Summertime has finally arrived in Lake Eden, Minnesota, and Hannah Swensen, owner of The Cookie Jar bakery, is looking forward to warm, lazy days, eating ice cream, and sharing picnics with friends. But when a family reunion takes a deadly turn, it's up to Hannah to find a killer. . .
Between baking up a storm for The Cookie Jar and unraveling the mystery of her cat Moishe's recent strange behavior, 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 yearsand 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's favorite 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 floorand Gus's corpse with an ice pick jutting out of his chest!
A little snooping reveals that not everyone was celebrating Gus's return. And when Hannah unearths more secrets from Gus's 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 killereven if it could mean a recipe for her own demise. . .
Includes 12 original dessert recipes for you to try!
About the Author
JOANNE FLUKE is the New York Times bestselling author of the Hannah Swensen mysteries, which include Double Fudge Brownie Murder, Blackberry Pie Murder, Cinnamon Roll Murder, and the book that started it all, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder. That first installment in the series premiered as Murder, She Baked: A Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel. Like Hannah Swensen, Joanne Fluke was born and raised in a small town in rural Minnesota, but now lives in Southern California. Please visit her online at www.JoanneFluke.com
Read an Excerpt
CANDY CANE MURDER
By JOANNE FLUKE LAURA LEVINE LESLIE MEIER
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2007 Joanne Fluke
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIt was a dream, one of those bizarre fantasies she'd laugh about when she woke up. But not even in her worst nightmare had Hannah Swensen ever imagined she'd be transformed into an elf.
"Are you ready, Aunt Hannah?"
It wasn't a dream. That was Tracey's voice. Hannah mouthed a word she hoped wasn't in her six-year-old niece's vocabulary and then she answered the question. "I'll be out in a couple of minutes, honey."
The holiday season calls for a generosity of spirit, Hannah reminded herself as she pulled on bright green tights and struggled into the matching tunic top. The bottom hem of the tunic had long points of cloth attached like screaming red pennants hanging down around her waist. Each one was tipped with a jingle bell, so if by some miracle someone failed to notice her, the bells would announce her presence.
Her footwear was next. Hannah pulled on slippers with rollup toes in a shade of red so bright it hurt her eyes. She topped it all off with a pointed cap with more jingle bells in the same brilliant red, and avoided the mirror with the same dedication Transylvanian villagers had used to ward off vampires.
"I'm almost ready, Tracey."
"What's thematter? You sound funny."
"Elves are supposed to sound funny, aren't they?" Hannah tugged down the bright red points on her tunic. Perhaps it would stretch out and fit a little better.
"I guess. Better hurry, Aunt Hannah. It's six-five-six and Santa's supposed to be here at seven-oh-oh."
"Right." Hannah gave a fleeting thought to how much she missed the big hands and little hands on analog watches and risked a glance in the mirror. Her image hadn't changed for the better. The red of her hair was engaged in a full-scale war with the red of her cap, women who were more than two pounds overweight should avoid form-fitting tunics with bells that called attention to their figure faults, and with the possible exception of those who had fitness club memberships and actually used them, women over thirty should be wary about skipping in public. It was Santa who was supposed to jiggle like a bowlful of jelly, not her!
"Coming." Hannah tore her eyes away from the wreckage of her self-esteem. If a dozen determined designers had gotten together for the sole purpose of creating an outfit that would be most unflattering for her, they couldn't have done a better job. She took a deep breath, grabbed the basket of miniature candy canes she would strew like rose petals in Santa's wake, and opened the dressing room door.
All thoughts of how dreadful she looked were erased as she caught sight of Tracey's beaming face. Playing Santa's elf for an hour wouldn't kill her. And since the large silver basket she was carrying had to contain at least a thousand miniature candy canes, there was an upside to the evening. She'd have plenty of candy left over to make Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies at The Cookie Jar, her bakery and coffee shop, tomorrow.
"You're perfect, Aunt Hannah!" Tracey said, taking her aunt's hand. "All the kids are going to love you."
And with that vote of supreme confidence, Hannah and her niece headed for the temporary stage that had been erected in the dining room of the Lake Eden Inn to wait for Santa to arrive.
"I see Mom!" Tracey said, peeking through the crack in the curtain. "And Aunt Michelle's there, too. They're getting the kids lined up."
Hannah walked over to take a look. She spotted her two younger sisters waiting in line with the children from the Winnetka County Children's Home. They had been bussed out for an early dinner and a gift from Wayne Bergstrom, who was playing Santa tonight. The children would go back to the Home right after their visit with Santa and then the adult Christmas party would begin.
Tracey glanced at her watch. "It's seven-one-three and Santa Wayne isn't here yet. I wonder why he's late."
"I don't know," Hannah answered, "but make sure you don't call him Santa Wayne in front of the kids. You know that Wayne is one of Santa's temporary helpers at Christmas time, but the other kids don't."
"Don't worry, Aunt Hannah. I won't tell."
Hannah took another peek through the slit in the curtains. The children in line were beginning to fidget. If Wayne didn't get here soon, Michelle and Andrea would have an insurrection on their hands.
And then it happened. Both Hannah and Tracey began to smile as they heard sleigh bells in the distance. From previous Christmas parties at the Lake Eden Inn, Hannah knew that Wayne carried a half-dozen sleigh bells attached to a red leather strap. They usually resided in one of the big patch pockets of his Santa costume, but he took them out when he came in the kitchen door and jingled them to build anticipation for his arrival, and as a signal for his elf to join him in the kitchen.
Hannah took one last look at the line of children. All talking, coughing, and wiggling had ceased. Instead there was silence, perfect stillness of voice and body, large and small.
And every face wore an expectant smile. Santa was coming and even the teenagers who had seemed so jaded and blasé only moments before were now caught in the grips of heady expectancy.
"Better take your place, Tracey," Hannah whispered, giving her niece a little push toward the thronelike chair where Wayne would sit. Since some of the little ones had been afraid of the big, red-suited man with the white fur and the booming voice in years past, Sally had asked Tracey to stand next to Santa and reassure them.
When Tracey had taken up her position, looking like an angel with her shining blond hair and white velvet dress, Hannah gave a little wave and headed off to the kitchen. Her least favorite part of the evening was about to begin, the part where she skipped behind Santa and scattered cellophane-wrapped candy canes as he wound his way through the crowded dining room and up the steps to the stage. When Santa reached the top step, the curtains would open to reveal Tracey, Santa's throne, and the huge decorated Christmas tree. And once Wayne was seated and his elf had navigated the steps and taken her place by the Christmas tree, Michelle and Andrea would bring the children up, one by one, to greet Santa and receive their presents.
When she pushed open the swinging kitchen door, Hannah spotted Santa Wayne at the counter, perched on a tall stool and drinking something in a cup. Sally stood next to him, frowning.
"Something's wrong?" Hannah asked her, and it came out more statement than question. Of course something was wrong. Sally wouldn't be frowning if everything were perfectly all right.
"Wayne's got laryngitis and my hot peppermint tea isn't working. We're afraid he'll scare the kids when he talks to them."
Hannah realized that was possible, especially if Santa sounded gruff. "I could make an announcement."
"What kind of announcement?" Santa Wayne asked in a rasping voice that left no question about his ability to speak in normal tones.
"I could tell the kids that you ran into some thick fog over Greenland and you had to sing 'Jingle Bells' really loud so your voice would bounce off the ice caps and Donner and Blitzen wouldn't fly into them."
"That's the dumbest thing I ever heard!" Santa Wayne rasped.
Hannah shrugged. "I know, but I think it'll work. Do you want me to do it?"
Santa Wayne and Sally exchanged glances. "I guess it's better than nothing," he said, settling the question.
Smile. Scatter left, scatter right, Hannah told herself, trying not to pant as she skipped. She'd only covered about half the distance and she was already out of breath, puffing faster than the caterpillar smoking a hookah in Tracey's volume of Alice in Wonderland.
Uh-oh! There was Mike, her sometime boyfriend! Hannah put on the best smile she could muster and tried to pretend she was having the time of her life. The fact that those portions of her anatomy she often wished were smaller and firmer were bouncing up and down and sideways like a loose bar of soap in a shower stall didn't help. No one who saw her could possibly call her graceful. The best she could hope for was that they might consider her a good sport.
Only a few more yards to go. Hannah concentrated on skipping forward and peppering her audience with candy canes. At least she'd finally figured out why the green leggings she wore were called tights. It was because they were tight. Extremely tight. So very tight that she felt like a sausage about to split open on a blazing hot barbecue grill.
The ordeal was almost over and Hannah stopped to toss another few candy canes as Wayne climbed the steps to the stage. Then the curtains opened and the audience applauded as he gave Tracey a smile and sat down in his chair. He patted his knee, and Tracey climbed on to whisper in his ear. It was a sweet and heartwarming scene, and Hannah was grateful that everyone in the audience was watching Santa with Tracey as she climbed the steps to the stage and took her place to do what her Grandma Ingrid had always called speak her piece.
"Santa almost didn't make it tonight," Hannah spoke the words she'd been rehearsing in her head, "so let's give him a big round of applause to show how glad we are he made it here to the Lake Eden Inn."
The audience broke into loud applause and once it had diminished in volume, Hannah continued with her story. "Did you know that there was an awful storm at the North Pole when Santa started his Christmas journey?"
"No!" several children shouted, and Hannah gave them a smile. "There was, believe me. Santa didn't think he was going to make it, but do you know what he did?"
"No!" This time the response was louder and Hannah went into her story about the polar ice caps and the fog as heavy as green pea soup. "So Santa had to sing all the way to the coast of Newfoundland to keep his reindeer from crashing into the ice caps. And he sang so loudly and so long, he strained his voice."
The younger children in line were nodding gravely. They'd believed her, just as she'd known they would. "Would you like to hear how funny Santa sounds?" she asked.
There was a clamor of yeses and not all of them came from the children. Some of the adults were getting into the spirit of the evening, too.
"Would you please say Ho Ho Ho for us, Santa?" she requested, turning toward him.
"Ho, Ho, Ho!" Santa Wayne exclaimed hoarsely, and some of the children giggled. That drew a good-natured laugh from the adults and Hannah figured she'd done her part. There was only one more thing to mention. "So you won't be afraid of Santa's scratchy voice, will you?"
"No!" several children shouted and almost all of them shook their heads. Her mission was accomplished and Hannah skipped over to take her place next to the mound of color-coded presents. The Santa, Tracey, and Elf Show was about to begin.
Hannah and Tracey knew the drill. They'd even rehearsed it with Sally. Hannah would hand Tracey the appropriate present, Tracey would carry it to Santa, and Santa would give it to the child on his lap. Norman Rhodes, Hannah's other boyfriend, would snap a picture for posterity. Then Michelle would escort the child to the rear of the line as Andrea brought the next child forward.
The smallest children were at the front of the line and Hannah studied the mound of presents. They were arranged by age group. All she had to do was work from left to right and everyone would get an age-appropriate present. The packages were also color coded. If they were wrapped with gold and green paper, they were for the girls. The boys got presents wrapped with silver and red paper.
The next few minutes were busy. Hannah chose the gifts, Tracey gave them to Santa, and Santa presented them. The children were delighted and Hannah was really getting into the spirit of the season by the time she picked up the last present. It was over. And she hadn't died of mortification. Perhaps the mirror in Sally's dressing room had waved the wrong way and caused her to look larger than she actually was. And perhaps all that skipping had jumbled her brain and affected her ability to separate reality from wishful thinking.
There was standing applause as the children, all of them clutching their presents, were led out the door to their waiting bus. And then the curtains closed and Hannah fanned herself with her tasseled cap. Except for a few dropped candy canes and one toddler who would absolutely not sit on Santa's lap and screamed bloody murder despite Tracey's, Hannah's, Andrea's, Michelle's, and Santa's best efforts, all had gone smoothly.
Sally was waiting for them in the wings and she handed Santa Wayne another cup of hot tea. "That was even better than last year! Sip some tea, Wayne. Your throat must hurt from talking to the kids."
"Thanks. Hurts." His voice was as scratchy as sandpaper and he gave a rattling cough.
"I don't like the sound of that," Sally told him. And then she turned to Hannah and Tracey. "You were wonderful, Tracey. And Hannah ... your speech about Santa's sore throat was just the thing."
"Whatever," Hannah said, waving off the compliment even though she thought it had been pretty good herself.
"Here's your receipt for the presents, Wayne." Sally passed him a folded sheet of paper. "Mayor Bascomb did it through the Lake Eden Boosters this year."
"You know, the one you need for your corporate taxes. Mayor Bascomb said to tell your accounting department that the Boosters got their nonprofit status in June last year. He'll fax you a copy of the paperwork for your files."
"Right." He shoved the receipt in his pocket and turned to Hannah. "I'll need the rest of that candy. I'm playing Santa at the store tomorrow."
What a cheapskate! Hannah thought. And being a cheapskate was probably how rich people got rich in the first place. Wayne Bergstrom owned Bergstrom's Department Store, the busiest and most profitable retailer at the Tri-County Mall. He had displays of miniature candy canes at every checkout counter, the tubs stacked one on top of the other like red and white striped pyramids. There was no reason he needed to take what Hannah had come to think of as her leftovers.
"Here," Hannah said, handing over the basket.
"It's her basket," he said, gesturing to Sally. "Dump the candy in my pocket." Then he held open one of the massive pockets on the jacket of his Santa suit, and waited for Hannah to dump them in.
"I'll drop off the elf costume at the store tomorrow unless you want it now," Hannah told him. "It'll only take me a couple of minutes to change."
"Keep it. We couldn't sell it anyway now that you stretched it out. You can use it again next year."
"No flying pigs around here," Hannah muttered just under her breath, and she was rewarded by a startled chortle from Sally. When Sally had asked her if she would be Wayne's regular elf for future Christmas parties at the Lake Eden Inn, Hannah had responded with, Sure, when pigs fly!
With Sally struggling to maintain her composure, Hannah was just searching around for a topic of polite conversation when Sally's husband, Dick, walked up.
"Good job, Wayne." Dick clapped him on the back. "The kids loved you. Go change out of your suit and I'll mix you a Peppermint Martini."
"Tempting, but not tonight," he answered in his husky voice. "Got to rest my throat."
"Hot water, honey, and lemon," Hannah advised him. "It's like making hot lemonade. Then pour in a little brandy and top it off with grated nutmeg."
"Does the brandy help?" he asked her, clearing his throat with obvious difficulty.
"Not really. Your throat still hurts just as much, but after three or four cups, you don't care anymore."
Hannah's 1st Note: These recipes are from Richella and Priscilla, Dick Laughlin's bartenders at the Lake Eden Inn. Dick says if you don't have martini glasses, you should run right out and buy them. Both Dick and Sally swear that these martinis taste a hundred percent better in martini glasses.
5 ounces good grade vodka 2 ounces white crème d'menthe 1/2 ounce peppermint schnapps
Combine in a shaker and shake with ice. Strain into two martini glasses and garnish with miniature candy canes hooked over the rims of the glasses.
Excerpted from CANDY CANE MURDER by JOANNE FLUKE LAURA LEVINE LESLIE MEIER Copyright © 2007 by Joanne Fluke. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Well I have read the whole series so far and honestly I'm starting to go back and forth on it. I'm soooooooo tired of the love triangle! I know everyone else is too, at this point I'd rather both men walked away and we just let Hannah be. She's happier with Moishe apparently and is completely bliind if she doesn't realize that Norman is the one for her. Just because Mike is hot doesn't mean he's quality...and most of the time he treats her like some would be damsel in distress...and that is not the Hannah we know and love! I'm also getting tired of the grammar lessons. Obviously those of us who read the series know enough grammar to get by...I feel like Hannah is kind of stuck up on that point...it could be cut down at the very least...HOWEVER....all that being said, I still loved the mystery and do recommend it for all those who love Hannah or for those just looking to read something different. So pick it up anyhow and cross your fingers that Hannah makes up her mind fast! That dream house isn't gonna wait forever!!
absolutely fantastic. had me entertained for hours. would recommend
Having read all of the Hannah Swensen books, I usually order them before they are available. This book was another winner. I like the involment of the sisters as well as the two moms. Of course Moishe is my hero. All the recipes are yummy looking but I don't dare try any. Hannah looks skinny campared to me. Romance is always in the picture and, like Hannah, I don't know which man she will finally choose. Start at the beginning of the series and see how a character developes over time. I recommend any of the Hannah Swensen books and also Susan Wittig Albert's series about an herb shop, set in Texas.
I not only enjoyed the mystery of the story, but I also enjoyed the recipies included with many chapters. It was a fun read. I will probably look for other books written by this author. Although the idea of mystery books with recipies is not original, I found the story in itself entertaining. It kept me reading and wanting to solve the mystery. It was an easy read.
It is a nice shorter story. Not intense and enough to scare the pants off you like a serial killer or gruesome. Agatha Christie style writing. Writing is good since it does not delve into too much detail. You know the characters right off in the beginning. Plan on reading them all. Absolutely fun little mystery. Easy reading and you can get through quickly.
I always enjoy Ms. Flukes Hannah Swensen series. And the recipes are good, too. I only wish she could write faster.
I have read the entire Hannah Swenson series, and I was a little disappointed with this one. As a previous reviewer mentioned, it's time she wrap up the Hannah/Norman/Mike love triangle. It's getting pretty hard to believe that 2 grown men in their 30's, are willing to wait around while she decides which one is her true love, or whatever. Either have her chose, or have them walk away from her. I mean, if she hasn't decided by now, maybe it's neither of them. Overall, I enjoy this series, and will continue to read it, for now.
well, i just finished reading this book. i will say, that i enjoyed it a lot. i like all of joann fluke's 'hannah swensen' mysteries. i do wish that hannah would make up her mind about mike and norman. norman all the way!! that part is getting a little old. i also don't like how hannah can be kind of wishy-washy when it comes to mike. other than that, it was a good cozy mystery. i liked the setting at the lake, some new characters, and of course the recipies. so i recommend this book.
Hannah Swensen is back, and this mystery brings back her sisters as well. This book brings Hannah out of the Cookie Jar as she assists with the events at her partner's family reuniin at Eden Lake. The recipes include casseroles and "hotdish" meals in addition to some yummy sounding cakes and Red Velvet Cookies. Oh, and there's a murder mystery too, but you'll probably solve it before she does. I don't mind. Sometimes I need a fluffy weekend read.
Always fun to read these books Great recipes too!
I have been reading all of this series and have enjoyed everyone of Joanna Fluke book so far!
another goldy winner- food-plus murder -and a great supporting cast of the usual friends- its a good read-
I'm hooked on this series! Entertaining mystery accompanied by recipes that make you want to head for the kitchen to try them!
I have enjoyed all of Joanne Fluke's cozy murder mysteries. It is a fun, light-hearted read...quick and easy with great recipes. It does not go into all of the gory details of the murdered victim which is what I appreciate about "cozy" murder mysteries.
I have read several of Joann's books and like her style. Comfortable, good old mysteries!
Fluke does it again. Good escape, quick reading. And, those recipes!
I love this series. An easy read that keeps you coming back for more.
i was drawn to the series because of my love of cooking but the characters just wont let me put these down! who will hannah pick?
If you like to cook,Joanne Flukes books are for you. I like a light mystery without gore and too much mayhem and this book produces. I like the characters that make up the town and the sublte romance that is woven throughout the book. I reccommend it to anyone not wanting a too serious mystery.
It's always fun to read Joanne's book. I really enjoy all the characters. And the endings are "edge of seat" suspense. How will Hannah get out of this one?
I loved this book. You can tell that Fluke put alot of thought into it. I don't know about you but I think Hannah should just get it over with and choose Norman, and if you've read Cream Puff Murder you'll see why. Another thing I liked is that I wrote to Fluke and she actually took the time to write me back. I am excited to see what she comes up with next!!!!
Relaxing fun book to read
As usual this series never disappoints me! I Love my "friends" at Lake Eden. :) The only things stopping this from being a 5 rating was that there were quite a few typos which made me nuts..
I was not aware when I got this book, that it was a collection of short stories so I am only reviewing the Joanne Fluke Candy Cane Murder, though I will say the other stories were entertaining. This Hannah Swensen mystery went a long the guidelines of the other HS mysteries. She finds the body and then gets involved investigating with her sisters and boyfriends. Her instincts lead her to the murderer but her realization of guilty party usually comes a bit late. What always amuses me is that Hannah ca never remember her cell phone!
This recipe needs to be changed, I have loved Hannah, her family, nd the townies since I first read "Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder". I knew right away the books were easy reads...lots of fluff and nothing I would ponder after I shut the book on the final page. A Hannah Swenson Mystery has a recipe much like the goodies baked in Hannah's bakery. The ingredients: Hannah, her two boyfriends, Mike and Norman, her annoying mother and puritan sisters, Moishe her kitty, recipes throughout the story, and a murder victim found with the dessert of the day nearby. Mix the ingredients well until Hannah still waivers between both boyfriends (although the men don't mind sharing), no one turns a head over Hannah investigating and finding things the cops don't, and Moishe has some kind of kitty drama. Bake until golden brown: Hannah finds the murderer right before something terrible happens and narrowly escapes death...all within just a few pages. Now I don't mind most of this recipe...really it is a cozy murder and its going to be based on formula. However, the thing that bothers me is that nothing ever changes...Hannah never grows in her relationship with one of the men and the men never tire of being part of a love triangle. No one smokes, cusses, or has sex. You can't even hint that anyone in town does any of those things because the town if full of a bunch of prudes. I don't need those things in my books, but I also don't like how unrealistic the world is portrayed. The books are fun, they are cute and until the last few, they have been well worth my time to read. Fluke would go a long was with appeasing her weary readers if she would just resolve the Mike/Norman/Hannah issue one way or another. This is one recipe that has just gone stale.