Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Book Review: Fudge Cupcake Murder

fudge cupcake
Originally uploaded by Kit Pollard.

I finished Fudge Cupcake Murder (by Joanne Fluke) a few days ago, but it took me a while to get around to blogging about it. I attribute the lag to two things: our New Year's Eve dinner and an utter lack of words to describe this book.

FCM is part of the Hannah Swensen "mystery with recipes" series. Each book has a cutesy name related to food, and includes a handful of original recipes for baked goods featured in the story. The heroine of the series, Hannah Swensen, is a thirty-year-old, cat-loving bake shop owner who repeatedly stumbles across dead bodies in her small Minnesota town.

As I read this book, I waffled between thinking the characters and town described were charming and needing something to counteract the sugar shock induced by the story. On one hand, the characters are, well, full of character, and the story itself moves along quickly enough that I actually finished it. There are enough little twists that it was worth it for me not to skip too many pages (though I'd be lying if I said I read them all).

On the other...the book is maybe written on a third-grade level. During several passages, I wanted to scream in frustration at the unreasonably high level of detail (do we really need to know about every single move a character makes, even when it has absolutely no bearing on the story? Um, no, we don't.) Plus, I figured out who the killer was about three sentences after he was introduced. Seventh-grade English papers have more subtle foreshadowing.

On top of all of that, I do not believe that anyone in America, even the Amish, are as sheltered and sweet and gosh-darn-mystified at the behavior of big city folks as the characters in Fluke's little town. Her heroine, Hannah Swensen, is like the anti-Julie Powell. And I don't mean that in a good way. Hannah Swensen makes me want to smoke cigarettes and drink hard liquor, just so I don't turn into her.

The author's bio says she grew up in a little town in rural Minnesota, but now lives in southern California. I suppose she's romanticizing her youth, but I can't believe that anyplace that goody-goody has existed in the US since the mass production of the television. Possibly the automobile.

So what's my verdict on this book? Eh. For all of my snark, I did finish it, and I did think it was a cute story. I wouldn't buy another Fluke book, but I will read the other one I got for Christmas. I'll probably roll my eyes at that one, too, but I'm guessing I'll finish it.

So in the end: I don't really recommend. But if you find yourself with nothing better to do, and a spare copy of the book handy, Iwouldn't burn it, either.

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