Enhance your holiday celebrations with this new trilogy of short Christmas stories. Best selling author, Joanne Fluke, headlines this entertaining, feel-good tribute to seasonal literature. Fifteen mouth-watering recipes complement the story lines; sure to add pleasure to any holiday feast or forthcoming Super Bowl party.
Gingerbread Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke
It’s a month before Christmas in Lake Eden, Minnesota and Hannah Swensen is anticipating the holidays. As owner of The Cookie Jar, a local eatery and coffee shop, she’s already begun her seasonal baking.
Hannah resides in the same condo development as Ernie Kusack, a recently divorced father of two teenagers. His ex-wife, Lorna, lives in the same complex.
Christmas music blasts from Ernie’s condo daily, given all his free time. Ernie, a former driver for the Shamrock Limousine Company, won 8 million dollars in the Super-Six-Lottery; and quit his job.
Ernie agreed to Hannah’s request to lower the music volume while visiting her shop. Hannah gave Ernie a dozen of her gingerbread cookies to seal the deal.
When the music’s volume becomes unbearable, and Hannah’s attempts to reach Ernie fail, she enlists the help of policeman, Mike Kingston. Hannah and Mike enter Ernie’s condo with a key supplied by his ex-wife Lorna. There, they find Ernie dead on the floor near an open refrigerator door; Hannah’s earlier gift of gingerbread cookies is crumbled among the floor.
Who killed Ernie and why? Was it his ex-wife, Lorna, using his condo key? What does a cell phone number matching Ernie’s lottery winning picks, and a framed copy of the lucky ticket hanging in Ernie’s guest bathroom have to do with the crime?
Hannah Swensen is Fluke’s recurring character in her books, incorporating food in the plot and titles. Fluke weaves thirteen mouth-watering recipes into the story, including ‘Gingerbread Cookies,” and “Magic Chocolate Caramel Cookie Bars.” “Game-Day Oven Burgers,” and “Smokin’ Willie’s Crispy Crunchy Coleslaw” would complement any Super Bowl party.
The Dangers of Gingerbread Cookies by Laura Levine
Jaine Austen, and her cat Prozac, visit her parents for the Christmas holidays at their Tampa Vistas Retirement Community. Hank and Claire Austen are still madly in love after all these years despite their quirks. Claire repeatedly calls Prozac Zoloft, and spoils the feline with table scraps, much to Jaine’s chagrin.
Jaine pens commercials in Los Angeles for her livelihood; and her parents insist on introducing their daughter as a famous Hollywood writer: “She wrote “In a Rush to Flush? Call Toiletmasters!”
Edna Lindstrom has written this year’s Tampa Vista’s holiday play entitled, The Gingerbread Cookie That Saved Christmas; and insists Jaine critique the dress rehearsal. It is as Jaine describes, “A shameless rip-off of both A Christmas Carol and Peter Pan, the tortured plot involved a gingerbread man who comes to life and helps a lonely older woman discover her many blessings.”
Preston McCay, a recent plastic surgeon retiree from Cleveland, joins the association. A womanizer, he quickly charms Edna into believing marriage is in their future and lands lead role in her play. Preston’s dialogue can’t be heard through the gingerbread man’s costume head, so they use facial make-up instead; making him look like a “molting bear with a human head.”
After the painstakingly long dress rehearsal, Edna suggests leading lady, Laurette Kendall, director Gloria Di Nardo, Preston and Jaine grab a bite to eat. Preston declines, claiming he’s too tired.
There at the Chinese restaurant, the quartet discovers Preston dining with Tampa Vista’s young, svelte water aerobics instructor.
Jaine watches in awe, as spare ribs fly, and each lady claims Preston had planned to marry her.
The play’s Opening night proves tragic, as Preston’s suspended pulley breaks during the finale; crashing him to the stage. He dies of a broken neck.
Who murdered Preston McCay? Was it one of his jilted romantic interests or some other Tampa Vistas resident? Levine keeps you laughing till the mystery’s end.
Laura Levine is a Hollywood comedy writer, touting major television credits to her name. She’s currently writing the next Jane Austen mystery.
Gingerbread Cookies and Gunshots by Leslie Meier
Lucy Stone is a wife, mother, grandmother and part-time reporter for Tinker Cove Maine’s Pennysaver newspaper.
While doing some holiday grocery shopping, she’s reacquainted with four-year-old, redheaded Nemo Anderson, and his mother Ocean at the bakery counter. Nemo wants a gingerbread man cookie and his mother cries poverty. Nemo and Ocean live at the Aquarizoo, an abandoned, run-down aquarium that was previously a tourist trap. Ocean, with a shaved head and numerous facial piercings, is unconventional to say the least.
Lucy catches up with Ocean and Nemo in the store parking lot after buying Nemo a cookie. There, Ocean’s boyfriend Rick Juergens, is picking them up in his Porsche. Rick too sports a shaved head, various rings and studs on his face, gold tooth and barbed wire tattoo around his neck. Townspeople peg the couple as drug dealers.
Lucy asks herself, “How can they afford a Porsche, but they can’t afford a dollar forty-nine cookie for their kid?” Her newspaper reporting experience reminds her that things aren’t always as they appear; and she suspends judgment.
The next day while driving, Lucy hears an AMBER Alert on her car radio announcing Nemo’s disappearance. His abductor is described as “a large African American woman wearing a quilted maroon coat.” She’s driving a gray Honda CR-V with Massachusetts license plates.
What becomes Nemo’s fate? Is he found, and if so, dead or alive? Why is Nemo’s last name Anderson and not Juergens like Rick’s? What accounts for Lucy discovering Rick’s body in his Porsche at Blueberry Pond, shot in the head, Nemo’s half-eaten gingerbread cookie that she’d given him nearby, and no sign of Nemo?
Leslie Meier is the author of sixteen Lucy Stone mysteries and has written for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. She’s currently working on the next Lucy Stone mystery.
Gingerbread Cookie Murder makes an entertaining seasonal read whether at home, or during your train or bus commute to work. All three stories are steeped in feel-good holiday fanfare despite being murder mysteries. The authors showcase their simple, crisp writing abilities, including well-hidden plots. Complement your holiday celebrations by reading this trilogy; and consider it for early gift giving for anyone on your list who enjoys literature.
To review select recipes by Joanne Fluke, visit http://www.murdershebaked.com./recipe.htm.