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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Death and Dessert

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WhenMarie Antoinette was reputed (however erroneously) to have waived off the plight of France’s starving masses with the words “Let them eat cake” she was clearly unaware of the dire repercussions. The same might be said of the characters in Joanne Fluke’s best-selling Hannah Swensen mysteries. Dead bodies keep turning up in a small Minnesotan town, bearing evidence of having indulged in Swensen’s sweet delights prior to their demise.

In the nine previous books from the series, the protagonist discovers these corpses in the unlikeliest of places; in the dumpster as she takes out the trash, in a house she’s scouring for antiques, even in her own kitchen. And somehow her own delectable desserts are linked to their fate, be they the crumbs of her famous cookies delicately sprinkled around a corpse or one of her blueberry muffins halfway to her rival’s mouth when she meets her untimely death. Luckily, Swensen’s knack for baking is rivaled by her knack for sleuthing. The sharp and savvy heroine makes short work of solving mysteries in between baking batches of cookies and cupcakes.

Fluke’s 10th book of the series, Carrot Cake Murder, was released last month and involves a family reunion that takes a fatal twist. A visiting relative, estranged from the family for a quarter of a century, turns up flaunting his extravagant lifestyle. Shortly thereafter he winds up dead. “I don’t need to tell you which sweet treat is found, frosting side down, next to the victim in Carrot Cake Murder,” Fluke says.

This book, like the others, contains recipes passed down through the Fluke family for generations. “My amateur sleuth, Hannah Swensen, owns a bakery and coffee shop in small-town Minnesota, and it seemed natural to include some of my family recipes,” Fluke says. “If you’re like me, I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s nothing like munching a cookie while reading a delectable murder mystery!” Fluke comes to the Barnes & Noble in Mayfair Mall, Thursday, March 27, at 7 p.m. As is her custom, she will bring fresh-baked cookies to add flavor to her book signing.
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