cozy · mystery · Series Review

Joanne Fluke Book Series Review

hannahswense

Let’s talk about Joanne Flukes Hannah Swensen cozy mystery series. There are 21 books and according to Goodreads I’ve read 13 but I think it’s more like 16 I just didn’t record all of them so I feel like I can talk about the series from a relatively informed place. The odds are the 5 or so books I haven’t read are very similar to the rest of the series.

I don’t know when I came across my first Hannah Swensen book but I know it was more than 8 years ago. I probably just came across it at my library and this was back when audiobooks were mostly in CD form. I have never read these books in physical form I only listen to them. The woman who narrates the audiobooks is Suzanne Toren. I think her voice is perfect for the character Hannah. I also really love when the same person narrates all of the books in a series.

On the surface, these seemed like the perfect book for me. A cozy mystery series with a woman who owns a cookie shop yup I’m in. The bonus was that there are cookie recipes included in the books. I have actually made a couple of the cookies and with a few tweaks, they were some darn good cookies. The truth is though that I don’t actually like these books which makes no sense because I keep reading them. I can’t actually explain that so let me just tell you about the books.
Hannah Swensen lives in Lake Eden Minnesota with her fat cat Moisha and her cookie shop called the Cookie Jar. As per all cozy mysteries the town includes a few quirky (not quirky at all in this series) townsfolk that pop up in every book. Hannah’s family consists of her overbearing emotionally abusive mother, vapid older sister Andrea and her husband who happens to be the town Sherrif and little sister Michelle who can’t ever seem to understand a joke. Also included in the mix are assistant Lisa and the lady who runs the clothing store next door I forget her name, and then a few other town stragglers like the Mayor and a pastor from the local church. As we are told repeatedly Hannah is SINGLE and we are often reminded that she’s not great looking either. Unlike her pretty and petite mother and sisters, she’s big boned tall (I think she’s compared to Vikings at one point) has frizzy red hair that she never combs, never wears makeup because she’s not one of “those” girls and she dresses like an Alaskan lumberjack. One of the long-running story lines in the book revolves around the two men Hannah is “interested” in. First, there’s Mike the not so great policeman, he’s tall and handsome and manly and loves to eat Hannah’s cookies (I mean the ones she bakes get your mind out of the gutter) and just about anything else he can get his hands on. He’s always showing up unexpectedly when people are eating so, quirky! Then there’s Norman the not so attractive slight goofy cat loving dentist. He’s always available to cat sit but he’s also whatever the male equivalent of frumpy is! I always picture Paul Giamatti. Hannah spends nearly the entire series sort of dating both guys but never really choosing either one of them. The kicker is Norman and Mike really like each other and often spend time together with Hannah. You know like one of those awesome 2 on 1 dates on the Bachelor! That’s not awkward at all.

As we are told repeatedly Hannah is SINGLE and we are often reminded that she’s not great looking either. Unlike her pretty and petite mother and sisters, she’s big boned tall (I think she’s compared to Vikings at one point) has frizzy red hair that she never combs, never wears makeup because she’s not one of “those” girls and she dresses like an Alaskan lumberjack. One of the long-running story lines in the book revolves around the two men Hannah is “interested” in. First, there’s Mike the not so great policeman, he’s tall and handsome and manly and loves to eat Hannah’s cookies (I mean the ones she bakes get your mind out of the gutter) and just about anything else he can get his hands on. He’s always showing up unexpectedly when people are eating so, quirky! Then there’s Norman the not so attractive slightly goofy but oh so straigh laced cat loving dentist. He’s always available to cat sit but he’s also whatever the male equivalent of frumpy is! I always picture Paul Giamatti. Hannah spends nearly the entire series sort of dating both guys but never really choosing either one of them. The kicker is Norman and Mike really like each other and often spend time together with Hannah. That’s not awkward at all.
When Hannah isn’t coming up with delectable and adorably named cookies for her shop she solves the murders that happen in her sleepy cold little town. Of course, Hannah has help from her cast of characters including Norman the dentist. Mike is always telling her to butt out and did I mention that the Sheriff happens to be her brother-in-law? He’s never happy about the sleuthing but he always brings police files home. This, of course, makes it easy peasy for Andrea to make copies to give to Hannah.

A typical book works like this.

Cookies are baked, a body is found by Hannah, she sets out to solve it roping in her sisters, Norman and Lisa sometimes her mom and a few other townsfolk to help. Hannah tells Norman she really likes him, she tells Mike she really likes him, Hannahs’ cat jumps into her arms and growls at her mother and begs for food. Hannah has a bag of fresh cookies with her at all times. Hannah offers cookies (actual cookies people sheesh) to people in exchange for info. Hannah stumbles upon the murderer lets them know she knows, the murderer tries to kill her someone usually Mike sometimes Norman rushes in to save her.
The series is not great as I mentioned before. It’s too earnest and has no sense of humor. I really mean that no one has a sense of humor. Sarcasm is dispatched clumsily and no one ever gets it. Pretty much anytime someone makes a sarcastic comment the other person takes it literally which gets old fast. If you were to tell someone to go fly a kite they would tell you they don’t own a kite! Also, there is no sexual tension between Hannah and her would-be suitors. This is bad because their “relationships” play out for nearly the entire series. Another problem is no one in the town ever has or ever will have sex. I don’t mean I need to read about sex but these people blush when talking about kissing. I find that weird because it’s a very cold place in the winter and everyone has a fireplace! Just saying. And everyone is great at cooking baking and creating recipes except Hannah’s sister Andrea. I mean I come from a family of good cooks but this town is chalk full of them. The real kicker is how many of them can create a recipe. Have you ever tried to create a recipe? It’s not easy but whatevs. Oh, and Hannahs mom is terrible. She’s narcissistic and passive aggressive, she can’t take criticism and everyone has to tip toe around her. She puts Hannah down all the time but in a backhanded compliment kind of way.

So right now you’re asking Ginger why did you read so many of these books if you dislike them so much?
I have no idea. I have wasted so much time on these although they are relatively quick to get through and I listen to them while I’m cooking or cleaning or driving. I can say that the last one I read is my last one ever. I just have no desire to return to this world anymore. I do however want to try a couple more cookie recipes.
Overall I give the series a 2 out of 5 stars. I wouldn’t recommend these to anyone ever the end.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s