Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mouth-Watering Mysteries

I'm a big fan of the culinary mystery genre. Some are serious, some are light and comical, and some have delicious recipes. I just finished Carrot Cake Mystery, by Joanne Fluke. This is the 10th book in the Hannah Swensen series, which is definitely on the light and comical side. I find it quite comical that Hannah has personally discovered so many dead bodies in the tiny Minnesota town that makes up the quaint setting for the books. But the characters are fun and the plots certainly imaginative, if unrealistic. But come on, if you want realism go read the newspaper. I want to be entertained when I read. Hannah owns and runs a cookie shop and seems to be the go-to girl for every baking event in the town of Lake Eden.

My favorite thing about the Hannah series is the PG rating. It's hard to find modern books that don't contain bad language, way too much sex, and graphic violence. Obviously murder mysteries contain some violence, but Fluke keeps it subtle and far from graphic. And Hannah manages to string along two beaus without doing more than doling out a few good-night kisses.

My next favorite thing about Fluke's books, a very close second, are the delicious recipes packed into every installment of Hannah's sluething career. I have tried one or two recipes from each book and I'd say there has been a 90% success rate for me. Obviously there are a lot of cookie recipes, but plenty of other sweets and a sprinkling of old-fashioned Minnesota potluck recipes. The latest book, Carrot Cake Murder had over twenty recipes and I have already tried three of them, even before my copy is due back to the library. The Viking Cookies were delicious, a new twist on a chocolate chip cookie with some different spices and white chocolate chips. They were a bit sweet for me (gasp! I know) so I would just use a bit less sugar and chips next time. A keeper though. Then there are the Cocoa Fudge Cake and the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake. I had to throw out everything I knew about cake making and just follow the recipe. Despite the odd mixing instructions, everything turned out divine, or probably because of the different ordering of ingredients. The Fudge Cake especially was very moist and dense, leaning more towards brownies, but definitely still a cake. I'm trying the Scandinavian Almond Cake next and actually have a savory dish of Salmon Cakes on my menu for next week. And there's still the title recipe for Carrot Cake. I think I've been through three pounds of butter already.

I would love to reproduce a recipe here but I imagine it would violate copyright violations. Check out Joanne's website, Murder She Baked, for a featured monthly recipe. Clever title for the site! Or even better, pick up a copy of a Hannah Swensen book and try out seven or eight of the dishes - you won't be disappointed!

Check out this post for the Cocoa Fudge Cake recipe and a giveaway of two Hannah Swensen books!


Jane @ What About Mom? said...

"But come on, if you want realism go read the newspaper. I want to be entertained when I read."


Alan said...

Great!! I too love to read books on murder mysteries. It's so exciting.

Bitsy said...

I will check these books out. Have you read any of Diane Mott Davidson's books? She does culinary mysteries and has recipes, too.

Thanks for the idea! Bitsy

Heather said...

I love the Joanne Fluke books too - and Diane Mott Davidson. Last week I read The Blue Corn Murders (also with recipes) and really loved that one as well - no gore, no sex, good story. :-)