- Louis Arata
Book Review: Caramel Pecan Roll Murder
The Taste of Dull
Over the last few months, I’ve been reading several hefty books, so I was looking for something on the lighter side. That’s why, when I spotted it in the library, I picked up Joanne Fluke’s Caramel Pecan Roll Murder. It looked like the right sort of antidote to heaviness.
Caramel Pecan Roll Murder is the 28th book in the series which follows the adventures of talented baker and amateur sleuth Hannah Swensen. It’s a cozy mystery series set in Minnesota, and the playful hook about the series is that in between chapters, there are copies of the recipes featured in the story. You get all sorts of recipes for chocolate cookies, brownies, and muffins, and according to the characters in the books, all are equally delicious.
In Caramel Pecan Roll Murder, Hannah is taking a break from her work at The Cookie Jar to help out a friend at a local inn which is hosting a fishing competition. From early morning to evening, Hannah is busy baking tasty treats and serving up buffet meals for the competitors. Along the way, she discovers a dead body, so she puts on her sleuthing cap and sets about gently interrogating suspects.
Typically, I don’t read mysteries – though I do enjoy them. I’m simply not terribly adept at figuring out who the murderer is. And it’s not like I was expecting grand literature (after all, this is a cozy), but I did not anticipate being so supremely bored. The murder mystery plot is negligible, with little time given to introducing the murder victim or even any of the suspects, most of whom remain offstage for the majority of the book, and you only learn about them through Hannah’s discussions with her friends.
The majority of the book is spent describing casual conversations between Hannah, her sister Andrea, and various friends as they drink coffee and indulge in plates of cookies. The author, who is clearly fond of these characters, lets them chat about life and love, but to no discernible purpose to solving the mystery itself.
And the characters behave in remarkably peculiar ways. When Lily learns that her fiancé is dead, she goes into shock. Yet, a few minutes later she is raving over Hannah’s latest cookie creation. Oh, then she remembers to be sad because her fiancé is, you know, dead.
Conversations often contain redundant information, along the lines of Hannah discerning a possible fact then sharing that fact with her sister and then repeating that fact to the sheriff’s deputy and partner. How many times must the same point be made?
On the other hand, some scenes even contradict themselves. At one point, Sonny is described as a functional alcoholic: someone who drinks heavily during the night but appears sober in the morning. Sonny’s coworker Joey says in one paragraph that Sonny was clearly still drunk after his last bender, and at the bottom of the same page, he claims that he wouldn’t have gotten in a boat with Sonny if he’d known that he was still drunk. Huh?
Maybe my expectations were too high. Fluke’s bestselling series is clearly popular with fans, and it does have a sort of charm. But I doubt I will be tempted to taste any more of these mysteries.