Review

Gingerbread Cookie Murder

Joanne Fluke, Leslie Meier and Laura Levine

Christmas is coming, and the cookies --- and bodies --- are piling up across the country in this smorgasbord of murder mysteries.

"After Ernie is discovered in a pool of blood in front of his refrigerator with his head bashed in, the list of suspects is almost as long as the list of ingredients for Hannah’s Magic Chocolate Caramel Cookie Bars."

In the first story, “Gingerbread Cookie Murder” by Joanne Fluke, Hannah Swensen gets burned after she doesn’t hear the oven timer. Two dozen reindeer cookies in her Lake Eden, Minnesota condo are ruined, but it isn’t her fault. Ernie Kusak, an inconsiderate lottery-winning divorcee, is not a good neighbor. He flaunts his wealth, plays deafening Christmas music all hours of the day and night, and puts on a dazzling holiday laser show that has all the tenants wanting his head.

After Ernie is discovered in a pool of blood in front of his refrigerator with his head bashed in, the list of suspects is almost as long as the list of ingredients for Hannah’s Magic Chocolate Caramel Cookie Bars. A whimsical mystery and a dozen mouth-watering recipes, complete with a baking conversion chart, make “Gingerbread Cookie Murder” a sweet treat.

In Laura Levine’s “The Dangers of Gingerbread Cookies,” Jaine Austen leaves Los Angeles with her cat Prozak to spend Christmas at her parents’ Tampas Vistas retirement community. Jaine expects to enjoy the holiday with her mom and dad in the Florida sun. Because of her credentials writing toilet bowl ads, she is enlisted to help with a community theater production of the play “The Gingerbread Cookie that Saved Christmas.”

The play’s starring role is given to playboy Dr. Preston McCay, who has a suspicious nature and a cast of jealous senior sweethearts. The show is also McCay’s final curtain call after falling to his death. But is the geriatric playboy’s passing an accident or intentional? After one of McCay’s admirers is accused of his murder, Jaine must roll up her sleeves to catch the killer. This playful mystery, with its light-hearted tone and cast of quirky characters, is lots of fun, even though it doesn’t rely on recipes to cook up a yummy story.

In “Gingerbread Cookies and Gunshots” by Leslie Meier, Lucy Stone --- a busy wife, mother, grandmother, part-time reporter and feature writer --- hopes for a peaceful Christmas with her family in Massachusetts. Funds are tight, and after her grown children tell her about their plans away from home, Christmas is looking anything but peaceful --- or jolly.

But Lucy stops feeling sorry for herself after she hears about the kidnapping of a four-year-old boy named Nemo Anderson, to whom she gave a gingerbread cookie the day before. She gets involved in the investigation after discovering the body of Nemo’s father. The most serious of the three gingerbread mysteries, “Gingerbread Cookies and Gunshots” is a story about the importance of family and the real meaning of Christmas.

This assortment of different yet satisfying stories dishes out the tasty goods that are sure to please mystery lovers.

Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt (dvolkenannt@charter.net) on December 22, 2010

Gingerbread Cookie Murder
Joanne Fluke, Leslie Meier and Laura Levine

  • Publication Date: September 27, 2011
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Kensington
  • ISBN-10: 0758234961
  • ISBN-13: 9780758234964