Strawberry Shortcake Murder - Joanne Fluke After the treat of Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, I decided to plunge ahead with number two in the Hannah Swensen series.
The first annual Hartland Dessert Bake-off is being held in Lake Eden with Hannah Swensen, the owner of The Cookie Jar, acting as head judge. But the initial round is barely over before one of the judges, Coach Boyd Watson, is found in his garage bludgeoned to death. The first suspect is his wife, Danielle, whom he had been abusing for years. But Hannah does not believe that her friend could possibly have killed her abusive husband and starts an investigation to find out who killed Coach Watson.

In the last book, Hannah investigates a murder because her brother-in-law, a "good" detective, asks her for help (because Hannah heard a lot of gossip? Please). That was a terribly poor reason to investigate, and Joanne Fluke must have realized that because she gives Hannah a much more plausible reason for investigating this murder. Having Hannah investigate to clear her friend's name is much more logical and requires less suspension of imagination (which isn't bad, but if overused...).
The mystery is a good one and has plenty of twists and turns. Just when you think Hannah has the identity all figured out, a new obstacle is placed in her way. We see how Hannah uses deductive logic (some of which I don't agree with, but them I am quite skeptical) and photography to unearth clues of the killer's identity. The killer is certainly not the first one you might suspect.
It was pleasant to see Hannah and Andrea work together in this mystery to find the killer. The two sisters have a good relationship and rapport with each other and seeing them interact so well is very "cozy".
Other fun characters are Lisa and Norman. Lisa is a sweet character that you just can't help but like. While her boss is investigating the crime, Lisa is willing to come in early, work late and go the extra mile for her boss. And it is always interesting to learn more about the townsfolk of Lake Eden. Norman is a good humored dentist with a pleasant personality. Definitely a good friend for Hannah!
Although brief, I enjoyed how Hannah taught Craig English Literature. She made it so interesting that I was intrigued (and I have no aptitude or interest in English Lit!).
And one of the most important reasons to buy this book is for the seven delicious recipes. I enjoyed how Joanne integrated each one into the plot and am definitely making plans to try them out (but be warned as you read--you will be hungry!).

I don't know if there was any one thing that made this book worse than the last, but, somehow, I found it less pleasant than Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder. The things that bugged me about this entry were multiple little quibbles:
1. Four year old Tracey talks like she is about ten.
2. Lucy is such an unlikeable bad character that you have to look at the front cover to make sure it doesn't say "Nancy Drew" on the front.
3. Mike, the sexy hunk, that just happens to be dating Hannah, the average woman, is aggravatingly arrogant and caustic and certainly not appealing to this woman at all.
4. Hannah is not beyond stealing, breaking and entering into someone's home, lying, and pretty much anything all to solve a crime. And all she gets is maybe a slap on the wrist while the cops, Bill and Mike, look the other way and snatch up her tainted evidence. Definitely would not happen in the real world.
5. When a certain woman does not make a dental appointment, it takes almost 100 pages before people think that something might be wrong (i.e. the woman is dead). The moment Norman called saying the woman did not make her appointment, I thought, "She's dead". It seems ludicrous that Hannah and Andrea took almost a whole day to come to the same conclusion.
6. I started noticing what other reviewers had mentioned about how Joanne Fluke includes a characters name in a dialog very frequently ("Andrea, what did you do with the sugar?" "I don't remember, Hannah" "Could you look again, Andrea?" "Of course, Hannah"). Some of it makes sense, but others sound clunky.
7. Instead of describing something in a narrative, Joanne will have characters describe in dialogue what they are seeing/doing.
8. It's amazing how much time Hannah and Andrea can take off from their respective workplaces to solve a murder. Wish I had that flexibility at my workplace.
9. I don't know how Andrea could eat a huge lunch of Stroganoff and then down three fattening Pecan Chews and still be oh, so slender (a size 5 or something from what I recall). When you get down to it, Andrea should be the size of a blimp with the number of cookies that she downs in a day. In fact, I don't see how most people in Lake Eden aren't the size of Betty (aka a size 26, a disparaging comment that is mentioned each time that she is) in this book with the number of cookies that Hannah passes out.
10. The ending is reminiscent of something from a children's mystery story (the stereotypical face-off and learning all the missing details of the mystery--been there, grew out of that).

Dialogue/Sexual Situations/Violence:
Occasional use of da** and he**. Hannah chides Andrea for toning down her language.
Several double entendres pass between Mike and Hannah. Two characters are having an affair. Brief comments about Hannah's prior relationship to a man in college.
A woman is shot in the back of her head (no details fortunately). Coach Watson is murdered by a blow to the head with a ball peen hammer (and if you've ever seen one, you can just about imagine--as I did--how this hammer damaged the coach's head). Danielle has bruises from her abuse.

The first book in a series is usually the best, but it will often have "first-time" author flaws. The second book in a series is not usually as good, but the writing is often much better. This is probably the best way to categorize my feelings toward "Strawberry Shortcake Murder". On one hand, the writing is clearer (although still far from perfect) and the story tighter, but the cute character flaws from Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, Hannah's illegal solving antics, and the conclusion reminiscent of a child's book have now begun to get annoying. Perhaps, I should have let my stomach settle before going for seconds.