sugar-cookie-murder-joanne-fluke-hardcover-cover-artThink of this as a cookbook with a story — half the book is composed of recipes for an enormous buffet that is the setting for the mystery. The recipes are very chatty, and run the gamut from appetizers (dips, pickled herring, and popular items like quiche and tortilla wraps) to soups, salads (mainly Jello), and breads to entrees, side dishes, and desserts (cakes and cookies). The main dishes seemed exotic to me, as did the side dishes, but the book is set in Minnesota, so I figure these are regional differences. Share the recipes out among your friends and recreate the grand buffet — but without the murder!

The murder isn’t really the main point of this book. There’s an enormous community party which is the testing ground for the final choice of recipes for a community cookbook being put together by Hannah Swensen, owner and chief baker at The Cookie Jar,  the bakery in Lake Eden, Minnesota.

The feast coincides with a storm, so everyone in town is gathered together more tightly than they had anticipated. This includes the two suitors Hannah is trying to decide between, Hannah’s entire family, and all the characters readers of the series already know and love, plus a few new characters guaranteed to put people’s backs up.

There’s an antique cake knife, a few lies, misunderstandings and manipulations, and a murder in the parking lot.

If you like a cerebral mystery with tight plotting, terrific puzzles, and snappy dialogue, look elsewhere. This is the book to read while you do your holiday baking. The recipes are in the book already and you can read while the cookies are in the oven — if you miss details because your mind is on muffins, it won’t really matter. Just enjoy it for what it is!