I've read other books in Joanne Fluke's 'Hannah Swensen' series so it was interesting to backtrack and read 'book one' for the first time.
Hannah Swensen - a tall, attractive redhead - leaves graduate school and returns home to Lake Eden, Minnesota for family reasons. Hannah decides to stay in town and opens 'The Cookie Jar' bakery and café. Hannah's mom and two sisters live in Lake Eden and often become involved in her amateur investigations.
This book features Hannah's mom Dolores - who owns an antique shop and repeatedly tries to set Hannah up with eligible men (much to Hannah's chagrin); and Hannah's sister Andrea - a pretty fashionista, mother, and real estate agent who's married to Deputy Sheriff Bill Todd.
As the story opens Hannah and her assistant Lisa are at the 'The Cookie Jar' early, baking cookies and preparing for the morning rush. Hannah is expecting a delivery from milkman Ron LaSalle, who's late for the first time ever. When Hannah hears that Ron's delivery van entered a nearby alley she thinks he broke down and goes to help. Instead of a broken van Hannah finds a broken body....Ron has been shot dead.
Hannah's cop brother-in-law Bill is about to be promoted to detective and asks Hannah to keep her eyes and ears open - in case clues about Ron's killer come her way. Of course Hannah jumps right in and takes over the entire inquiry, keeping Bill in the loop as needed. This is a pet peeve of mine with this series....that Hannah (and whatever family members she draws in) do almost all the investigating while the cops do who knows what. I know this premise is common in cozy mysteries but it still irks me.
Between making cookies and pursuing her inquiries Hannah buys a flattering little black dress and attends the annual gala thrown by Del and Judith Woodley - one of the richest families in town. Soon afterward another dead body is discovered and Hannah learns that this second victim was a loan shark who threatened some prominent Lake Eden residents. Could the murders of the milkman and loan shark be connected? Hannah plans to find out.
In this book Hannah becomes acquainted with the two men who form part of her (seemingly eternal) romantic triangle. First Hannah meets Norman Rhodes, described as an older, balding dentist who's taking over his father's dental practice. Later Hannah meets Detective Mike Kingston, portrayed as a handsome, blue-eyed, blonde hunk who's just been hired by the the Sheriff's Department. Both men take a shine to Hannah and by the end of the book she has two dates for the weekend. (Sounds good to me....LOL)
Hannah talks to persons of interest, collects clues, and solves the crimes - putting herself in considerable danger in the process. But Hannah is a clever, resourceful gal and things turn out okay (allowing the series to continue. LOL).
The characters in the story are generally interesting and well-drawn. It would be great to know someone like Hannah, who gives away bags of cookies wherever she goes. I also like Hannah's big orange cat Moishe, a smart fellow who watches TV, tells Hannah when he's hungry, and provides affection and comfort as needed. The book also has cookie recipes sprinkled throughout, which sound delicious.
I enjoyed this cozy mystery and would recommend it to fans of the genre.