Minnesota & Mistletoe. Holiday-Wreathed Lock-Down
(Sunday, April 2, 2006)
Reviewer: Linda G. Shelnutt
SUGAR COOKIE MURDER was an ingenious holiday offering which would satisfy off-season as well. Being snowed in under high flavor was great entertainment escape. I enjoyed the leap into the reality of my kitchen of Hannah and friends testing recipes, the names and flavors of which paraded through the plot. As I skimmed the included cookbook, I realized I’d be able to fondly recall titles from the story, with each recipe becoming a “history” laden treat, sans off-beat ingredients, easy to conjure in real life even for a hair-brained cook who rarely follows a recipe. As usual, the plot melted out like heated butter. I was crossing fingers that the murder wouldn’t occur until the holiday event had extended into relishing the pot luck entrees. I had visions of Sugar Plums going sour as characters’ mouths watered in vain, as each recipe was described as it was placed onto the banquet tables. I enjoyed Lake Eden’s Cookie Jar town being condensed into the community center walls and parking lot, with satisfying entertainment flowing through culinary concoctions, social machinations, and a school jazz band. Since Mike was a Fluky fool when it came to seeing through Shawna Lee, Hannah seethed her dark-side toward the “lady,” which may have taken the heat off Hannah’s mother (the early morning phone call from Dolores hadn’t even received a hiss from Moshie, though it did get slight spits of steam from Hannah). I wondered if Fluke set the murder midway into the plot to dramatize that Hannah’s “Cookie-Jar-Town” didn’t need murder and detecting to make it an interesting, satisfying read. (Is there a contrast to Sinclair Lewis here?) Fluke perfectly piled on small town charms, without being too sentimental, interjecting plenty of spice and savory, expanding every-which-way beyond Hannah’s basic but crafty cookies. After the charm was in full simmer, Fluke popped the murder on the “grill” and sizzled it (on ice), with a twist in the resolution which returned full circle to her original point of dramatizing The Good Life and The Good People. Fluke proved the point that small towns are very much NOT boring, as Brandi Wyen had whined. Lake Eden was the antithesis of that for people who weren’t boring themselves. Like the Partridge in a Pear Tree, the denouement had a new baby brought into the fold as a delicious “line dance,” floor-pacing was performed poshly without practice, in the maternity ward hallway. Fluke’s light touch can fool readers (but afterthoughts can be telling) into thinking her stories are mere entertainment confections. How mere are confections? How potent is entertainment? Some of the best hints came out here about which beau Hannah might favor. Prior to SUGAR COOKIE, I had no clue, and enjoyed that state of balanced confusion. I’m now 99% certain I know. This one’s a winner, a complex (more than I would have anticipated), perfect gift any time you need a lift into the inner warmth of a Minnesota winter. The before, during, and after effect is better than Prozac. Take the small-town-sugar-pill! For whatever ails, it treats better than (too) many medicines.