WARNING: AS ALWAYS, THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU DON’T LIKE SPOILERS OR YOU’VE ALREADY READ THE BOOK.
I thought this time for a book review I’d go outside the sci-fi/fantasy books and read a mystery-genre book instead! So, I picked up the book Cinnamon Roll Murder by Joanne Fluke last week and read it. I’ve actually read Fluke’s book Blueberry Muffin Murder,which takes place way before Cinnamon Roll Murder as it is in Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen Series, but I plan to review that another time.
Here is the summary of this book so you know what this one in particular is about:
“April is a busy time for Hannah Swensen and her bakery; the warm weather makes folks in Lake Eden, Minnesota, go wild for something sweet. When Hannah hears that the Cinnamon Roll Six jazz band will be playing at the town’s Weekend Jazz Festival, she’s more than happy to bake up a generous supply of their namesake confections to welcome the band to town.
Before the festival even begins, tragedy strikes when the tour bus overturns. Among those injured is Buddy Neiman, the band’s beloved keyboard player. Buddy’s injuries appear minor, until his condition suddenly takes a turn for the worse—as in dead. Hannah’s no doctor, but she suspects that the surgical scissors someone plunged into Buddy’s chest may have something to do with it. Hannah isn’t sure just how she’ll unravel the mystery, but one thing’s for sure: nothing’s sweeter than bringing a killer to justice…”
Good news: Taking a look at the plotline itself, it was easy to follow most of the time. I liked the main plotline with trying to figure out who Buddy’s murderer was and also uncovering a bit of Buddy’s past in the process, and the recipes included in the book sounded quite tasty and I might try making them in the future.
Warning: The bad news starts after this sentence.
I didn’t really like two certain parts of the plot, specifically:
1. The fact that the book squeezes in recipes after almost every chapter. I understand that this book was meant to include recipes, that it even said so in the book, and it makes some sense considering Hannah is a baker. However, did all of those recipes really have to be put in after every single chapter? Why not stick all the recipes at the end of the book after the story and if there is a chapter with a certain recipe in it, show the page number as of where to find that recipe? Putting recipes in after every chapter that showcases a recipe really ruined the flow of the plotline for me, because after one chapter, I would find myself having to skip past the recipe to continue reading more of the story.
2. The entire romance subplot where Hannah, our main character, goes and prevents her love interest, Norman, from marrying a very manipulative woman who was pretending that Norman was the father of said manipulative woman’s baby in order to get him to marry her. I mean, this complete subplot could have been written much better than what was written through the entire book. Although the subplot was meant to serve a purpose for character development and romantic relationship development as well as provide something to the main plot that would help reveal things about the victim of the murder and who murdered him, this entire part of the book was written so terribly that I just eventually went and skipped through those sections so I could continue with the main story. You’ve got the overused romance subplot of Hannah, our main character, pining for her past love interest (Norman), and Norman is going to marry said manipulative woman because’s Norman is way too nice to realize that his wife-to-be is actually really mean. What does Hannah do about it? Nothing—she’s resigned to let Norman marry this horrible person without even protesting, and only once her own mother and sister egg her on in the most unkind fashion by insulting her personality does she actually go and give any effort to stop Norman and the bad woman’s wedding. And of course, with these kind of subplots, Hannah succeeds in breaking up Norman and the bad woman by the day before their wedding, because that’s how these kind of subplots always seem to end. This particular subplot feels overused to me—it’s something I’ve seen in too many romance movies, and I’ve read better variations of this kind of subplot, so I was very disappointed with it. This subplot in the book would have been more entertaining at the end for me if Norman ended up marrying the horrible person anyway and then let our main character be more miserable about it because she was too weak in will to do anything without anyone pushing her to do things about that. Either that sort of end scenario should have happened, or the subplot should have been cut out of the book entirely and the main plot would be given more attention so that it would be better than it is already. I know I’m probably being rather harsh about this subplot, but I honestly hated it. That was the worst part of this book.
When it came to characters, I didn’t find myself liking any of the characters. Even Hannah, the main character, doesn’t go through much development and I was a little sad about that. I think all of the characters lacked any real development, hence why I couldn’t bring myself to like any of them, even the minor ones.
There were also some character issues I had overall. Two character issues, to be exact.
1. The reactions to Buddy’s murder after it happened. Delores (Hannah’s mom) freaked out (which makes sense, anyone would surely freak out), but then by the next chapter no one really seems fazed about it, as if Hannah and everyone else is like “Oh, someone’s dead. Oh well, let’s go bake these cookies and get back to it later!” without a second thought about the victim. We only see better reactions to the death in much later chapters when a waitress freaks out about hearing it (though it escapes me to know why the heck she hadn’t know of Buddy’s murder, especially if she’s a die-hard fan of him and his music). I feel that if a murder happened, I would freak out. A lot of people would probably freak out, especially if they were one of the last ones to see that poor murder victim! And yet…there was a lack of real reaction right after the murder happened. That part felt a bit stale when I read through those reactions—I thought people would be more grieved/shocked to hear of it happening.
2. All of guys in this book act like idiots. Except for Norman. You have one of the band members abusing his girlfriend, there are implications that Buddy (the victim) wasn’t all that nice, the cop (his name is Mike I think) is suspicious of EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING and yet he doesn’t find anything useful to help solve the case, and Norman is consequently the only nice guy (but nice to the point that it doesn’t even feel realistic) out of the bunch of male characters that appear in this book. I was really disappointed at that most of all, character-wise. I was hoping that there would be more variety in terms of personalities for the male characters aside from “stupid person,” “stupid bad person” and “stupid nice person.” There was also this character named “Freddy” who I never really heard of or took notice of until close to the end of the book where he helps Hannah take down the guy that killed Buddy, and I guess he was nice, but he was extremely hard to take notice of throughout the book. Because of that happening, I therefore was confused when “Freddy” came in and stopped the bad guy. It felt awkward to have this random person who I barely seemed to know of in the book to suddenly arrive and be the hero!
Overall, I have to give this book a 2.25 out of 5 stars because of the nearly-complete lack of character development, the badly-written subplot and the weird points in the plotline (like reactions to the murder as I noted earlier). However, this book did have a decent main plot in terms of the sequence of events within the main plot especially when it came to the parts when the characters were gathering clues regarding the murder case, so if you’re going to read this, just ignore the entire subplot and just read the main plot.