I have enjoyed Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swenson series so far. She gave one of my favorite reading/author’s talks I’ve ever been to. Which is why I was surprised at how much Double Fudge Brownie Murder disappointed me.
This 20th installment in the series opens where that last left off: Hannah is about to go on trial for a vehicular homicide that wasn’t really her fault. Before the trail starts, she and her sisters go to Vegas to attend their mother’s elopement (all planned by Doc, the groom). Upon arrival, Hannah discovers that the best man is Ross, who made an appearance in an earlier novel and in this one we find out is the guy she had a major crush on in college. Turns out he really liked her too. Through the the series, Hannah has struggled to decide between 2 suitors, Norman the dentist and Mike the detective. While I appreciate the break in the monotonous back and forth and indecision on Hannah’s part, I didn’t like how suddenly Hannah falls completely in love. This is disappointment #1. I would have liked a little more buildup to that point.
Upon return to her home, Hannah goes to her first name day in court only to discover that the judge has been murdered. The good thing is that before he died, he had dismissed the case against Hannah. The second half of the story follows Hannah’s investigation. This is where disappointment #2 comes in: the identity of the killer. It was one of those moments like on Scooby Doo where in some episodes the actual villain is someone who doesn’t appear in the story until the moment the mask is pulled off. I didn’t like that in the cartoons, and I didn’t like it here. Not only does this ruin any tension that might have built up, but it feels unfair to the reader because there is no way to even have stood a chance at trying to figure out what was going on while the main story is in progress.
Finally, to disappointment #3. The novel concludes with Doc and Delores (Hannah’s mom) post-wedding local reception. Both Mike and Norman propose (again) to Hannah who doesn’t really give any answer. Then afterwards, she’s seeing Ross off at the airport (he’ll be coming back to start a local job) and he proposes to Hannah as well. She answers ‘yes’. My problem is not so much with Hannah and Ross as a couple, but with the effect on Hannah’s character. Hannah’s character seems to change a lot after 19 previous novels, as she suddenly loses her independent business woman with her own mind self personality, turning into a love-struck mush ball. Booo. I admit I have low tolerance for romance in other genres, but still, booo.
Overall, I really like this series. They’re good light mystery stories with good characters, and with recipes included. I haven’t actually tried any of those but the commentary and instructions are a lot fun in themselves. Maybe after all this time a low point was due. Given that the 21st novel is Wedding Cake Murder, I’m afraid of what will happen with the heroine. The wispy-washy indecision may be done with, but it looks like that minor annoyance is being replaced with something worse.