The Grand Opening party of the newly renovated Albion Hotel in Lake Eden, Minnesota, is the crime scene in the latest Hannah Swensen caper, “Red Velvet Cupcake Murder,” by Joannne Fluke.
Townspeople gather in early June to celebrate in the Red Velvet Lounge. Hannah and her business partner, Lisa Herman Beeseman, own The Cookie Jar, the hamlet’s popular coffee shop. They cater desserts for the affair, including their delicious Red Velvet Surprise Cupcakes.
Amidst the gala, Hannah’s sister, and town realtor, Andrea, promotes the hotel’s available condos, and opulent penthouse, featuring its own elevator, a spectacular view of Lake Eden; and a huge tropical garden and Jacuzzi.
The penthouse, under final renovations, awaits delivery and placement of its massive climate-controlled dome. Safety sawhorses prevent penthouse visitors from moving too close to the building’s edge.
Partygoer, Barbara Connelly, excitedly tours the penthouse to locate her residence from atop the hotel.
Soon, revelers see Barbara’s body whizz past the hotel lounge windows, ultimately landing face down in the rose bushes. Barbara is rushed to Lake Eden Memorial Hospital for care.
At 4 a.m. Hannah groggily receives a soon-to-be disconnected call from a woman believed to be Barbara shouting, “He tried to kill me!” And Hannah’s off to solve another Lake Eden mystery.
Who wants Barbara Connelly dead? And why?
When Hannah questions Barbara in the hospital, she’s adamant that her brother is the culprit.
But how could he be when she’s an only child?
Complicating matters is Barbara’s request to see her father, who, along with her mother, died years ago.
Minneapolis moneyman, Roger Dalworth paid for the Albion Hotel’s renovations. He attends the grand opening with his new flame, dentist Doctor Bev. He’s also in town visiting his wealthy, terminally ill father, Warren Dalworth.
The town’s abuzz because Doctor Bev, a renowned gold digger, once lived in Lake Eden; and twice became a fiancée of Norman Rhodes, a current romantic interest of Hannah’s.
Doctor Bev brazenly brags about her latest conquest in Roger Dalworth; and haughtily displays his tokens of love, including a new red Maserati convertible.
On a subsequent drive to visit Hannah in the hospital, Hannah’s route takes her past Miller’s Pond. There she discovers a submerged car and instinctively swims to check for passengers.
Astonished, Hannah realizes it’s Doctor Bev’s sports car; and that she’s still behind the wheel. Hannah laboriously pulls Doctor Bev to land; yet her attempts to save her are unsuccessful.
Detective Mike Kingston, who also vies for Hannah’s affections, must confront her in an uncomfortable, official manner when he names Hannah as the prime suspect in Doctor Bev’s death.
Doctor Bev had ordered Hannah’s Red Velvet Surprise Cupcakes to take to the viewing of the penthouse dome being placed that afternoon. Toxicology tests showed she died before crashing into the pond from a potent tranquilizer. Her stomach contents consisted only of coffee creamer, artificial sweetener, and Hannah’s cupcakes.
In tradition, crowds gather at The Cookie Jar to hear Lisa entertain them with exciting details of the latest crime Hannah’s determined to solve. It’s standing room only since Hannah’s the prime suspect.
Soon, Hannah confronts the person who attempted to kill Barbara; and the thrilling conclusion begins.
Fluke’s narrative includes small town chat that reflects worldwide wisdom, in lines like, ” When you get used to seeing something, you just take it for granted until it’s not there anymore;” and her signature recipes too.
Her flawless writing allows new readers to quickly bond with Lake Eden’s residents; and piques interest in experiencing her previous murder mysteries. “Red Velvet Cupcake Murder” is a treat for both your mind and mouth.