Saturday, April 19, 2008

Good News from North Haven

by Michael L. Lindvall
Crossroads/Carlisle, 2002

A pastor himself, Lindvall has put together eighteen stories about a Presbyterian pastor and his quirky congregation in "North Haven", Minnesota. Not quite as hilarious as Philip Gulley's Harmony series (about a Quaker pastor and his assemblage in Indiana), there are nevertheless some laugh-out-loud moments, along with nuggets of wisdom.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Out of Circulation (A Miss Zukas Mystery)

by Jo Dereske
Avon, 1997

This series starts with Miss Zukas and the Library Murders. As with all series books, it is advisable to read them chronologically.

A librarian by profession, I love to read fictional works with librarian protagonists. Sometimes I'm disappointed with the results, but Miss Zukas (Helma) is one of the happy exceptions - a hilarious send-up of the stereotype :)

In Out of Circulation, artist friend Ruth, persuades Helma to join her on a mountain hike to mark Ruth's upcoming 40th birthday. After doing her research and purchasing all the necessary equipment, Helma is prepared for any eventuality on the trail. Good thing - a dead body turns up on the first day. After the victim is removed from the scene, Helma and Ruth trek on to see if they can find and assist his missing partner. An unexpected snowstorm hits, they find a wounded and unconscious hiker, and take shelter in an emergency cabin. Four others share these close quarters. One of them is a murderer.

Kudos to author Jo Dereske for keeping me guessing right until the guilty party is revealed. A terrific read and a great addition to the series.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery

by Joanne Fluke
Kensington Books, 2008
Tenth in the series; includes recipes.
When Gus shows up just in time for a family reunion, after a 25 year absence from Lake Eden, his family is thrilled. They also have a lot of questions for him: why did he disappear in the middle of the night without telling anyone where he was going? Why did he stay out of contact? What has his life been like?

Gus appears to have a lot going for him - he flashes a lot of money around, treats everyone to an expensive brunch, tells them about the nightclub businesses he owns, and makes like he's a bigwig. But when he turns up dead on the second day of the reunion, it quickly becomes clear that not everything was what it seemed. There are several people who might have wanted him dead.
Hannah, our amateur sleuth and professional cookie baker, has her work cut out for her. Working with (and against) local cop and sometimes boyfriend, Mike, and with the able assistance of her family and other sometimes boyfriend, Norman, Hannah starts piecing things together. Can she protect her business partner's dad from being falsely accused? Will she catch the killer before he - or she - strikes again?

I knew "whodunit" early on, but it didn't spoil the read because I still needed to know all the threads that pulled it together. I recommend this series, but suggest you read them in order, starting with The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder. The only book that really disappointed was The Sugar Cookie Murder, but you might want to read it for the romance angle...