Pros: Hannah, returning atmosphere, mystery actually involved in the plot!
Cons: Main characters ignored, terrible editing, former annoying tropes, contradictions and lost plot threads.
Lake Eden Minnesota, a dangerous little town convicted by a love for confections and death by dessert is, yet again, competing for murder capital of the world when a jazz band with a sugar tooth, the lamentably named Cinnamon Roll Six, arrives in town to the tune of multiple murder. The Sherriff’s department, not to be out done in sheer ineptitude, is yet again beholden to the frizzy haired town baker and her cohorts in consumption, who follow the sticky trail to murder, motive, and the Atkins diet.
Meanwhile, Norman Rhodes, mild mannered dentist, is still embroiled with the evil minded Doctor Bev, a woman on a mission to finagle herself into a marriage and a father for her child. In between bouts of overeating and dizzying amounts of coffee consumption, Hannah laments the loss her of her pseudo love while paging through her murder book to jot down clues and recipes for avocado chocolate cookies (I kid you not.) Will Norman forever leave Hannah’s life? With the wedding rapidly drawing near, the concentration is split between mystery and the love triangle, providing an unrealistic mélange of suspects and wedding details, but ultimately jump kicking the cold-crank nature of this slow series, running two stories simultaneously to create a more addicting pacing than previously evinced by the waning series.
Cinnamon Roll Murder was a surprisingly and delightfully fast read. For the first time in a very long time, I was riveted to the novel, starting on Friday and finishing late on Saturday night, having reacquainted myself with the reason I had previously loved the series, remembering the hints of the glory days where cozy atmosphere and endearing characters made up for a multitude of plot sins and crap recipes. The investigation is still weak, elements discarded and contradicted constantly, yet the magic is beginning to return and with it my desire to continue a series that was fading in my memory.
Delores has grown as a character, becoming nicer and more central to the continuation of the plot. The ever perfect Tracy is only mentioned once, briefly (thank you!!!). Michelle is starting to take precedence in the series, working alongside her sister and transitioning from a secondary roll to a gradually more key position in the family centric world of Hannah’s Cookie Jar. Otherwise, the cast of characters (especially Mike, Norman, Andrea, Tracy, and Bill) are sidelined, barely perceived characters in Cinnamon Roll Murder. In a perfect world, this discarding of previously key figures is an authorial foible that is verging on the unforgivable, yet the old atmosphere was returned and some of the most annoying aspects of the narrative that have been exponentially growing were remediated or, at least, toned down. Joanne Fluke has not entirely redeemed her world, but a step in that direction is perceived and much appreciated!
Hannah, the red-headed baker of dubious stylistic presentation has ceased to say the word endorphins (THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU) and her irritating grammatical corrections are now stated only in her mind. Perhaps this is a transition into phasing them completely out. I remain hopeful. The occasional deviation onto absolutely useless information is…sadly…still very much a thing, as some would say. It goes something like this little fictitious segment of mine…
Hannah was driving down the road in her cookie truck when she and Andrea saw a tractor in a field.
“Hey, Andrea, did you know that farming has existed for a very long time?”
“Well, yes Hannah. I saw a documentary the other day that said we would all die if the land was not farmed.”
“Andrea, you are so very perceptive and did you know that the word tractor was taken from trahere which means in Latin “to pull.” The first recorded use of the word was in 1901 and did away with the term tractor engine which was previously used in 1859. Tractors are very important.”
“Well, golly gosh gee Hannah. I am so glad you gave me that information about tractors. Otherwise, we would have just driven by a field and talked about life, love, or this really important murder investigation instead of realizing the importance of ancient Latin terminology for heavy farm equipment, which by the way was first created in the 19th century by….”
Ok, I’m really tired of looking up tractors on Wikipedia now. You get the idea. At least in Cinnamon Roll Murder there was less of the totally unessential, exhaustive, and vapid information regarding unrelated and uninteresting topics. It was still there, but at a manageable degree, and I didn’t throw the book across the room even once which is an improvement over the last several novels.
The investigation itself, while ultimately underdone as usual, was actually mostly satisfying this time since Hannah and retinue made an attempt to put the mystery at the forefront of the narrative and concentrate on trying to solve the dilemma. Places are visited. Witnesses are questioned. Notes are made. It’s been a long time since this has happened. It was almost perfect. The action started immediately, the plot presented twists and turns (THANK YOU!) and the action remained steady and progressive. If only there hadn’t been some dropped opportunities and some blatant contradictions. For instance, what happened to the first murder victim, the bus driver? Was he murdered or merely a man involved in an unfortunate accident? What about the box of his pills that Hannah picks up, a central clue that with some basic medical examination could clear the entire dilemma up but is then forgotten and never mentioned again. SOMEONE CLEAR THIS UP FOR ME!
Likewise, the copy editing is distinctly subpar and works against the integrity of the improved mystery element. For instance, in one paragraph Hannah relates to her mother that Cinnamon Roll Six’s bus driver is dead. Delores understands. She picks up the phone and calls the Inn, relaying the events and informing Sally that the bus driver has died, but everyone else in the band remains alive and well. Then, after hanging up the phone, she immediately acts as though the bus driver is alive, asking information concerning him and Hannah is forced to deliver the news to which Delores reacts with upset. WHAT??? I re-read the same segment several times only to realize that what had happened was a basic and avoidable error. The same flavor of authorial mistakes peppers this narrative to the degree that important evidence and events are suddenly forgotten, destroying continuity in a genre built on the significance of clues and the validity of information. Ah, Hannah. This time you were so close, so close.
The secondary plot, which actually grows with the narrative to maintain critical importance overshadowing the mystery, is the Norman/Doctor Bev story which although predictable was oddly enjoyable and, I must admit, emotional in several segments. I actually cared. I haven’t cared for a long time in a Hannah Swenson novel so this was a refreshing turn especially as it concerned the member of Hannah’s entourage whom I have been rooting for against the arrogant detective, Mike, who, not surprisingly, remains true to the unrealistic nature of the Hannah love triangle and begs Hannah to woo her former boyfriend back into the bizarre Hannah harem. Realistic. Hell no. Engaging and conducive to pacing and elements of the mystery, surprisingly yes. Predictable: you know it.
Cinnamon Roll Murder follows the established trope of snoop and escape as Hannah confronts the killer, placing herself in danger and yet another near miss. This woman has certainly used up her nine lives, but it’s a cozy mystery and this element of unrealistic plot padding is not only acceptable, but desirable. The conclusion tied up the main loose threads, although a lot of others were swept under the endorphin littered double chocolate carpeting of death in dessert town, but ultimately I feel that the series is attempting to shift directions to a stronger concentration on mystery. Cinnamon Roll Murder has problems, but ultimately delivers an enjoyable tale. Just please avoid the chocolate avocado “Sinco de Coca” cookies because I kind of gagged a little when I read that segment and also when Hannah successfully managed to attend three full sized meals, one after another in this, the manifesto of overeating.
The Hannah Swenson Series:
(1.) Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder
(2.) Strawberry Shortcake Murder
(3.) Blueberry Muffin Murder
(4.) Lemon Meringue Pie Murder
(5.) Fudge Cupcake Murder
(6.) Sugar Cookie Murder
(7.) Peach Cobbler Murder
(8.) Cherry Cheesecake Murder
(9.) Key Lime Pie Murder
(10.) Carrot Cake Murder
(11.) Cream Puff Murder
(12). Plum Pudding Murder
(13.) Apple Turnover Murder
(14.) Devil's Food Cake Murder
(15.) Cinnamon Roll Murder (you are here)
Hannah Swenson short stories are also included in Sugar and Spice, Candy Cane Murder, and Gingerbread Cookie Murder.