Chocolate Cream Pie Murder (Hannah Swensen Series #24)

Chocolate Cream Pie Murder (Hannah Swensen Series #24)

by Joanne Fluke

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Not even Lake Eden’s nosiest residents suspected Hannah Swensen would go from idealistic newlywed to betrayed wife in a matter of weeks. But as a deadly mystery unfolds in town, the proof is in the pudding . . .
When The Cookie Jar becomes the setting of a star-studded TV special about movies filmed in Minnesota, Hannah hopes to shine the spotlight on her bakery—not the unsavory scandal swirling around her personal life. But that’s practically impossible with a disturbing visit from the shifty character she once believed was her one and only love, a group of bodyguards following her every move, and a murder victim in her bedroom. As suspects emerge and secrets hit close to home, Hannah and an old flame team up must serve a hefty helping of justice to an unnamed killer prowling around Lake Eden . . . before someone takes a slice out of her!
Features Over a Dozen Cookie and Dessert Recipes from The Cookie Jar!
“Hannah’s fans will relish following Hannah’s journey as she heals and becomes stronger, surrounded by the love of family and the many familiar, quirky residents of Lake Eden.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781496718877
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 01/28/2020
Series: Hannah Swensen Series , #24
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 213
Product dimensions: 4.13(w) x 6.73(h) x 1.04(d)

About the Author

JOANNE FLUKE is the New York Times bestselling author of the Hannah Swensen mysteries, which include Double Fudge Brownie Murder, Blackberry Pie Murder, Cinnamon Roll Murder, and the book that started it all, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder. That first installment in the series premiered as Murder, She Baked:  A Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel. Like Hannah Swensen, Joanne Fluke was born and raised in a small town in rural Minnesota, but now lives in Southern California. Please visit her online at

Read an Excerpt


It was a cold Sunday morning in February when Hannah Swensen left the warmth of her condo and drove to Lake Eden, Minnesota. A frown crossed her face as she traveled down Main Street and passed The Cookie Jar, her bakery and coffee shop. It had snowed during the night, and they would have to shovel the sidewalk before they could open for business in the morning.

Hannah gunned the engine a bit as she began to drive up the steep hill that led to Holy Cross Redeemer Lutheran Church. The church sat at the very top and it overlooked the town below. Hannah pulled into the parking lot and came very close to groaning as she realized that her entire family was standing at the bottom of the church steps, waiting for her to arrive. Perhaps their intent was to allay her anxiety about what she planned to do, but it didn't work and Hannah was sorely tempted to turn around and put things off for another week. Of course she didn't do that. Hannah was not a quitter. Somehow she had to gather her resolve and carry on with as much grace and dignity as she could muster.

The first person to arrive at her distinctive cookie truck was Hannah's youngest sister, Michelle. Hannah resisted the urge to tell Michelle that she ought to be wearing boots and plastered a welcoming smile on her face. "Michelle," she said, by way of a greeting. "Get in the backseat. It's cold out there."

"I'm okay. I just wanted to be the first to talk to you, Hannah. Are you completely sure that you want to do this?"

Hannah shook her head. "Of course I don't want to, but I don't really have a choice. It's only right, Michelle."

"But you don't have to do it, not really," Michelle argued, sliding onto the backseat and shutting the door behind her. "Word gets around and everyone's probably heard what really happened by now."

"That's doubtful, Michelle. Nobody in our family has said anything to contradict our cover story for Ross's absence. And I know that Norman and Mike haven't mentioned it to anyone. You haven't heard any gossip about it, have you?"

"No," Michelle admitted.

"And you know the whole town would be buzzing about it if anyone knew."

"Well ... yes, but we can figure out another way of telling them. You don't have to put yourself through the pain of getting up in front of the whole congregation and talking about it."

"Yes, I do. They deserve an explanation. And they also deserve an apology from me for lying to them."

The front door opened and Hannah's mother, Delores, picked up the heavy cookie platter that was nestled on the passenger seat and got in. "I heard what you just told Michelle and you're wrong, Hannah. No one here expects you to apologize. What happened is no fault of yours."

The other back door of Hannah's cookie truck opened and Hannah's middle sister, Andrea Swensen Todd, got in. "And nobody here wants to see you upset. If you think we owe anyone an apology, let me do it. I can get up there and tell them what happened."

"Thanks, but no. It's nice of you to offer, Andrea, but this is something I have to do myself."

"I understand, dear," Delores said, "but I wish you'd told me your plans earlier. We could have gone shopping for something more appropriate for you to wear."

Hannah glanced down at her blue pantsuit. "A lot of women wear pantsuits to church, especially in the winter. What's wrong with mine?"

"Nothing's wrong ... exactly," Delores explained. "It's just that the color washes you out. At least you're here early and we have time to fix your makeup. A darker color lipstick would do wonders, and you need some blusher on your cheeks."

Andrea opened her purse and glanced inside. "Mascara and eye shadow couldn't hurt. I've got something that would bring out the color of Hannah's eyes."

"And I can do something with her hair," Michelle offered.

"Hold it right there!" Hannah told them. "My appearance doesn't matter that much. What really matters is what I'm going to say. I've worn this same outfit to church at least a dozen times and you've never criticized my appearance before."

"Today is different," Delores pointed out. "Grandma Knudson told me that you asked to stand in the front of the church right after Reverend Bob makes his announcements. Everybody's going to see ..." Delores stopped speaking and a panicked expression crossed her face. "You're not planning to wear your winter boots, are you?"

Hannah had the urge to laugh. She had never, in her whole life, walked down the aisle of their church wearing winter boots. She came very close to saying that, but she realized that the root of her mother's concern was anxiety about how the congregation would receive what Hannah had to tell them.

"Relax, Mother," Hannah told her. "I brought dress shoes with me and I'll change in the cloakroom as soon as we get inside." Delores nodded, but she still looked worried. "Your dress shoes aren't brown, are they?"

"No, Mother. I know how you feel about wearing brown shoes with blue. These are the black shoes we bought at the Tri-County Mall last year."

"Oh, good!" Delores drew a relieved breath and glanced at the jeweled watch her husband, Doc Knight, had given her. "Then let's go, girls. It'll take us a while to get Hannah ready."

Hannah wisely kept her silence as she walked to the church with her family. Once the cookies she'd brought for the social hour after the church service had been delivered to the kitchen next to the basement meeting room, Hannah suffered her family's attempt to make her into what Delores deemed church appropriate.

"It's time," Delores declared, glancing at her watch again. "Follow me, girls."

As they walked down the center aisle single file, Hannah spotted her former boyfriend, Norman Rhodes. Norman was sitting on one side of his mother, and Carrie's second husband, Earl Flensburg, was sitting on her other side. Norman smiled at Hannah as she passed by and he held his thumb and finger together in an okay sign.

Hannah swallowed the lump that was beginning to form in her throat and reminded herself that she knew almost everyone here. The Holy Redeemer congregation consisted of friends, neighbors, and customers who came into The Cookie Jar. They would appreciate her apology and no one would be angry with her ... she hoped.

She was beginning to feel slightly more confident when she noticed the other local man she'd dated, Mike Kingston. He was sitting with Michelle's boyfriend, Lonnie Murphy, and both of them smiled and gave her friendly nods. Mike was the head detective at the Winnetka County Sheriff's Department and he was training Lonnie to be his partner. Both men usually worked on Sundays, but they must have traded days with a pair of other deputies so that they could come to hear Hannah's apology.

Doc Knight saw them coming up the aisle and he stepped out of the pew so that they could file in. Hannah went first so that she would be on the end and it would be easier for her to get out and walk up the side aisle to the front of the church when it was time.

"Are you all right?" Michelle asked her as they sat down.

It took Hannah a moment to find her voice. "Yes, I'm all right."

"But you're so pale that the blusher on your cheeks is standing out in circles." Michelle reached for the hymnal in the rack and flipped to the page that was listed in the church bulletin.

"Is something wrong?" Andrea asked in a whisper.

"Everything's fine," Hannah told her, pretending to be engrossed in reading the verse of the familiar hymn they were preparing to sing.

The organist, who had been playing softly while people filed into the church, increased the volume and segued into the verse of the hymn. This precluded any further conversation, and Hannah was grateful.

If there had been a ten-question quiz about the sermon that Reverend Bob delivered, Hannah would have flunked it. She was too busy worrying about what she wanted to say to pay attention. There were times during the sermon that Hannah wished Reverend Bob would hurry so that she could get up, apologize, and go back home. At other times, she found herself wishing that the sermon would go on forever and she'd never have to walk to the front of the church and speak.

When Reverend Bob finished, stepped down from the pulpit, and went into the room at the side of the nave to hang up his vestments, the butterflies of anxiety in Hannah's stomach awoke and began to churn in a rising cloud that made her feel weak-kneed and slightly dizzy. She concentrated on breathing evenly until Reverend Bob reappeared in the black suit he wore once the sermon was over.

The announcements Reverend Bob made were short and sweet. There was a request for donations of canned food from the Bible Church for their homeless shelter in the church basement, an announcement of the nuptials scheduled on Valentine's Day, a reminder that the lost and found box in the church office was overflowing with forgotten mittens, gloves, and caps, a notice of a time change in Grandma Knudson's Bible study group, and two notifications of baptisms to be held after church services in the coming month.

"And now we have a special request from Hannah Swensen," Reverend Bob told them. "She'd like to say a few words to you before the social hour."

Hannah stood up and slid out of the pew. She walked up the aisle at the side of the church on legs that shook slightly to join Reverend Bob. She cleared her throat and then she began to speak.

"Almost everyone in the congregation today attended my wedding to Ross Barton in November. Most of you were also at the Lake Eden Inn for the reception."

There were nods from almost everyone in attendance and Hannah went on. "I asked to speak to you today because I need to apologize. I think you all know that Ross is gone, and my family and I told you that he was on location for a new special that he was doing for KCOW Television. That is not true. I'm sorry to say that we lied to you and we owe you an apology for that."

"If Ross isn't out on location for a special, where is he?" Howie Levine asked.

Hannah wasn't surprised by the question. Howie was a lawyer and he always asked probing questions. "Ross is in Wisconsin."

"Is he filming something there?" Hal McDermott, co-owner of Hal and Rose's Café, asked.

"No. I'll tell you why he's there, but first let me tell you what happened on the day Ross left Lake Eden."

Haltingly at first, and then with more assurance, Hannah described what had happened on the day Ross left. The words were painful at first, but it became easier until all the facts had been given.

"Did Ross leave you a note?" Irma York, the wife of Lake Eden's barber, asked.

"No, there was nothing. His car was still there, his billfold was on top of the dresser, where he always left it when he came home from work, and he'd even left his driver's license and credit cards. It was almost as if he'd packed up his clothes and ... and vanished."

"You must have been very worried," Reverend Bob said sympathetically.

"Not at first. I was upset that he hadn't called me to say he was leaving, but I thought that he had been rushed for time and he'd call me that night. Then, when I didn't hear from him that night or the next day, I got worried."

"Of course you did!" Grandma Knudson, Reverend Bob's grandmother and the unofficial matriarch of the church, said with a nod.

"After three days," Hannah continued, "I was afraid that something was very wrong and I asked Mike and Norman to help me look for Ross."

Mike stood up to address the congregation. "It took us weeks of searching, but two of my detectives finally found Ross. Right after I verified his identity, Norman and I went to Hannah's condo to tell her." He turned around to face Hannah. "Go on, Hannah."

"Yes," Hannah said, gathering herself for the most difficult part of her apology. "When I came home that night, Mike and Norman were waiting for me. Both of them looked very serious and I knew right away that something was wrong. That's when Mike said that they'd found Ross, and ..." Hannah stopped speaking and drew a deep, steadying breath. "Mike told me that Ross had gone back to his wife."

"His wife?" Grandma Knudson looked completely shocked. "But you're his wife, Hannah! We were all right here when you married Ross!"

There was a chorus of startled exclamations from the congregation. Hannah waited until everyone was quiet again and then she continued. "Ross was already married when he married me. And that means my marriage to him wasn't legal."

"You poor dear!" Grandma Knudson got up from her place of honor in the first pew and rushed up to put her arm around Hannah. Then she motioned to her grandson. "Give me your handkerchief, Bob."

Once the handkerchief was handed over, Grandma Knudson passed it to Hannah. "What are you going to do about this, Hannah?"

"I ... I don't know," Hannah admitted truthfully. "I just wanted to tell all of you about this today because my family and I lied to you and we needed to set the record straight."

"Hannah could sue Ross for bigamy," Howie pointed out. "And since bigamy is a crime, Ross could be prosecuted. Do you want to press charges, Hannah?"

"I'm not sure. All I really know is that I never want to see him again." There was a murmuring of sympathy from the congregation as Hannah dabbed at her eyes with the borrowed handkerchief. "I know all of you thought I was married. I thought I was married, too, but ... but I wasn't. And since you gave me wedding presents under false pretenses, I'd like to return them to you."

"Ridiculous!" Grandma Knudson snorted, patting Hannah's shoulder. And then she turned to face the worshippers. "You don't want your wedding gifts back, do you?"

"I don't!" Becky Summers was the first to respond. "Keep the silver platter, Hannah. Consider it an early birthday present." "The same for me!" Norman's mother chimed in. "You keep the crystal pitcher, Hannah."

Several other members of the congregation spoke up, all of them expressing the same wishes, and then Grandma Knudson held up her hand for silence. "If anyone here wants a wedding gift back, contact me and I'll make sure you get it. And in the meantime, I think we've kept Hannah up here long enough." She turned to Hannah. "I know you brought something for our social hour, Hannah. I saw Michelle run down the stairs with a big platter. What wonderful baked goods did you bring today?"

Hannah felt a great weight slip off her shoulders. It was over. She'd come and accomplished what she'd set out to do. Now she could relax and spend a little time with the people she knew and loved.

"I brought Valentine Whippersnapper Cookies," she told them. "They're a new cookie recipe from my sister Andrea. Since we're about ready to start baking for Valentine's Day at The Cookie Jar, Andrea and I really want your opinion. Please try a cookie and tell us what you think of them."

Grandma Knudson turned to the congregation. "I'll lead you downstairs so you can start in on those cookies. And then I'm coming back up here for a private word with Hannah." She took Hannah's arm, led her to the front pew, and motioned to her to sit down. "I'll be right back," she said. "Just sit here and relax for a few moments."

Hannah watched as the church emptied out with Grandma Knudson leading the way. Then she closed her eyes for a moment and relished the fact that the tension was leaving her body. She felt good, better than she had for a long time. Perhaps Reverend Bob was right and confession was good for the soul.

Hannah turned around when she heard the sound of footsteps. Grandma Knudson was coming back. "Thank you," she said, as Grandma Knudson sat down next to her.

"You're welcome. I heard some very interesting things down there, Hannah. I'm really glad I got those fancy new hearing aids."

"I didn't know you had hearing aids!"

"Neither does anyone else except Bob, and I swore him to secrecy. I've changed my opinion about a lot of people in this town. Why, the things I've heard could fill a gossip column!"

"But you wouldn't ..."

"Of course not!" Grandma Knudson said emphatically. "But I may not tell anyone about my hearing aids for a while. It's a lot of fun for me."

Hannah gave a little laugh. It felt wonderful to laugh and she was grateful to Grandma Knudson for giving her the opportunity.

"Seriously, Hannah," Grandma Knudson began, "you haven't heard from Ross since Mike and his boys located him, have you?"

Hannah shook her head. "No, not a word."

"All right then. If Ross calls you, tell him that if he knows what's good for him, he'd better never show his face in Lake Eden again. I heard Earl say he wanted to run Ross down with the county snowplow, and Bud Hauge asked Mike and Lonnie to give him five minutes alone with Ross if they picked him up. And Hal McDermott claimed he was going to leave out Rose's heaviest frying pan so he could bash in Ross's head."


Excerpted from "Chocolate Cream Pie Murder"
by .
Copyright © 2019 H.L. Swensen, Inc..
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Chocolate Cream Pie Murder 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 59 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Half of the book consisted of recipes and another quarter consisted of descriptions of preparing the dishes. That left the final quarter of the book for the actual plot. Very predictable with a cliffhanger that you could see coming very early in the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Too little time spent on story and too much on recipes/ directions. Don’t get me wrong I like the recipes but want the story. Also, too much non important stuff 4 pages on hat name for example. I want more story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Too much discussion of cookies, eating of cookies and recipes than normal. After reading the last sentence, hoped to see the next book announced. Well continue to head Hannah and learn where her life goes from that cliff hanger possibility.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don’t like having the recipes after every chapter. It disrupts the flow of the book. Too many recipes & a lot of taste testings.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story was not as intriguing as some of the other Hannah Swensen novels I have read. There were at least 2 times where the story lost me and where characters seemed to lose their path in this story. Otherwise, I enjoyed reading this book as I enjoy reading the recipes, the familiar characters, the intrigue and thrill of the murder and the Investigation which always put Hannah in the thick of danger and one or both of Hannah’s ex-boyfriends come to her rescue (just in the nic-of-time). I can’t wait to read the next book in this series to find out if Hannah is pregnant with Ross’ child, what murder she gets herself involved in, and what else happens in Lake Eden that ensues the next Hannah Swensen adventures. P.S. Does her friend Lynn have anything to do with Ross’ murder or does Lynn know where the storage box is that belongs to the key Mike and Hannah found, what is in that box which is worth killing over? Questions, Questions....??
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoy Hannah ‘s stories, but I’m beginning to think that there’s too many recipes. I didn’t actually count the pages used to share the recipes, but I wonder if the % of recipe pages is equal to the actual story pages. Please, more mystery, less baking.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
tlgreear More than 1 year ago
Let me say first I love Joanne Fluke and her Cookie Jar mysteries. BUT the last two books have been disappointing. I don’t like that each one ended on a cliffhanger. And there seems to be more recipes and discussions about eating than the actual story. Hannah is moving on after her “marriage “ to Ross. But then she gets some devastating news and life takes another turn. The story in itself is really good and interesting. But I have my doubts that Joanne Fluke really wrote this. The dialogue is stilted, the characters don’t have the likability as in past books and the story just isn’t fleshed out. Just when the story gets good a new chapter starts or someone mentions food and down the rabbit hole we go. Sorry but not my favorite story. I voluntarily received a copy of this book from Netgalley.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was the worst read...predictable right away....and way too many recipes. It was just a filler book to move the story along....but I think maybe I am done with Hannah....and her next "challenge"....and whether to marry Norman or Mike....yes...we are back to the same old plot line.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Carstairs38 More than 1 year ago
Valentine’s Day is coming, and The Cookie Jar is getting ready to cater various Valentine’s Parties with new treats. Hannah Swensen is throwing herself into this baking in order to not think about the news she’s gotten that Ross was already married, so their wedding was all a lie. She has told the town of Lake Eden in an effort to curb gossip, and all of her friends are with her. Which is why Ross sneaks back into town in the early hours of the morning demanding something from Hannah – something she might not be able to give him. What will happen if she can’t? As a longtime fan of the series, I’ve been expecting this book for several books now. The murder itself takes place late in the book and is wrapped up quickly. There were some other plot elements I was enjoying, so I wasn’t bored, however, I wish things hadn’t been left dangling quite so much until the next book in the series. We get plenty of talk about food as always, with twenty-eight new recipes by my count. It is always nice to catch up with these characters, at least for this fan of the series. If you have been a fan, you’ll want the next chapter in Hannah’s saga, but if you are new, don’t jump in here.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
anneinaz More than 1 year ago
Chocolate Cream Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke is a book intended to tie up loose ends, which is does...mostly. We open with Hannah preparing to make an announcement in front of the entire congregation-in her view the easiest way to reach the most people, that her husband has left her to return to his wife; that she was, in fact, not married; and that if they wanted their wedding gifts back, please let her know. Everyone is extremely sympathetic and Hannah pulls up her big girl panties and begins to move on (with the help of her friends and family, of course!) Then she hears from him. The world starts to spin. This is not the best of the series, by a long shot. It is repetitive, often on the same page; sometimes in the same paragraph. Hannah is an endearing character, as are Mike and Norman, Michelle and Andrea (who hardly appears in this book), Lonnie, Carrie, Mom and Doc Knight, but none of them are at their best here. If this were the first of the series for a reader, it is not clear whether they would bother to go back and read the rest. The solution was never truly explained and the loose ends were not tied up. It was a disappointment. I recommend this to a read of the Fluke series but only because you can't just stop. I received a free ARC of Chocolate Cream Pie Murder in exchange for a fair and honest review. #netgalley #chocolatecreampiemurder
anneinaz More than 1 year ago
Chocolate Cream Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke is a book intended to tie up loose ends, which is does...mostly. We open with Hannah preparing to make an announcement in front of the entire congregation-in her view the easiest way to reach the most people, that her husband has left her to return to his wife; that she was, in fact, not married; and that if they wanted their wedding gifts back, please let her know. Everyone is extremely sympathetic and Hannah pulls up her big girl panties and begins to move on (with the help of her friends and family, of course!) Then she hears from him. The world starts to spin. This is not the best of the series, by a long shot. It is repetitive, often on the same page; sometimes in the same paragraph. Hannah is an endearing character, as are Mike and Norman, Michelle and Andrea (who hardly appears in this book), Lonnie, Carrie, Mom and Doc Knight, but none of them are at their best here. If this were the first of the series for a reader, it is not clear whether they would bother to go back and read the rest. The solution was never truly explained and the loose ends were not tied up. It was a disappointment. I recommend this to a read of the Fluke series but only because you can't just stop. I received a free ARC of Chocolate Cream Pie Murder in exchange for a fair and honest review. #netgalley #chocolatecreampiemurder
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
booksnbrewsgirl 3 months ago
A little disappointed... I've really enjoyed reading this series, however, it seems as though the books are becoming as much cookbook as they are mystery. The murder in this one had a lengthy set up, then felt rushed in conclusion. I'm really hoping the next one is better.
Anonymous 6 months ago
plot not as good as usual. recipes not very onvenrove
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Typical Joanne Fluke Hannah Swensen mystery. It was enjoyable but the one thing I noticed in this book is the banter back and forth in Hannah's mind between her "rational mind" and her "suspicious mind". I found this incredibly annoying and I hope this doesn't continue.
nancat2 More than 1 year ago
Up to now, I’ve read all the Hannah Swenson mysteries, but there’s little to love about Fluke’s latest effort. You know something’s wrong when the recipes are the most intriguing part of the book. Over the last two books, Hannah has become a sniveling, self-pitying wimp. Worse, Fluke got 2/3 of the way through the book before she (I’m guessing) remembered to throw in murder. Even then, Hannah’s much-vaunted “slay-dar” was nowhere in evidence, and she only made a half-hearted effort to solve the crime. By the end, I didn’t care whodunit! So please, Ms. Fluke I think I speak for ALL your readers when I say: BRING BACK THE OLD HANNAH!!