Glen Gardner, NJ, United States | Member Since 2014
This is book 3 in Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen series and I have not listened to any others. Hannah runs a bakery, The Cookie Jar, which should come as no surprise given the titles in this series.
I rather like the way the author makes light of the obvious issue with how unlikely it is that this bakery owner would keep getting involved in murder investigations. Her overbearing mother, upon learning that Hannah has discovered her fifth corpse scolds, "Hannah! You have to stop this! It is going to ruin your reputation and people will start avoiding you!" These books tend to feature multiple murders it seems which just makes things even more unlikely and harder to blend into small town life.
It was likable enough, but not great. I probably liked the recipes and the ups and downs of Hannah's love life more than the mystery component. I enjoyed the atmosphere of a winter carnival. But the end was too dramatic - with a killer who is oddly and suddenly a lunatic like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. If I had written the book myself (if I could write books that is) I think I would have crumpled up that attempt at revealing the killer and tried again. If I read another Hannah Swensen it would probably be to see which of her current love interests wins out. But I am not in any rush to do that. Actually I wish I would have liked it better because there are lots of these and that would have promised much reading enjoyment to come. Oh well.
The thing to know about this book is that there isn't much action. If you want excitement look elsewhere. I like peaceful books, with small town settings where characters bake and hang out with their cats and even I found this book very mild. There is a lot of meaningless polite dialogue too. "How are you today, Kathleen?" "I'm fine." "Are you sure you are fine?" "Yes, I am sure. Thank you so much for asking." That sort of thing. Kathleen is not an exciting person. There's no romance (though clearly the hunky detective who likes cats is intended as a future love interest). We don't really learn much more about the cats magical abilities than you could learn by reading the back cover. I am hoping to have things pick up in the next book. It isn't entirely clear why Kathleen is investigating the murder at all actually. In general I prefer a real reason to motivate a person. The thing I liked least about the book though was the ending. Most people want the victim to be someone not well liked so nobody is sad about it. This victim is a really bad person, probably too bad because I really didn't care if his murder was solved. Lastly, and this makes me a bad person I guess, when the killer is revealed I sort of wished Kathleen had left the whole thing alone. It seemed sort of self righteous to push this whole issue, and why really was she so hung up on getting "justice" for this dead jerk anyway? However, I have had that issue with other heroines in other series (like Skye in the Scumble River books). They pursue these things because they are such good people. Can't relate. I am going to read the next one though because I feel there is potential with the magical cat angle and the romance angle. I tried reading the print version of this book some time ago and made it about halfway through. It just didn't hold my attention. But I did much better with the audio version. At first I was turned off by the narration. Our heroine is given a very snooty voice and I wasn't sure I could stand it but she grew on me over time.
I thought this book moved slower than the previous ones. I also didn't like the format all that much. The bulk of the book is told as Mattie tells her story to her shrink. The main problem I found with this approach was that instead of seeing the things happen, you are given a higher level spoiler, then told the story. And I mean big things are blown this way. We should see if Hurley is going to propose, not be told if he will. Things like that. Also the pregnant Mattie is more jealous and whiny than usual. Her shrink is paid to hear her repeatedly stress about whether her and Hurley "have what it takes" or not, but I wasn't. Not to imply I didn't enjoy the book, I continue to be interested in Mattie and Hurley and I did enjoy the book. But even the mysteries in this one take a back seat to Mattie's psych issues. We end at a good place for Mattie though and not without enough drama left that the series could continue.
I was torn between wanting to listen to this or to read it in print. I decided the book was simply too long for me to make it through in print so I got this version but I also took the hardcover put of the library because you really need the pictures to appreciate the story. Another way to make this work is to use the book's website emptymansionbook which has pictures readily available. The website also has other additional information. One frustrating thing is that as of the time the book was published there hadn't even been a settlement of the will. Even now, some things are still up in the air. I felt compelled as soon as I finished to see what information I could get online about where thongs stood. So just know that you have to go beyond this audiobook to get the complete story. Having said that though the story itself is absolutely fascinating. At least it was to me, though I imagine some people need more action. If you find strolling through old mansions and imagining life therein interesting then you will probably be interested. Having said that know there are a lot of long passages with lists of expenses, etc, that certainly slow the story down. Keep in mind too that you are dealing with an elderly recluse so action isn't going to be her thing. But if you ever wondered what went on in such a life this is an interesting look at just that. One interesting thing that you get with the audiobook as opposed to a print version is that there are numerous recordings from phone calls one of the coauthors had with Huguette and I thought that was a nice touch to get to actually hear this person you are spending all those hours hearing about. Having said that though she can be a little hard to understand. The book did feel long. One reason was that the authors went through her life a number of times. That is, they talked about her and got her up into her nineties several times before going back and covering another aspect of the same life later. Truthfully I am not sure if there was a better way to do this - they certainly had a challenge making a cohesive whole from the varied sources of information that they had. I was surprised the first time though that she made it into her nineties to discover I was only half way through the book. I am really glad I stuck with the book all the way through. It's rare to finish a book and remain so genuinely interested in what I just read that I wanted to revisit it on the internet. So a great book for the right audience.
While perhaps not earth shattering in its content, I did find this book interesting. One thing I particularly liked was as I listened a question would occur to me and it seemed every time I wondered something I found that whatever I was wondering about (theory of causation, or brain differences, or relation to attachment disorder) was the next thing to be addressed. The book starts with a discussion of the prevalence of sociopaths in society, and the 1 in 25 people statistic explained a lot of what happens in the world. As the author first discusses and portrays sociopaths, I was a little concerned that given the nature of the behavior of stereotypical sociopaths that I was in for an upsetting read. However with the exception of one episode which was unfortunate for bullfrogs, the book is safe even for the tenderhearted. I think the author did a great job showing different types of sociopaths outside the stereotype, and i like that while starting on a scarier note that the book ended in a more positive way. Really enjoyed the narrator - she really brought the characters to life. Her Doreen Littlefield in particular was perfect.
A lot of reviewers were very annoyed by this book and the sheer number of stupid things Mattie manages to do in it. I agree it is frustrating behavior for someone we have been regarding as a smart woman. Also, I agree with others who say the amount of disasters in the book is really over the top. It reads more like an action movie that a mystery. But I certainly did enjoy parts very much. The Mattie and Hurley build up is a lot of fun, and there is a scene with a drunken Mattie that was priceless, despite the fact that the narrator is really bad at drunk voices. And if the book hasn't driven you mad by the end there is the up and down of the cliffhanger ending that had me starting the next book within five minutes of this one. But since this is a mystery I should say something about the mystery part. There are two deaths being investigated in the book, and I have to say I am not sure what the author was thinking with the secondary death. It was a downer and didn't showcase anything good about Mattie and Hurley (who I notice both seem to like to play bad cop and feel ok bullying anyone involved in any capacity with a suspicious death). The main mystery was better. Book definitely kept my interest throughout.
I have become attached to Mattie and the characters in this series, so my standards aren't super high with the mysteries. However, this was definitely not a favorite for a couple of reasons. The mystery was set in a nursing home and I don't really care for the portrayal of old folks in this book. They are mostly played crudely and for laughs. I have never found the character of the sex starved old lady who is supposed to be funny/repulsive to be amusing. I gather plenty of people do find that funny since this author certainly isn't the only one to put in such characters for humor. It seems especially off when they are also trying to make statements about the value of life. That wasn't a big deal though. What I found weak about the mystery was that no one ever solves it. They investigate but really nothing gets accomplished until the killer basically comes forward. I prefer my detectives to actually solve the mystery not just work on it until it blows up in their face. Still, I enjoyed Mattie and Hurley. I was surprised by how quickly they fell back in together after the cliffhanger ending of the last book. Although there are some things left up in the end at the end of this one, Mattie seems in a better place in her life than usual. I wish the next one was available on Audible!
In the last book the narrator suddenly changed the voices of two characters which was really annoying. In this book, one of them, Skye's mother May, sounds normal again. Thank goodness for that since she has a prominent role in this book. In fact I would say there is way too much May in this book. Bunny still doesn't sound right. The book centers around a cooking contest, which gives us that good small town atmosphere. As usual the victim is a snooty, insulting woman. There is a secondary mystery of a missing teen. I enjoyed the mysteries well enough but I have to say that some of the characters were not strongly drawn enough that I necessarily could tell them apart. That was inconvenient when some of them were suspects. I was very happy to see more maturity from Skye in this book, she was less reckless and at one point I was sure she was going to do something very stupid, and she didn't do it! So I was all around satisfied with this installment and ready for the next.
I have been enjoying this series because I enjoy the characters particularly Mattie and Hurley, and Mattie makes me chuckle. In the first two books, the mysteries were perhaps not that well developed. In this book we move on to a much more complicated mystery which plays a bigger role in the book. I considered that a plus and I even listened up to 5 hours in one day to have it resolved. Also, I did not solve this one. That said though, I found the lack of romantic progress disappointing. In fact the developing romance has gone backwards instead of forward in this book. But I will definitely go on to the next one to see if it gets back on track! It's the same narrator as previous books and I really like her as Mattie but she does sometimes mispronounce words.
I am really enjoying this series. Unlike some other listeners I have no problem with the narrator. I find her voice fits the characters, even if she does occasionally use a pronunciation that seems off to me. Unlike the first book, I did not guess the ending in this one. I think this is going to be one of those series though that I enjoy the characters so much that I feel no need to over analyze the mystery. Mattie makes me chuckle. If you liked book one you will like this one. All the things you could dislike about it (like Mattie's klutziness, or the crude sexual innuendo) were part of book one as well. They did not bother me. There was one character who got a little tiresome in this one for me, an elderly man with dawning dementia and a catheter problem, but I can over look that since I enjoy Mattie and Hurley and Izzy and the pets enough.
I actually had this audiobook for ages before I listened to it. I was one of the many people totally fascinated by Jaycee's story in the news. I just wasn't sure I could actually handle listening to the abuse that she had suffered. My main area of interest was in what happened when she returned to her family though and this seemed to be the only source for that info. I finally listened to it and I have to say that it wasn't as hard to hear as I thought. I hate rape scenes, even in fiction, and dreaded that in this book. Jaycee manages to communicate the facts of her abuse without dwelling on the suffering and she explains the pattern of abuse in detail basically just once. The reader understands what happened without having to keep reliving it. I thought it was very well done. Some reviewers are critical of Jaycee's narration. I rather liked it. She sounds very young which works well when discussing her early days. There is also a flat, reading quality to what she is saying that makes it less emotionally charged and easier to listen too. I really think this was preferable to some narrator dramatizing the material. What happened was drama enough. As with anything that makes headlines, you tend to think that you already know a lot of the story. I confess to being surprised at how Jaycee came to tell the officers who she was. I had the impression from the news that once she was alone with officers she seized the day to reclaim her identity. Actually, they really had to pull it out of her. She does go into a lot of detail on her therapy after the reunion wit her mom. I would have really liked to hear what her mom was thinking at certain points but I guess that is a different book. I found the book a quick and compelling read that is hard to assign a starred value to.
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