The Hannah Swensen Mystery Series (sometimes called the Cookie Jar Mystery Series) by Joanne Fluke is another of the most recommended series by Cozy Mystery site readers on the monthly Cozy recommendation lists. The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder (published in 2000), is the first in what now extends to more than 20 mystery novels and novellas.
These mysteries are so popular with Cozy readers for good reasons, which is why the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel chose to feature Hannah in their rotating series of mystery movies. Hannah is a classic Cozy Mystery character. Hannah is an (almost) thirty-ish woman who moved back to her hometown, Lake Eden, after her father who had owned the town’s hardware store passed away. Hannah came back to Lake Eden at the request of her younger and more glamorous sister, Andrea, who along with her even younger sister Michelle, could not cope with their mother who was a “basket case” when their father died. Moving back to town was okay with Hannah since she was tired of pursuing her PhD in English (maybe because of at least one failed romance!).
Lake Eden is a small town in Minnesota which borders on Eden Lake. The distinction between Lake Eden and Eden Lake confuses visitors to the town, and there are a lot of visitors because the lake is a vacation draw in the summer. The town swells in the summer months to nearly four times its normal population of 3000.
All of the elements of a great modern Cozy series are here. After Hannah moved back to town, she opened a bakery/coffee shop at the suggestion of her sister, Andrea. Andrea is conveniently married to a police officer (hopefully soon to be a detective), Bill. With her frizzy red hair, ultra casual dressing style, and 20 pounds or so to lose, Hannah considers herself frumpy and unsophisticated next to her glamorous sister (who sells real estate); and yet, the eligible men in Lake Eden seem to circle around Hannah like bees around flowers. To Hannah’s annoyance, her mother frequently interferes in Hannah’s life. Her mother is especially concerned with what her mother considers Hannah’s lack of a love life. And, Hannah has a half-blind 25 pound tomcat, Moishe, who features prominently in her home life.
The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder is a fun read. Hannah gets involved in solving the murder mystery because she discovers the body (who was eating one of her chocolate chip cookies when he died) and to help her brother-in-law, Bill, who is trying to make detective. Between her coffee shop, the Cookie Jar, and her catering refreshments to every club, group or meeting in Lake Eden, Hannah has ample opportunity to gather information by talking to what seems like nearly everyone in Lake Eden.
The mystery is the type I especially enjoy because it is fair to the reader; all the clues are given to the reader who has an equal chance with Hannah to solve the case. The main characters are interesting and the setting has the charm of a small town. Finally, the icing on the cake (yes, pun intended!) are the many detailed recipes (cookies and candy in the first book) scattered around the books.
The Kindle edition currently includes a Christmas novella, Candy for Christmas, which is a cute little Cozy Mystery that does not include a murder. I guess the novella is really the icing on the icing!
I know we have lots of other Hannah Swensen readers, so if you’d like to add something to this entry, please post a comment. (Please try not to give away too many things from future Hannah Swensen books >>> since some people will be starting the series.) Thanks!
P.S. If you’re interested in other entries about some highly recommended Cozy Mystery series, you can see them on the Most Recommended Cozy Mystery Series page on my site.