened that caused huge development, but there was nothing that went backwards in this romance, either. The book tries to continue Delores, Hannah’s mother, constantly trying to make Hannah get together with Norman. However, I think the main story itself had Hannah with Mike much more often than Norman (especially given how they both initially opposed each other in whether Hannah should investigate the mystery at all this time around). Hannah doesn’t make a decision between these two men this time around, either, and seems to favour being single and taking her time rather than giving in to the others pressuring her into starting a romance and getting married.

At this rate in the series, I don’t think she ever will choose between Mike or Norman unless 1. It’s the final book in the series, 2. One of or both of the main love interests (Mike and Norman) get killed off at some point in the series, 3. Norman and Mike just get together and/or get their own dates after getting sick of Hannah struggling to choose between them, or 4. Hannah decides to just never marry and breaks off the love triangle entirely. Joanne Fluke may be the only author I know who tries to keep a love triangle going as long as she possibly can in an entire book series, especially one that’s been running for so many books so far with no sign of stopping. This is both hilarious to me as a reader, but also slightly grating.

Overall, I’m rating this book 3.5 out of 5 stars!

Readers of this series may be relieved that the romance takes more of a backseat this time around to enjoy reading the actual mystery part of the book. I definitely think this is one of the stronger-written books in this series, as well.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: “Strawberry Shortcake Murder” by Joanne Fluke

  1. I have a love-hate relationship with this series! I’ve gotten kind of tired of the romance aspect of it, and how the author seems to treat Hannah like an old lady, but I also always want to know what’s going to happen next in Lake Eden! Thanks for your review.

    1. I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who has a love-hate relationship with this series! I have mixed feelings about the romance but I also want to know what happens next. Thanks for reading the review and sharing your thoughts!

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