Strawberry Shortcake Murder — Joanne Fluke

strawHannah Swensen, owner of the Cookie Jar, is trying to survive another brutal Lake Eden winter. It’s so cold she has to plug in her car at night, but she keeps forgetting to unplug before driving off, and has already ruined several cords. Thankfully, the Hartland Flour Company has provided a distraction from the winter chill: they are holding a baking contest right in Lake Eden, and Hannah has been asked to be the head judge. The high school has been transformed into a huge professional kitchen where the contestants will bake and be judged, hopefully to take home the prize.

The first day of judging, Hannah gets some bad news. Mr. Rutledge, one of the judges, had a bad reaction to the anesthetic during a routine tooth extraction and won’t be able to eat anything harder than baby food for some time to come. The coach at the high school, Boyd Watson, steps in at the last minute and the show goes on.

Late that night, Hannah receives a phone call from Danielle, Boyd’s wife. She’s hysterical and can’t tell Hannah what’s going on, but begs her to come right over. Hannah does, to find Boyd lying on the floor of the garage, his head bashed in with a hammer.

Danielle is the prime suspect. Almost everyone in Lake Eden knows that Boyd had been beating her for years, and in fact, she had a black eye that very day. Did she finally snap and retailiate for all the abuse? Hannah doesn’t think so. She’s known Danielle for years and can’t imagine that she would be capable of something like that. But there are no witnesses. The neighbors didn’t hear a thing. And Danielle’s prints are all over the murder weapon.

Hannah is asked not to investigate the case, and she doesn’t want to get in the way of proper procedure, but Danielle is her friend. Poking and prodding the way Hannah does best, she gets to the bottom of the mystery and discovers just what really happened in that garage.

Filled with recipes, as usual, this is one yummy mystery to add to your “must read” list.

(This book was published by Kensington Publishing Corp. in 2001.)

Previously reviewed books by Joanne Fluke:

Sugar Cookie Murder

Blueberry Muffin Murder

Lemon Meringue Pie Murder