Review of the mystery-thriller Cinnamon Roll Murder by Joanne Fluke: Music, and Murder in Minnesota

Author Joann Fluke continues to combine a fictional murder investigation with delicious treats in Cinnamon Roll Murder. The protagonist of Fluke is amateur detective Hannah Swensen. As the proprietor of The Cookie Jar, a coffee and bakery establishment in Lake Eden, Minnesota, Swensen is never far from food and crime.

The Cinnamon Roll Six jazz group is on its way to the Lake Eden Inn’s inaugural weekend jazz festival to play. Early in April, on an icy night, the band members’ bus flips over close to a town.

In order to deliver a sizable cinnamon roll order to the Lake Eden Inn, Hannah and her sister Andrea are driving in the business van. They stop after seeing the collision to provide assistance. At the scene, the driver, Clayton Wallace, has died. Fortunately, only minor injuries are sustained by the band’s entourage, but they still need to be checked out at Lake Eden Memorial Hospital.

Delores Swensen, Hannah’s mother and the president of the hospital’s Rainbow Ladies Auxiliary, finds Buddy Neiman dead in an examination room after being stabbed in the chest with surgical scissors while she is there.

Who might have a reason to murder Buddy Neiman?

One suspect is Devon Murphy, a promising young musician who replaced Neiman on the keyboard. The unidentified woman who was spotted arguing with the victim in front of Club Nineteen, the band’s prior performance, is another.

Despite being engaged to a fellow doctor, Dr. Bev, dentist Norman is Hannah’s true love. She has a bad reputation in Lake Eden for being a cunning, selfish woman who has ulterior intentions for wanting to marry Norman. Diana, a five-year-old daughter of Dr. Bev, is said to be Norman’s child, but the Swensen family is dubious.

In order to get Diana’s DNA samples, who resides in the Twin Cities with Dr. Bev’s mother, Judy Thorndike, Hannah and her sister Andrea pose as realtors and clients.

The only thrift shop in the community, Helping Hands, Granny’s Attic, and Claire’s dress boutique all contribute to Lake Eden’s charming commercialism.

The remote, small-town attractiveness of Lake Eden is countered by references to contemporary, significant issues like facial implants and spousal abuse.

The story also includes recipes for Piggy Chicken, Stuffin’ Muffins, and Pucker Up Lemon Cake in addition to the enticing, delicious Special Cinnamon Rolls. At the end of the book, there is a Baking Conversion Chart and a convenient index of all twenty-two recipes.

The labor-intensive nature of several of Fluke’s recipes presents a problem. For instance, dough needs to rise for several hours and chicken tenders need to be pounded in today’s time-constrained society.

The clever mystery Cinnamon Roll Murder is made to both tease your mind and your taste buds. Indulge.

Cleveland, Ohio will play host to the 2012 Bouchercon World Mystery Convention from October 4–7. Visit http://bouchercon2012.com to find out more about this convocation of some of the top crime fiction authors in the world.

Blogger, public speaker, and independent writer Timothy Zaun. You can reach him online at timzaun.com.