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The Hannah Swensen Mysteries is a Cozy Mystery novel series written by Joanne Fluke (pen name of Joanne Fischmann). It was later adapted into a series of five films, which debuted on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel.

Hannah Swensen is a local Minnesota woman who runs her own bakery. She struggles with normal everyday tasks such as filling out orders, spending time her family and dating two wonderful men. However, she also participates in solving local murder cases, which have a strange habit of involving her delicious pastries.

    Works 
The series includes the following books:

  • #1: Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder (2001)note 
    • Summary 
  • #1.5: Candy for Christmas (2008) (novella)note 
    • Summary 
  • #2: Strawberry Shortcake Murder (2002)note 
    • Summary 
  • #3: Blueberry Muffin Murder (2002)
    • Summary 
  • #4: Lemon Meringue Pie Murder (2003)
    • Summary 
  • #5: Fudge Cupcake Murder (2004)note 
    • Summary 
  • #6: Sugar Cookie Murder (2004)
    • Summary 
  • #7: Peach Cobbler Murder (2005)note 
    • Summary 
  • #8: Cherry Cheesecake Murder (2006)
    • Summary 
  • #8.5: The Twelve Desserts of Christmas (November 2006) (novella)note 
    • Summary 
  • #9: Key Lime Pie Murder (2007)
    • Summary 
  • #9.5: Candy Cane Murder (October 2007) (novella)note 
    • Summary 
  • #10: Carrot Cake Murder (2008)
    • Summary 
  • #11: Cream Puff Murder (March 2009)
    • Summary 
  • #12: Plum Pudding Murder (October 2009)note 
    • Summary 
  • #13: Apple Turnover Murder (February 2010)
    • Summary 
  • #13.5: Gingerbread Cookie Murder (October 2010) (novella)note 
    • Summary 
  • #14: Devil's Food Cake Murder (February 2011)
    • Summary 
  • #15: Cinnamon Roll Murder (February 2012)
    • Summary 
  • #16: Red Velvet Cupcake Murder (February 2013)
    • Summary 
  • #16.5: Joanne Fluke's Lake Eden Cookbook (September 2013)note 
    • Summary 
  • #17: Blackberry Pie Murder (February 2014)
    • Summary 
  • #18: Double Fudge Brownie Murder (February 2015)
    • Summary 
  • #19: Wedding Cake Murder (February 2016)
    • Summary 
  • #20: Christmas Caramel Murder (September 2016)
    • Summary 
  • #21: Banana Cream Pie Murder (February 2017)
    • Summary 
  • #22: Raspberry Danish Murder (February 2018)
    • Summary 
  • #23: Christmas Cake Murder (September 2018) (prequel to series)
    • Summary 
  • #24: Chocolate Cream Pie Murder (February 2019)
    • Summary 
  • #25: Coconut Layer Cake Murder (February 2020)
    • Summary 
  • #26: Christmas Cupcake Murder (September 2020)
    • Summary 
  • #27: Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Murder (announced for February 2021)
    • Summary 


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The books provide examples of:

  • Accidental Murder:
    • Mike Kingston's first wife died this way - she was on her way to work when she was caught in the crossfire between two rival gangs.
    • Hannah herself does this in Blackberry Pie Murder when, during a storm, she swerves to avoid a fallen branch in the road. At the same time, a man is walking down the shoulder, and her swerving leads her to accidentally hit him with her truck.
  • The Alleged Car: Played for laughs in Lemon Meringue Pie Murder. According to the gossip that Delores overheard, Cyril Murphy had given his wife Bridget a car (exactly what kind isn't stated), but it had broken down three times since she got it... so Bridget informed her husband that if he didn't fix it right this time, she'd paint a giant lemon on it and have it towed down Main Street for the Fourth of July parade.
  • Always Murder: Almost all of the main books and two of the novellas involve at least one or two killings.
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    • Subverted in three novellas - "Candy For Christmas" is focused on a runaway teenager, "The Twelve Desserts of Christmas" is a romance, and the story in "Joanne Fluke's Lake Eden Cookbook" is about a gathering of family and friends.
    • Also subverted in Sugar Cookie Murder, where the death turns out to be an accident. The victim had tried to steal an antique cake knife, another character caught her and tried to take it back from her, and the thief fell on the knife during the struggle.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: In Apple Turnover Murder, one of the charity events being held is "Donkey Baseball", a game of baseball in which the players don't walk or run on their own - they ride donkeys. This is an actual fad from the 1930s.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Hannah herself, and pretty much everyone who helps in her investigations (except for Mike and Bill, who are members of the sheriff's department).
  • And a Diet Coke: At one point in Strawberry Shortcake Murder, Hannah asks a man to bring her a diet Coke and several chocolate candy bars. When he looks incredulous at the combination, she justifies having diet soda over regular by saying that "I need the endorphins from the chocolate, but there's no sense in adding empty calories."
  • A Sinister Clue: Winthrop Harrington II is identified in Sugar Cookie Murder as being left-handed. He's also the villain of the very next book.
  • Asshole Victim: Happens from time to time.
    • The first victim in Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder (and the second to have their body discovered) turns a particularly nasty loan shark.
    • Boyd Watson, the first murder victim in Strawberry Shortcake Murder, was physically and emotionally abusive to his wife Danielle. People initially suspected his widow of killing him. The murder, however, had nothing to do with Boyd’s abuse of Danielle.
    • Blueberry Muffin Murder features Connie Mac, a greedy and self-absorbed woman who's killed by a man she had run out of business, just because he might be a competitor.
    • Wayne Bergstrom was a greedy and cruel businessman who ran a successful store in Lake Eden. When he is killed in Candy Cane Murder, some people aren’t too broken up over his death.
    • Ronnie Ward in Cream Puff Murder. Always flirting with men regardless of their marital status, insulting almost every woman she meets, and cruelly turning down a guy who had a major crush on her. This last is what gets her killed.
    • Bradford Ramsey, a college professor and notorious philanderer (especially with his female students), in Apple Turnover Murder.
    • Dr. Beverly Thorndike, a scheming and manipulative woman, in Red Velvet Cupcake Murder.
    • The victim of Blackberry Pie Murder is a pimp, and was killed while pursuing a prostitute who used to work for him and had left that line of work.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: In Lemon Meringue Pie Murder, it's revealed that Mike can identify different trucks just by the sounds they make, and he applies this to busses as well, being able to hear the motor whine from quite some distance away. He learned it while working for his father, who ran a trucking business.
  • Baby Trap: In Devil's Food Cake Murder, Norman's ex-fiancee Beverly Thorndike tells him that they have a daughter together, but refuses to let him see the child unless he marries Bev. At the end of Cinnamon Roll Murder, he tells Hannah that he's had DNA testing done, which proved Diana isn't actually his; Beverly was just manipulating him to try and get him back. Hannah decides not to tell him she'd sneakily gotten DNA samples and not only proved the same thing, that set of tests proved that Diana's biological father is the now-deceased Chaz Peyton/Buddy Nieman.
  • Backup Bluff: A variant in Key Lime Pie Murder. Norman, who's gone into a dive of a bar to help retrieve Michelle Swensen, pretends to be just another customer and tells the man currently dancing with her that there's a sheriff's deputy looking for him (or one of his brothers) with a warrant, and that he thought the guy should know. The other man falls for it and leaves in a hurry.
  • Bad Habits: The killer in Devil's Food Cake Murder disguises himself as a priest after having killed a real priest, and is still in this outfit when he tries to kill Hannah.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Late in Strawberry Shortcake Murder, Hannah is stuck in a production truck from a local TV station, reviewing footage from a broadcast a few nights ago, when she hears a noise outside, which soon comes to knock at the truck she's in too, and initially thinks it's the man who killed Boyd Watson and Lucy Richards. Eventually, she gets a good look at the threat, which turns out to be a hungry female black bear that had raided the local dumpster and smelled more food in the truck. Fortunately, the animal soon gives up and wanders off.
  • Beauty Pageant: The "Miss Tri-County" pageant is being held at the Tri-County Fair in Key Lime Pie Murder, with Michelle Swensen as one of the entrants. She wins.
  • The Bet: There've been a few, and when they're about Hannah's actions, she gets royally ticked.
    • In Lemon Meringue Pie Murder, Hannah finds out there was an office pool at the police station over how long it would be before she gave in and got involved in the latest murder investigation.
    • In Cherry Cheesecake Murder, Hannah finds people are betting on whose proposal she'll accept - Mike's or Norman's. Again, she gets angry, and responds by declining both proposals, informing them that she'll decide whom to ask to marry her when she's ready. (She also tells Mike to remind the people placing their bets that gambling is illegal in Minnesota, and to tell the man collecting the bets that he should donate the money to charity.)
  • Betty and Veronica: Hannah is chronically unable to choose between her two boyfriends, the average looking yet warm and supportive dentist Norman (Betty) and the strong, sexy, yet sometimes patronizing policeman Mike (Veronica). A mild example, since both are nice, reasonably Bettyish men - Mike is just slightly more of the Veronica. Hannah eventually chooses Ross as her husband, but it doesn't last.
  • Big Brother Instinct: In Cherry Cheesecake Murder, Hannah finds that Connor, the director's chauffeur, had spent some time in prison before he was hired to work for Lawrence. Connor later admits to her that he was in jail for almost killing the guy who beat up Connor's baby sister and left her for dead.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Pretty much every time Hannah confronts or is caught by a killer, someone else comes to her rescue. It's usually Mike or Norman, or Bill, but other people do it too.
    • In Cinnamon Roll Murder, it's Freddy Sawyer, a mildly retarded man who now works at the hospital, running errands for the staff. He finds Hannah and the killer down in the morgue, and when Hannah tells him Ben is like Freddy's cousin Jed (from Lemon Meringue Pie Murder), Freddy (who knows Hannah is a good person and wouldn't lie to him) promptly knocks Ben out with a gurney.
  • Big Eater:
    • Most of the characters. The volume of baked goods and coffee consumed each book is incredible, like how people can eat three muffins for breakfast, and then two cookie bars mid-morning, and then huge dinners and more dessert. Even the characters themselves are amazed at how much they eat.
    • Hannah's cat Moishe also likes to gorge, but on normal cat food and treats (and whatever prey he can catch). About the only time he won't take food is if it comes from Delores Swenson, as seen in Peach Cobbler Murder, when he declines the shrimp she gave Hannah as a treat for him.
    • Actually subverted in Cream Puff Murder when he's given a new set of bowls with food tubes on the back, enough to last two cats for a couple of days when filled to the top. The bowls and tubes are completely empty when Hannah comes home for the day, yet Moishe doesn't seem to be gaining any weight, so Hannah figures he's hiding some of it away for an extra stash, a trait left over from his days on the street... It turns out he's got a secret passage to the closet where Hannah's keeping the sack of cat food, and what he doesn't eat, he takes and puts back in the sack, repeating the process until the feeder is empty.
    • Referred to humorously in a recipe in Apple Turnover Murder. Her recipe for "Too Easy Hotdish" (with hot rolls and a tossed salad on the side) is said to serve six adults or four teenage boys... less if a very hungry Mike Kingston drops by, seeing as he ate almost half the pan.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Some of the murderers act like nice people, but are actually twisted people.
    • Cory Reynolds in Candy Cane Murder. He seems like a nice guy who puts up with his “sister’s” marriage to Wayne. It turns out that he manipulated everyone in town to cover up Wayne’s murder and pretended to be Wayne for the Tri-County Mall’s Christmas event. He also set Hannah up as his alibi, initially clearing him as a suspect from Hannah’s list.
  • Blackmail:
    • In Strawberry Shortcake Murder, Hannah discovers that reporter Lucy Richards has been finding out people's secrets and extorting money and favors from them in return for keeping quiet. One of them responds with lethal results for her.
    • In Fudge Cupcake Murder, Luanne Hanks admits that while pregnant, she was essentially blackmailed to keep quiet about the identity of her daughter's father - her mother has a cleaning service, and one of Mrs. Hanks' clients threatened to fire her if Luanne ever publicly admitted the truth. This ceases to be a problem after the blackmailer dies during the events of the book.
  • Blackmail Backfire:
    • In Strawberry Shortcake Murder, Hannah discovers that reporter Lucy Richards has been finding out people's secrets and extorting money and favors from them in return for keeping quiet. When she tried to blackmail Boyd Watson's killer, she ended up his next victim.
    • In Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, Dr. Beverly Thorndike tries to blackmail her fiancé Roger Dalworth after witnessing him attempting to kill Barbara Donnelly. He kills her instead.
  • Black Widow: It's revealed in Peach Cobbler Murder that Vanessa Quinn was a scam artist, working with Bobby Jo Peters (AKA Winthrop Harrington II), and the two would scam older men or women out of their savings. In Vanessa's case, she married the elderly Neil Roper, then manipulated him into making her his sole heir and ultimately murdered him.
  • Blazing Inferno Hellfire Sauce: Early in Sugar Cookie Murder, Hannah gets annoyed at Mike and, as her way of saying so, sends him brownies (from a mix, something she'd normally never do) with diced jalapeños in them. When she finally gets to speak to him to try and warn him about her doing so in the last chapter, she finds to her great surprise that he loved them and thinks it was a genius idea, since the jalapeños really brought out the taste of the chocolate.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The Swensen sisters. Middle daughter Andrea is the blonde, youngest daughter Michelle is the brunette and eldest daughter Hannah is the redhead.
  • Brandishment Bluff:
    • Late in Cherry Cheesecake Murder, Hannah confronts the killer with a fake gun (a prop from the movie being made in Lake Eden).
    • Late in Carrot Cake Murder, Hannah distracts the killer with a cry of "Stop or I'll shoot!", when all she's got is a paddle for the canoe she's in.
  • Brutal Honesty: According to Hannah, her mother Delores has no sense of tact, and Hannah admits that she herself isn't much better.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Mike Kingston, who's a stickler for procedure when it comes to police work, which is part of why he tries to keep Hannah from getting involved in his cases (and also because he's justifiably protective of her, considering the number of murderers who targeted her when they figured out she was on their trail). He mentions in Fudge Cupcake Murder that he has to be very careful to avoid signs of favoritism when it comes to investigating, even if a suspect is a friend of his and he himself doesn't believe they're really guilty. Later, in Cherry Cheesecake Murder, he admits that another reason he doesn't want Hannah investigating this time is due to a regulation - "No civilian shall be recruited into an official investigation without insurance, bonding, compensation commensurate with duties, and deputization." And since he's only acting sheriff at the moment, he doesn't want to overstep his authority by deputizing her. In Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, he interrogates Hannah just as toughly as he would any other suspect while investigating Beverly Thorndike's murder, although he privately apologizes the next day. He eventually subverts this in Blackberry Pie Murder, though, when he refuses to arrest Hannah for vehicular manslaughter and is suspended for it.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Freddy Sawyer in Lemon Meringue Pie Murder - the first time he ever has alcohol (a single can of beer), he gets plastered and starts mooning people.
  • The Casanova:
    • Ronni Ward is a rare female variant, a notorious man-eater who's continually flirting with married men, which earns her the hatred of many a wife. It's even gotten her on Bill Todd's bad side early in Cream Puff Murder, as he'd warned her that if he heard one more word of gossip about her and any of the married deputies, he'd fire her from her job as a fitness instructor at the sheriff's department.
    • Bradford Ramsey, the murder victim in Apple Turnover Murder, is notorious for his going through women; he's had at least two wives and a number of lovers, including several of his female students.
  • Cats Are Mean: Moishe reserves this trope only for Delores Swensen in the books. He's shredded up several pairs of her pantyhose, he's able to detect her calls to Hannah's house (he practically glares at the phone whenever it's her on the other end of the line), and in Peach Cobbler Murder, he refuses to hunt down a mouse for her. (He also declines to catch one for Norman's mother.) Red Velvet Cupcake Murder eventually reveals the origin of this - he took offense to her speaking baby talk to him and trying to pick him up the first time they met. He's since mellowed somewhat, and behaves himself as long as she brings treats.
  • Cat Scare:
    • In the opening chapter of Strawberry Shortcake Murder, Hannah awakens from hearing a crash in her kitchen. Suspecting an intruder, she grabs the baseball bat she keeps by her bed for this exact purpose... and finds it's her cat, who'd knocked over a pot of catnip.
    • Later in the same book, there's a semi-subversion when Hannah is stuck in a production truck from a local TV station, reviewing footage from a broadcast a few nights ago, when she hears a noise outside and initially thinks it's the killer she's trying to find, coming after her. It turns out to be a hungry female bear instead - not the killer she was afraid of, but still dangerous.
  • Christmas Creep: In Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, Hannah and her assistant Lisa Herman visit the Tri-County Mall, where Hannah is surprised to find Christmas decorations out in October. Lisa tells her they put them out right after Labor Day.
  • Christmas Episode: Books 2, 6, 12, 20, 23 and 26 all take place during the holiday season, as do all five novellas.
  • Clear My Name: Hannah herself is a major suspect in both Peach Cobbler Murder and Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, since she disliked both victims for their interest in one or both of the men she was dating. Then in Blackberry Pie Murder she technically does kill the victim by accidentally hitting him with her truck (though he was already dying anyway) and has to go to trial for it in Double Fudge Brownie Murder... where she has to clear her name again when she becomes the prime suspect in the judge's murder.
  • Clear Their Name: Multiple books have Hannah working to clear a friend or family member's name, such as Blueberry Muffin Murder, where both her friend Janie and her boyfriend Norman end up on the suspect list.
  • Clothing Damage: Moishe shredded several pairs of Delores's pantyhose, before everyone involved decided that Moishe, Delores and nylon should never be in the same room together. (And Hannah decided that in case it ever does happen again... cat treats are an excellent distraction.)
  • Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: While on a diet in Lemon Meringue Pie Murder, Hannah is constantly tempted by her own cookies and other high-calorie foods. By the end, she allows herself to indulge after discovering that her diet had begun because she'd mistakenly tried to put on a pair of her sister Andrea's pants, which are a smaller size, rather than her own.
  • The Con:
    • Hannah's the victim of a positive scam in Peach Cobbler Murder, when local used car salesman and mechanic Cyril Murphy tells her there's a factory recall on a part from her truck, and he's already sent one of his mechanics to pick it up so they can replace the missing part. It turns out there was no recall; Bill, Mike and Cyril were plotting to get her truck away from her so they could fix two other problems it had that Hannah hadn't had fixed, namely her heater and a leak right by the heating vent on the floor. Andrea was also in on it - she deliberately pulled into the Cyril's parking lot so he could tell Hannah about the "recall".
    • The same book features two con artists who are out to scam elderly people out of their savings. Hannah's mother is nearly a victim, when it turns out her boyfriend Winthrop is one of the scammers, and his partner is Vanessa Quinn.
    • In Devil's Food Cake Murder and Cinnamon Roll Murder, Norman's ex-fiancee Beverly Thorndike tries to scam him into marrying her by claiming her daughter is his. She's lying, and Norman, having insisted on a DNA test, figures it out in time.
    • Ross Barton's wedding to Hannah turns out to be part of one. In Chocolate Cream Pie Murder, Bill even gets a warrant for Ross's arrest, since his actions could constitute "intent to defraud".
  • Continuity Snarl: Trying to work the five novellas into an exact spot in the timeline is rather problematic.
    • "Candy for Christmas" supposedly occurs around the same time as Strawberry Shortcake Murder. However, there's no mention of Candy in the latter book.
    • Books 1-2 take place in October and December of one year, with 3-6 all taking place the year afterward; Andrea's second daughter Bethany is born in book 6. Books 7-12 have references in each showing that they have to take place in the space of the following year. "Candy Cane Murder" is supposedly set the Christmas after book 6 (since Tracey is identified as being six and Bethany is now old enough to start talking)... but then book 12 references events from "Candy Cane Murder", despite there being no extra year in which it could have taken place.
  • Conveyor Belt o' Doom: Near the end of Fudge Cupcake Murder, Hannah gets trapped in a car destined for a car crusher, with the murderer figuring it out and attempting to send it there early with her inside. Fortunately, they're stopped in time, and Hannah is able to signal for help and be rescued.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef:
    • In Fudge Cupcake Murder, Andrea manages to mess up something as simple as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, using mint jelly instead of grape. Hannah wouldn't touch it, but claimed it was because she was already full.
    • Astoundingly, Hannah on one occasion. While she's normally a Supreme Chef, Blueberry Muffin Murder makes note of an experiment where she added tomato soup to a tuna hotdish, the result proving to be inedible.
  • Corporal Punishment: In Carrot Cake Murder, it's mentioned that Bill Garrison, the principal of Lake Eden High School before the current one, was an old army man who believed in this; he used to spank students with a paddle as punishment.
  • Crusading Widower: Mike is a Lighter and Softer example than most. Before the start of the series, his pregnant wife was shot and killed by a gang member. This informs his dedication to his police work and his protectiveness of Hannah.
  • Darker and Edgier: Blackberry Pie Murder, compared to most of the other books. Hannah accidentally kills the victim herself by hitting him with her truck (he was already fatally injured and lying unconscious in the road), is arrested for it, spends three days in jail before being bailed out, and is still awaiting her trial at the end. As for the victim himself, he was a big-city pimp who kidnapped and trafficked a young Lake Eden girl years earlier, and who came back to pursue one of his other sex workers who escaped after the aforementioned girl was beaten to death.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: In Blueberry Muffin Murder, the owner of the Savory Press publishing company is death on Office Romance and has sworn that if his daughter takes up with a coworker and he finds out, he'll fire the guy and have her sent to finish college in Alaska. Marcia is indeed dating a coworker, and has in turn sworn that if her boyfriend gets fired, she'll elope with him and put her schooling on hold until he can get established with another publishing firm. By Sugar Cookie Murder, they've gotten married and are expecting their first child.
  • Dead Man Writing: Late in Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, Hannah receives a letter from Beverly Thorndike, containing a button from Barbara Donnelly's outfit the night she was attacked. Hannah eventually figures out Bev was trying to tell her she witnessed the attack.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Hannah's humor treads into this territory.
  • Did Not Die That Way:
    • An in-universe fictional example in Cherry Cheesecake Murder, where the movie Crisis in Cherrywood is being filmed in Lake Eden. The film's protagonist learns that her father, whom she'd been told for years had committed suicide, was actually killed by her brother for being an abusive jerk.
    • In Cinnamon Roll Murder, the driver of the bus for the band Cinnamon Roll Six dies in the accident; initially, they think it was a heart attack, but in Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, it later comes out it was an accidental overdose of his heart medication (which is assumed to be deliberate by the coroner, until evidence turns up that he had bad eyesight and it would have been easy for him to accidentally take the wrong pills).
    • In Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, Dr. Beverly Thorndike is found dead in her car, having driven into a lake, and is thought to have drowned. The autopsy later reveals she was dead from a massive overdose of tranquilizers before she ever hit the water.
  • Diet Episode:
    • In Lemon Meringue Pie Murder, Hannah tries on a pair of light-weight slacks she'd bought with her sister a year before and discovers that she can't fit into them. Thinking she's gained weight and not having time to go on an exercise regimen, she puts herself on a diet immediately instead. At the end of the book, while she and her family and friends are at a restaurant together, she discovers the truth - Andrea had bought a smaller but otherwise identical pair at the same time that Hannah got hers, and when they were going home, they'd accidentally switched bags so Andrea had the pants in Hannah's size and Hannah had the pair in Andrea's size. On realizing the mixup, Hannah promptly ends her diet and requests that the restaurant owner just bring her their entire dessert cart.
    • Cream Puff Murder also has Hannah dieting and starting a new workout regime (with much reluctance) so she can fit into the too-tight dress she has to wear to the upcoming launch party for her mother's new novel.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: During the events of Key Lime Pie Murder, when Lisa's trying to ask Hannah to take her place in one of Herb Beeseman's tricks (he's doing a magician's act), she keeps accidentally commenting on Hannah's size, saying a "big" or "tall" woman would be best for this trick. Fortunately, Hannah's not offended.
  • Direct Line to the Author: The 2008 reissue of Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder adds the new novella "Candy For Christmas" and a personal letter from Hannah to Joanne Fluke putting the books squarely in this trope - Hannah refers to them as her biography. She also thanks Fluke for finally telling Candy's story, and asks when she's coming back to visit her friends in Lake Eden (apparently, Hannah and Fluke used to have coffee together every morning at The Cookie Jar, before Fluke moved to southern California). Some of the recipes in later books also have Fluke adding notes of her own to them, as if she'd received the recipes directly from Hannah and was just adding her own thoughts.
  • Disney Villain Death:
    • Subverted early in Red Velvet Cupcake Murder. When Barbara Donnelley takes her fall off the top of the Albion Hotel, people believe she was pushed. It turns out she actually jumped in an attempt to escape her attacker.
    • Played straight in the climax when Roger Dalworth tries to kill Hannah and, when she sprays him in the face with window washing fluid, he winds up stepping backward off the edge of the building and falling three stories to his death.
  • Domestic Abuse:
    • Boyd Watson has serious anger issues, which lead to him taking it out on his wife Danielle; however, unlike most examples, he acknowledges that he has a problem and is seeing a therapist for anger management. He also shows signs of control issues, having told his wife that her idea of opening a dance studio would never work. When he turns up dead in Strawberry Shortcake Murder, people assume that it was her justifiably murdering her abusive spouse. As Hannah believes from the beginning, Danielle is completely innocent.
    • In Fudge Cupcake Murder, it comes out that Sheriff Grant was an emotional abuser, treating his wife poorly because she was less than perfect. Among other things, he refused to let her wear jeans, feeling they didn't give the right image for a sheriff's wife, and wouldn't have ham or cashews in the house because he disliked them, not caring that his wife loved those same foods. He also locked her out of their son Jamie's room after Jamie died, refusing to let her clean it or get rid of any of his things. It later comes out that he wouldn't let her have anything to do with their own grandchild, little Suzie Hanks, since the parents weren't married and Jamie died without ever knowing his lover was pregnant, but Nettie went behind his back at times. After her husband's death, she finally goes ahead with her plan to invite Luanne, Suzie and Luanne's mother to move into the other half of their duplex.
    • In Cherry Cheesecake Murder, Winnie Henderson confesses that her second husband was one of these, and one day, he got drunk and started beating her, so she killed him in defense of herself and her then-unborn child.
    • In Cinnamon Roll Murder, Hannah talks with two of the groupies for the band Cinnamon Roll Six, and finds that the manager, who's dating one of them, is the emotionally abusive variety, and tells her about how Boyd Watson treated his wife (though without mentioning any names), including how it escalated from emotional abuse to physical. Her story gives Cammy yet another reason to leave Lee, which she was already considering, before it escalates.
  • Dreadful Musician:
    • In Cream Puff Murder, Hannah witnesses her mother and Carrie singing karaoke in a bar. They're both equally flat, and she spends the entire time wincing. (Though somehow, they managed to win a big prize from it that night.
    • It's mentioned in Plum Pudding Murder that Hannah herself, Andrea, and their father weren't much better at singing than Delores is.
    • In Cinnamon Roll Murder, Hannah thinks to herself at one point that Norman isn't good with singing either. This is yet another hint that Beverly Thorndike is lying about his being her daughter's father - she told her mother the father was a good musician.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Cherry Cheesecake Murder has an in-universe fictional example. The movie Crisis in Cherrywood is being filmed in Lake Eden, and the film's story is about how one of the characters has been hiding a deep, dark secret (that he'd killed their father); near the end of the film, when his sister discovers the truth and confronts him, the man admits that his crime has been haunting him ever since, and then shoots himself.
    • In Plum Pudding Murder, it's discovered that Larry Jaeger's crooked business practices cost one of his past investors all their savings, and the man shot himself as a result. That man was Salvatore Bianco, and his daughter is the one who kills Larry in revenge.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Andrea. In Lemon Meringue Pie Murder, she admits that she drives too fast and doesn't keep her eyes on the road. Hannah snarks that it's a wonder she hasn't had an accident yet. It's referenced again in Peach Cobbler Murder, when the sisters have to pull into the parking lot of Cyril Murphy's garage because they're laughing so hard and Andrea's weaving all over the road as a result. When Cyril comes over and asks if there's a problem with the car, Hannah's snarky response is "Yes, it needs a new driver."
  • Drop the Hammer: Boyd Watson is killed with a ball-peen hammer to the back of the head in Strawberry Shortcake Murder.
  • Drunk Driver: In Fudge Cupcake Murder, it's mentioned that Jamie Grant died in a car accident because he was driving with a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit.
  • Dye Hard: In-universe. Some characters dye their hair a different color.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Mayor Richard Bascomb, as a child, got nicknamed "Ricky Ticky" by his babysitter - Delores Swensen. She still calls him that even when he's in his fourth term as mayor of Lake Eden, which he doesn't appreciate.
  • Emotion Suppression: During Key Lime Pie Murder, Hannah learns that Mike does this during murder investigations, depersonalizing things so he can "assess the crime scene analytically" and feeling that emotions get in the way of his ability to do so - he does feel bad about the person's death, but he can't let his empathy get in the way of solving the case. Once off the clock, he purposely stops suppressing his emotions and lets himself decompress. After she overhears this, Hannah is more understanding about his earlier callous behavior, referring to Willa only as "the victim" and treating her more as a body than a person.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Late in Cherry Cheesecake Murder, when Hannah confronts the killer, Mike shows up as well, but says he can't arrest Burke because he doesn't have enough evidence. He's well aware that Hannah has the proof, but is stalling for time so Burke will incriminate himself when faced with Hannah's evidence, thus ensuring he won't get off when the case comes to trial.
  • Everyone Hates Fruit Cakes:
    • In Plum Pudding Murder, Larry Jaeger and Hannah get into a discussion on plum pudding, and Larry reacts with dismay when he hears it compared to fruitcake, which he says outright that he hates. Hannah promises that her version won't taste like fruitcake.
    • The topic is brought up again in Gingerbread Cookie Murder, in which Norman expresses a distaste for fruitcake, noting that it's the citron in it that he doesn't like. Hannah promises that this recipe, which she got from Marge Beeseman (who in turn got it from someone else) doesn't have citron - it uses dried fruit.
  • Evil Twin: In Devil's Food Cake Murder, Reverend Matthew Walters is murdered by his cousin Paul, who looks almost identical to him and had spent time in jail for a burglary gone wrong, and later arrives in Lake Eden disguised as Matthew and claiming the real Matthew was actually Paul.
  • Exploding Closet: A variant in Blueberry Muffin Murder, where it's not opening the door that causes the problem. Instead, Hannah's friend Janie had been trying to retrieve Hannah's cat Moishe from the walk-in closet in her guest room, where Hannah keeps mounds of old clothing that she keeps meaning to take to the thrift store. While she's in there, the closet pole (which Hannah admits has been loose for some time) gives way, burying her in an avalanche of all the clothes that were hanging on it. It takes several trips, with an armload each, before Hannah can pull enough clothes out of the closet to uncover Janie. (Moishe, meanwhile, turns out to have hopped up on the top shelf.)
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Husband version, and retroactively so, in Fudge Cupcake Murder. Danielle Watson has recently opened a dance studio in town, and tells Hannah that her late husband had pooh-poohed the idea when she'd talked about it to him, saying such a thing "would never go in a town the size of Lake Eden''. Contrary to his expectations, business is booming and she's looking for an assistant so she can hold more classes.
  • Fatal Attractor: Tad Newburg in Cream Puff Murder, whose uncle remarks on his having poor taste in women - he keeps trying to get the wrong ones, with no moral fiber, to go out with him.
  • Fictional Province: The series is set in the fictional Lake Eden, Minnesota, in the equally fictional Winnetka County.
  • Fiery Redhead: Hannah is pretty calm for the most part. However, events like people trying to force her to choose which guy she should marry and placing bets on the winner is enough to set her off (as seen in Cherry Cheesecake Murder, when she gets so frustrated over the whole thing that she declines both proposals and informs them that she'll decide whom to ask to marry her). She also gets ticked in Lemon Meringue Pie Murder when she finds out there was an office pool at the police station over how long it would be before she gave in and got involved in the latest murder investigation.
  • First Gray Hair: Andrea, who's only 26 at the time, freaks about getting her first one early in Key Lime Pie Murder. Their mother reacted about the same way when she got hers, while Hannah was away at college.
  • Flirtatious Smack on the Ass: In Cherry Cheesecake Murder, film director Dean Lawrence is prone to this with just about any woman he meets. Hannah, who's one of those on the receiving end, is most annoyed by it.
  • Food Fight: One breaks out early in Cream Puff Murder while Hannah, Andrea, Mike and Bill are having lunch at Bertanelli's Pizza. It starts when Bridget Murphy starts arguing with Ronni Ward, the latter of whom is a notorious flirt who can't stay away from married men; Bridget's husband tries to drag her away, but she breaks free and starts yelling at Ronni again. A set of Jordon High students, clearly amused by the whole thing, promptly call for a food fight and start throwing garlic bread and meatballs. Luckily, Bill and Mike are able to step in and restore order.
  • Food Porn: For desserts, every book.
  • Friend on the Force: Both Hannah's brother-in-law Bill Todd, and recent arrival Mike Kingston, one of Hannah's love interests.
  • The Gambling Addict: Gus Klein, the murder victim of Carrot Cake Murder. He's always borrowing money to pay off what he loses at gambling, which is one of the reasons why so many people aren't happy with him. It ultimately turns out that he was murdered to get back one of the loans he never paid back.
  • Get Out!: When Mike and Norman are discussing the cause of death for Willa Sunquist in Key Lime Pie Murder, Hannah gets so fed up with the gruesome discussion that she demands Mike and Norman leave her condo.
  • Glad I Thought of It: In Cherry Cheesecake Murder, film director Dean Lawrence asks Hannah if she can make the "finger food" that would be served at the movie's premiere, and she suggests they could include the same items in the cocktail scene of the movie. Lawrence promptly agrees and says the trope name, to Hannah's annoyance, but not to her surprise, given her opinion on his ego.
  • Grammar Nazi: Hannah herself is always correcting her sister's grammar, to Andrea's annoyance. She does it for other people too, but has generally learned to keep it in her thoughts only, at least some of the time.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Peach Cobbler Murder reveals that Delores is skilled at both fencing and softball, having been part of both teams in her high school days.
    • In Key Lime Pie Murder, Hannah discovers Norman was a professional race car driver for two years, and spent at least some of that time on the pit crew, so he can change tires in about a minute and a half and knows just the right top speed to take corners at, so he doesn't spin out and have a wreck.
  • Hide the Evidence: In Cherry Cheesecake Murder, a human skeleton is found within a statue, made by Winnie Henderson's late brother, in the park. They turn out to be the remains of Winnie Henderson's second husband, whom she'd killed in self-defense when he started attacking her shortly before their child was born. Winnie, Hannah, Mike and Norman agree to hide the truth, claiming the bones had already been there for hundreds of years and Winnie's brother had included them in his statue so they wouldn't leave the place where they'd come from originally.
  • His Name Really Is "Barkeep": Doc Knight is a recurring character throughout the series. Late in Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, when Hannah finds he's going to be her new stepfather, she asks Delores what they should call him, since they don't know his first name. Delores explains that his first name is "Doc" now - at some point in the past, he had it legally shortened from "Murdoch".
  • Honorary Uncle: Andrea's daughter Tracey has a habit of calling any male who's close to her parents or aunts "Uncle" (including Norman and Mike), and any female "Aunt" (including Lisa). She also tends to call any elderly person "Grandpa" or "Grandma": for example, she starts calling Lisa's father "Grandpa Jack" in Carrot Cake Murder.
  • Hot Skitty-on-Wailord Action: In Plum Pudding Murder, Hannah gets into a talk with Lisa about how her brother-in-law's father has a yellow Labrador named Flopsy, who recently had puppies. And they're pretty sure the father is their neighbor's Jack Russell terrier. When Lisa asks how that's possible, given the height difference, Hannah replies that the vet suspects a staircase was involved. Lisa cracks up at the thought.
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: Late in Sugar Cookie Murder, Andrea has to be hurried to the hospital to give birth. Norman and Hannah go with her, and she asks if Norman could help with the delivery if it happens before they get there; fortunately for them both, the baby waits until she's in the delivery room. Afterward, while waiting, Norman confesses to Hannah that he's glad - "I'm a dentist, not an obstetrician."
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All the main series books start with the name of some baked good, followed by the word "Murder"; i.e. Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, Apple Turnover Murder, Banana Cream Pie Murder... Two of the five novellas also follow the pattern. Averted with the other three novellas ("Candy For Christmas", "The Twelve Desserts of Christmas" and "Joanne Fluke's Lake Eden Cookbook"), which don't involve murder.
  • Improvised Weapon: In Peach Cobbler Murder, Delores Swensen takes out a gun-wielding Winthrop Harrington II with an umbrella.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: How the culprit is caught in Cherry Cheesecake Murder. When Hannah confronts the killer, she holds up a gun, and says where she got it... but Burke says he knows she won't shoot, because the gun doesn't have a firing pin. The only way he'd know that is if he was the one who hid a gun in the place she got it from.
  • Inheritance Murder:
    • It's revealed in Peach Cobbler Murder that Vanessa Quinn, after marrying the rich and elderly Neil Roper, manipulated him into making her his sole heir and later murdered him to get the money.
    • Discussed as a motive for murder in Apple Turnover Murder, but ultimately subverted. Bradford Ramsey had been married at least twice, and his first wife's parents were so impressed with him that they included him in their will, with his getting half of their money - several million dollars. They hadn't had the chance to write him back out after the divorce, and when they suddenly died in a car accident, their daughter would have had the perfect motivation to kill him and thus inherit everything. The subversion comes when it's revealed she was in the car with them and was in the hospital, being treated for a broken shoulder, when Bradford was subsequently murdered.
  • In Medias Res: Happens a few times, in which the prologue or first chapter starts with the POV of the book's main victim or another character being followed by the series' standard omniscient third-person narrator, before jumping to said narrator following Hannah, usually a few days prior.
    • Cherry Cheesecake Murder starts with a prologue from the point of view of director Dean Lawrence, ending in his death. The next chapter jumps back two weeks earlier.
    • Plum Pudding Murder starts with the series' standard omniscient third-person narrator following salesman Larry Jaeger, ending in his death. The next chapter jumps back one day.
  • Insane Troll Logic: In Blueberry Muffin Murder, main victim Connie Mac doesn't like her assistant Janie to be overweight, claiming that unless she loses twenty pounds, people will think Connie's recipes are fattening and thus reduce her sales. Norman privately tells Hannah that he thinks this is nonsense - Julia Child wasn't thin either, and her cookbooks were bestsellers. Hannah agrees with him.
  • In the Back: More than a few victims are found to have been attacked from behind, like Boyd Watson in Strawberry Shortcake Murder (struck in the back of the head with a ball-peen hammer), Connie Mac in Blueberry Muffin Murder (hit in the back of the head with a baseball bat), Sheriff Grant in Fudge Cupcake Murder (bashed in the back of the head with a tire iron), Willa Sunquist in Key Lime Pie Murder (hit in the back of the head with a mallet), and Wayne Bergstrom in Candy Cane Murder (hit from behind with an unidentified object).
  • It's All About Me:
    • Gus Klein, the murder victim of Carrot Cake Murder, had this attitude, according to others. If he wanted something, he got it, and didn't care about who else might get hurt in the process.
    • Gus's murderer is his brother-in-law Mac, who kills him on the grounds that Gus had borrowed five hundred dollars from his sister Patsy years ago and never paid it back. Patsy doesn't really care, but Mac wants it back, plus interest, feeling he "earned" that money just by being married to Patsy all these years.
  • I Want Grandkids: Or rather, "I want grandkids from my older daughter too". Delores tends to nag Hannah about finding a man and having children - while Hannah's happy babysitting for her niece, Delores insists that that's no substitute for having a baby of her own.
  • Key Under the Doormat: In Apple Turnover Murder, Hannah and Mike get into a discussion on the subject. Mike doesn't approve of the obvious spots, like under a doormat, a flower pot or inside a fake rock (which is where Hannah happens to keep hers). On the other hand, he thinks Norman's hiding place for his spare key - inside the mouth of a concrete statue of a moose - is brilliant when he finds out.
  • The Killer Becomes the Killed:
    • In Plum Pudding Murder, Mike fatally shoots Larry Jaeger's killer when he catches up to her as she's trying to murder Hannah to cover up her earlier crime.
    • In Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, Roger Dalworth tries to kill Barbara Donnelly, successfully murders Dr. Bev, and later tries to kill Hannah. He falls to his death after Hannah, in self-defense, sprays him in the face with window cleaning fluid.
  • Kind Hearted Cat Lover:
    • Hannah adopted her cat, Moishe, from the streets. While he still tries his best to get extra food while she's away, she loves him regardless of his actions, and one of her policies in terms of prospective boyfriends is "Love me, love my cat".
    • Norman Rhodes mentions in the first book that "Cats are some of my favorite people." when he meets Moishe for the first time. Later, near the end of Key Lime Pie Murder, he and Hannah discover that two of Hannah's neighbors had recently adopted a cat named Cuddles, but one of the sisters is still (despite medication) deathly allergic and can't keep her. Norman promptly offers to adopt Cuddles, and does.
  • Knight Templar Big Brother: In Apple Turnover Murder, Perry Connors is rather possessive of his sister Sherri. When he finds out she's pregnant by Bradford Ramsey, whom he'd already figured out was a creep, he murders Ramsey, and later tells Hannah that "I'm all [Sherri] needs".
  • Leave No Witnesses:
    • Ron LaSalle in Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder is killed because he witnessed Max's murder.
    • Lucy Richards is killed in Strawberry Shortcake Murder for much the same reason, along with her attempt at blackmailing the killer.
    • Sheriff Grant is killed in Fudge Cupcake Murder after figuring out that Ted Koester was running a chop shop and stolen car ring. Hannah is nearly killed after figuring out the same thing.
    • In Carrot Cake Murder, Patsy's husband Mac tries to kill her after confessing to her brother-in-law's murder, in order to keep her from telling anyone.
    • In Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, Dr. Bev is killed because she witnessed the attempted murder of Barbara Donnelly and realized it was her fiancé Roger who did it.
    • In multiple books, when Hannah figures out who's responsible for the titular murder, the killer tries to kill her as well for this purpose.
  • Lethal Chef: Andrea is a lousy cook who can barely make toast, and her husband isn't much better. When she actually turns out something good, as in Candy Cane Murder, Hannah is very surprised.
  • Little Old Lady Investigates: Hannah's mother, who's over sixty, tries briefly in Lemon Meringue Pie Murder (she feels she needs to, since she's the one who found the body this time), but Hannah herself quickly takes over for her, seeing as several people are encouraging her to do so.
  • Loan Shark: Max Turner in Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, who died at the hands of someone who stood to lose their home if they couldn't pay up.
  • Longest Pregnancy Ever: On the low end of the scale, but Andrea's second pregnancy lasts from February to December - ten months. At the start of Sugar Cookie Murder, she tells Hannah that according to the doctor, she should have delivered a week or two ago, and he's giving her only until the end of the week until he induces labor for her and the baby's safety.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • Normally, animals aren't allowed in places where food is served. In Cherry Cheesecake Murder, however, Hannah finds her cat is out and about in the front part of her bakery (on Mike's lap), and says that if the Board of Health found out, it could get her shut down. Mike, in turn, points out that since she's not actually open, this little gathering can be considered a private party for some cast members (including himself, Norman and Moishe), and therefore the usual rules don't apply.
    • After Lawrence's murder, Hannah promises Mike she won't investigate on her own... but never says she won't ask others to help her investigate.
  • Love Triangle:
    • Hannah is involved in one with Norman Rhodes, the local dentist, and Mike Kingston, a detective from Minneapolis, to the point where they both propose to her in the last chapter of Peach Cobbler Murder; she finally gets tired of being pressured on whom to choose in Cherry Cheesecake Murder and declines both, promising that when she's decided, she'll propose to the one she wants.
    • Cherry Cheesecake Murder also adds another side to the triangle with the arrival of her old boyfriend Ross Barton, whom she eventually marries in Wedding Cake Murder... only for him to mysteriously disappear during the events of Banana Cream Pie Murder (shortly after returning from their honeymoon). His whereabouts are revealed in the final chapter of Raspberry Danish Murder, and elaborated on in Chocolate Cream Pie Murder, which officially ends their relationship. In the former, it's explained that he was already married to a woman in Wisconsin (meaning that his marriage to Hannah wasn't legal), whom he'd returned to. In the latter, he returns to Lake Eden to reclaim some money he'd previously given Hannah (and that she'd transferred into his checking account after she found out the truth, not wanting anything to do with it or him anymore), and threatens her when he can't get it right away (since the bank doesn't keep sums that large on hand). He's later killed by an old cohort.
  • Malicious Slander: One of Gus Klein's many wrongdoings that was revealed in Carrot Cake Murder. He threatened Jack Herman, saying that if Jack didn't loan him money, Gus would claim Jack's wife, Emmy, had been his lover and that Jack and Emmy's oldest child, their daughter Iris, was actually Gus's (which was totally false, of course). A violent brawl between the two of them ensued.
  • Mama Bear:
    • In "Candy For Christmas", Hannah becomes protective of teenage runaway Candy and wants to be sure about her family before letting Candy go back with them. She's very glad when she meets them and they turn out to be very nice people.
    • In the climax of Peach Cobbler Murder, Delores Swensen of all characters attacked the murderer when they threatened Hannah.
    • It's revealed in Cherry Cheesecake Murder that when Winnie Henderson was younger, she killed her abusive second husband in order to protect her unborn child from his abuse.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe:
    • In Fudge Cupcake Murder, Luanne Hanks finally admits to Hannah about the identity of her child's father. The child's paternal grandfather, who found out while she was pregnant, invoked this trope when he accused her of lying about his son being the father and wouldn't have anything to do with her.
    • In the conclusion of Devil's Food Cake Murder, Norman admits to Hannah that his ex-fiancee Beverly Thorndike has a daughter, and has told him that Diana is also his; he was prepared to marry her in order to be close to the child. As portrayed in Cinnamon Roll Murder, it takes him two months to confirm that Bev was lying, and he tells Hannah this before she can admit that she had surreptitiously acquired DNA samples and had the same tests done, not only confirming that Norman isn't the father, the real father was the book's murder victim. She opts not to tell him about it in the end.
  • Mama Didn't Raise No Criminal: In Fudge Cupcake Murder, it's mentioned that Sheriff Grant refused to believe his son, who was drunk at the wheel when he died, was at fault for the accident that killed him and a passenger; despite all the evidence, he kept calling and harassing the father of the other boy in the car to insist that that boy must have been responsible for their deaths.
  • Man Bites Man: Early in Cream Puff Murder, when Bridget Murphy gets in a fight with Ronni Ward, Bridget's husband Cyril tries to physically drag her away and gets bitten on the shoulder for his trouble.
  • Manchild: Freddy Sawyer, introduced in Lemon Meringue Pie Murder. A nice guy, albeit one who's been diagnosed as mildly retarded.
  • The Matchmaker: Delores is rather intent on pairing Hannah up with someone, and is really in favor of that someone being Norman Rhodes (his mother is also one for Norman and Hannah). Hannah suspects her sister is this for her and Mike as well.
  • May–December Romance:
    • Norman is fifteen years older than Hannah.
    • In Sugar Cookie Murder, Hannah learns that Shawna Lee Quinn (who's around her age or younger) has a younger sister, Vanessa, who's just become a widow. Vanessa's husband was in his eighties.
    • Delores Swensen becomes involved with a younger man, Winthrop Harrington II, in Fudge Cupcake Murder. The relationship ends in Peach Cobbler Murder when she finds out he's a scam artist and a killer.
  • Mean Boss: The victim of Blueberry Muffin Murder is Connie MacIntyre, or Connie Mac for short, who happens to be bossy, bad-tempered, domineering and downright rude to her employees and anyone else, scolding her chauffeur for starting to leave without being directly dismissed and mocking her assistant Janie Burkholtz for being somewhat overweight, claiming that Janie's size will make people think Connie's recipes are fattening and thus reduce her sales, and demanding Janie lose twenty pounds before the next season of her show so she won't make Connie look bad.
  • Meaningful Name: Hannah's cat Moishe is blind in one eye, and is named for the similarly blind-in-one eye Moshe Dayan.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: In Blueberry Muffin Murder, Connie Mac finds out her husband Paul's will only leaves her half his estate, and the other half goes to another woman. She's convinced he's sleeping with said other woman, and is determined to force him to cut his supposed lover from his will and leave her everything. Connie dies before she finds out the truth, but Hannah eventually figures out the other woman is in fact Connie's assistant Janie Burkholtz, and that she's Paul's previously unknown daughter from a relationship he had before marrying Connie.
  • Mob War: In Mike's backstory (as revealed in Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder), his wife was a nurse who died, along with their unborn baby, when she was caught in the crossfire from a shootout between two rival gangs.
  • Mock Millionaire: Gus Klein, the murder victim of Carrot Cake Murder, who goes out of his way to show off his supposed wealth when he's really barely making even, despite the business he runs.
  • Mooning:
    • Late in Lemon Meringue Pie Murder, Freddy Sawyer (who has some mental problems) gets in trouble with the law for getting drunk, riding in the back of his cousin Jed's pickup truck and mooning everyone they pass.
    • While reminiscing about Gus Klein in Carrot Cake Murder, Rose McDermott explains that she was secretary at the local high school during his time. After an incident in which he got paddled by the principal, she offered him some lanolin to help with the injury. The next day, when he returned it, he thanked her and then mooned her to show that his rear was just fine now.
  • Multi-Part Episode: Some of the storylines cover multiple books, such as Dr. Bev's attempt to reclaim Norman for herself in Devil's Food Cake Murder and Cinnamon Roll Murder, and Clayton Wallace's death in Cinnamon Roll Murder not being solved until Red Velvet Cupcake Murder.
  • Murder by Mistake:
    • In Peach Cobbler Murder, Shawna Lee Quinn is found shot to death. Hannah comes to suspect, and later confirms, that her nearly-identical younger sister Vanessa was the actual target.
    • Suggested in Cherry Cheesecake Murder, when Hannah wonders if Dean Lawrence was the intended target, or actor Burke Anson, who would have been shooting the scene where the "prop" gun was to be used. Ultimately subverted - Burke was the one who switched guns and then arranged for Dean to take his place.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Hannah is a self-admitted caffeine addict who can't function without a cup or three of coffee in the morning.
  • My Beloved Smother:
    • Delores is this to Hannah and Andrea. She constantly tries to meddle in Hannah's life through an attempt to play matchmaker with her and Norman.
    • Norman's own mother is this to him, and he comments on it early in Lemon Meringue Pie Murder, saying that she "can't seem to accept that I'm an adult" (Hannah also notes that Carrie's been attempting to control his life since he moved back to Lake Eden to take over his father's dental practice). It's part of the reason he's buying a piece of land, so he can have a new house built for himself on the property he's just gotten and thus be able to move out of his mother's house and away from her constant questioning of him every time he goes out.
  • My Biological Clock Is Ticking: Discussed and invoked, but not by Hannah. It's her mother Delores who's constantly reminding her that "Your biological clock is ticking" when she's urging Hannah to hurry up and have kids while she still can.
  • Mystery Magnet: Hannah, naturally, with her tendency to find dead bodies. Her mother is none too thrilled by this, and Hannah remarks in Blueberry Muffin Murder that she thinks that Delores is convinced Hannah is "on a perpetual safari for dead bodies just so [Hannah] can embarrass her." Dolores later mentions in Peach Cobbler Murder that Hannah's picked up the unflattering nickname of "corpse catcher" because of this.
  • Never Win the Lottery: This is the killer's motive in Gingerbread Cookie Murder. They got the winning ticket, but it was stolen by someone they considered a friend, and killed him to get back the money they felt was rightfully theirs.
  • Noodle Incident: While reminiscing about Gus Klein in Carrot Cake Murder, Rose McDermott mentions how he got in trouble for one of these - all she knows is that it involved the drama teacher and three dead frogs.
  • Not a Morning Person: For all that she has to get up early and do a lot of baking for her shop every day, Hannah thinks in Strawberry Shortcake Murder that "Someone ought to pass a law to make mornings illegal."
  • Not Good with Rejection: In Cream Puff Murder, Tad Newburg is left brokenhearted when he's turned down by a woman he's had a major crush on, and cruelly so. Hannah's discovery of this makes her think he's that woman's killer. Subverted when it turns out it was his uncle Frank Hurley who killed Ronni for her actions.
  • Not in Front of the Parrot: In Devil's Food Cake Murder, Pete Nunke's myna bird picks up a few surprise phrases while spending time with Reverend Matthew Walters. One phrase - "I know why you're here, and you're not going to find it!" - provides evidence about the man's killer.
  • Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon: Happens in Cherry Cheesecake Murder, when film director Dean Lawrence fatally shoots himself with a real gun, which has been switched for the supposed-to-be-not-loaded prop gun, while trying to demonstrate the emotion required in the scene to the actors.
  • Not What It Looks Like: During Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, there's a scene where Jack Herman wants to propose to Marge Beeseman, and is down on his knees rehearsing the proposal, with Hannah's help... right as Marge and Lisa walk in and jump to conclusions. Luckily, they believe Hannah's quick and truthful explanation about it being a rehearsal, and then Jack proposes to Marge for real.
  • Oblivious Adoption: In Blueberry Muffin Murder, Hannah's friend Janie Burkholtz was given up for adoption, but one of the conditions was that the adoptive parents would never tell Janie the truth. By the end of the book, Hannah's a Secret Keeper for the mother (who was kept up to date on her by Janie's adoptive parents) and has figured out the identity of the father, but Janie is still unaware.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Andrea isn't too fond of her mother-in-law Regina, and Delores isn't too thrilled by her either.
  • Obsessed with Food: Hannah's cat Moishe. Hannah points out in Peach Cobbler Murder that this is a side trait of his time on the streets, when he never knew how long it would be until he got his next meal. He spends most of his time trying to get into whatever place she's kept his cat crunchies, figuring out how open the latch on the cabinet and eventually, after she's put a padlock on the door to the closet where she keeps his food, he goes as far as chewing a hole through the door so he can get to the food and move a stash of it into Hannah's bedroom closet.
  • Office Romance: Used in Blueberry Muffin Murder. The owner of the Savory Press publishing company is death on intraoffice romance, and fires anyone who gets romantically involved with a coworker. He's told his daughter in particular that if she ever gets involved with a coworker and he finds out, he'll fire the guy and have her sent to finish college in Alaska.
  • Off on a Technicality: It's mentioned in Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder that this happened to the man who accidentally killed Mike's first wife, due to a mess-up with the search warrant. Fortunately, he got nailed for a separate murder and was sentenced to life in prison, with no chance of parole.
  • Old Flame: Hannah's college ex, Ross Barton, who returns to the picture in Cherry Cheesecake Murder. They wind up marrying several books later, only for Hannah to find out it wasn't legitimate a few books after that.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Veronica "Ronni" Alice Ward, whose full name isn't revealed until after Ronni's death in Cream Puff Murder.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: In Key Lime Pie Murder, Hannah worries about her cat Moishe, who's known for being always hungry... and yet he hasn't been eating much, if anything, lately. Nor is he giving Hannah her usual greeting at the door. Instead, he spends most of his time just staring out the window, towards one of her neighbor's condos. Near the end of the book, it turns out that he's been pining over the female cat they'd recently gotten.
  • Operation: Jealousy:
    • Played for laughs at the end of Strawberry Shortcake Murder. Hannah's had a long day and is annoyed at both Mike and Norman for getting jealous of one another over her, so she tells them she already has "someone at home, warming up my bed for me". Both are astonished and ask who... and right before she turns and walks out, she gives them a grin and tells them the "someone" is her cat.
    • Hannah's mother Delores tries this on Norman's behalf several times, mentioning that he seems to be seeing a lot of another woman in an effort to spur Hannah's own jealousy in order to push her romance with him. Of note is Fudge Cupcake Murder, when she mentions he's apparently met up with his ex-fiancee Beverly Thorndike while he's out of town at a conference. Dr. Thorndike later moves to Lake Eden about a month before the events of Devil's Food Cake Murder, and becomes the murder victim two books later in Red Velvet Cupcake Murder.
  • Outliving One's Offspring:
    • In Fudge Cupcake Murder, it's revealed that Sheriff Grant and his wife Nettie lost their son Jamie in a car accident three years before. Sheriff Grant apparently never got over it, refusing to let his wife clean out Jamie's room and spending a lot of time in there on his own.
    • Narrowly so in Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, where Warren Dalworth is in the hospital, dying of cancer. He is still alive when his son Roger falls to his death while trying to kill Hannah.
  • Parental Title Characterization: Hannah and her two sisters always call their mother Delores "Mother". Since Delores is a Proper Lady and My Beloved Smother, in sharp contrast with her Girl Next Door baker daughter, the formal title suits her much better than "Mom" would. It eventually comes out that Delores hasn't been very happy about their doing so - in Chocolate Cream Pie Murder, after seeing Ross's body, a shellshocked Hannah unwittingly calls Delores "Mommy", the first time she's done so since she was three. Delores thanks her for it, and says that "You have no idea how much that means to me."
  • Passed-Over Inheritance:
    • A variant in Blueberry Muffin Murder - Connie Mac is infuriated when she learns her husband's will only leaves her half his estate, and is determined to make him change it to make her his sole heir, rather than leaving the other half to a woman she thinks he's sleeping with. The other heir turns out to be his daughter from a previous relationship, something he'd only recently found out about.
    • During the events of Peach Cobbler Murder, Hannah finds out that Vanessa Quinn's late husband, Neil Roper, had promised part of his estate to his cousin's daughter (who was working two part-time jobs to get through college), but later changed his will to leave everything to Vanessa instead. It turns out Vanessa was a scam artist who manipulated him into changing it. Whether the girl got her intended inheritance after Vanessa's arrest is never said.
    • Another variant in Red Velvet Cupcake Murder - Warren Dalworth left a quarter of his estate to his illegitimate daughter, Barbara Donnelly. Her older half-brother Roger feels he deserves it all because he did all the work, whereas she wasn't involved in Dalworth Enterprises in any way, and he tries to murder her so he'll get everything. Presumably, she ends up with everything after Roger dies in the book's climax.
  • Plagiarism in Fiction:
    • A variant in Fudge Cupcake Murder, where it's revealed that Sheriff Grant was pulling his deputies off big cases so he could finish them and take the credit, and then use the popularity boost to win a re-election for sheriff that year.
    • In Apple Turnover Murder, it's suggested this could be a motive for murder - Bradford Ramsey had published a research paper and taken full credit for the work, but it was his research assistant Tim Pearson who actually researched and wrote it in return for Bradford recommending him for a certain job. Then Bradford backstabbed him and recommended one of his girlfriends (who was utterly unqualified) instead. Luckily for Tim, one of the people on the hiring committee looked into matters more closely, and Tim got the job anyway.
    • In the same book, it's found that Bradford would woo some of his girlfriends by using old poetry from over a hundred years ago, but claim it was his. Figuring this out is part of how Michelle Swensen realized he was a lying creep.
  • Plot Allergy: Used as part of Dr. Beverly Thorndike's efforts to control her intended husband Norman's life in Devil's Food Cake Murder and Cinnamon Roll Murder. She claims to be allergic to cats, thus forcing him to give up his cat Cuddles (whom Hannah takes in); this also gives her an excuse to not let him visit Hannah's condo, since Hannah owns a cat. Bev is faking, as it turns out.
  • Portmanteau: In Sugar Cookie Murder, Andrea uses one to name her second daughter at Hannah's suggestion - combining "Beth" (short for "Elizabeth", Delores Swensen's middle name) and "Annie" (a nickname for "Anatolia", Regina Todd's middle name) into Bethany, allowing her to fulfill the promises she'd made to her mother and mother-in-law (separately) to name her child, if it was a girl, after them.
  • Posthumous Character: Hannah's father, who died while she was in college. His death prompted Hannah to drop out and return to her hometown to help her mother.
  • Post-Robbery Trauma: A variant occurs in Strawberry Shortcake Murder. In the climax, Hannah wrestles the villain's gun away and manages to injure and restrain him. Later that evening, she asks Herb Beeseman to teach her how to handle a handgun. Not because she's planning to buy one herself, but so she knows how to use one if she ever finds herself in a similar situation again - she already knows how to safely handle a shotgun, since her father taught her, but not handguns.
  • Practically Different Generations: In Key Lime Pie Murder, Lisa mentions her sisters were grown by the time she was born.
  • Prank Call: In Apple Turnover Murder, Bill keeps getting calls from a company called Tachyon, a security firm which is rather insistent on getting him to come work for at their headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and keeps escalating their offers on salary and benefits. Hannah eventually becomes suspicious, and tells Andrea to have Bill call the company itself and ask if all this is for real. Tachyon, as he finds, has no record of any such calls. Later, in Devil's Food Cake Murder, Delores (who's undercover as "Trixie", a customer at the Eagle bar), flirts with one customer as part of her disguise and finds he's the father of the man who made the calls as a prank, and that they're both proud of the whole joke.
  • Prequel:
    • Christmas Cake Murder, the 23rd book published (excluding anthologies and the cookbook) is the earliest in chronological order, set soon after Hannah dropped out of college and came home to help her mother after Delores lost her husband and sank into depression from it.
    • Christmas Caramel Murder, the 20th main book published, was released after Wedding Cake Murder, but takes place earlier - the prologue and epilogue of Christmas Caramel are set in September, while Wedding Cake is set in October.
  • Promotion to Parent: In Key Lime Pie Murder, Hannah meets Ruby, who runs the deep-fried candy bar booth at the midway for the Tri-County Fair. When Ruby mentions she knows what it's like to have a grown-up child, Hannah is surprised, since Ruby looks about the same age as Hannah (who's about a month shy of thirty-one). Ruby then explains that she's been taking care of her half-sister Brianna since their mother died, when Ruby was eleven and her sister was two-and-a-half (and Brianna's father Sam was too busy running the carnival to really help out, except during the off-season).
  • Raised by Grandparents: In Cinnamon Roll Murder, when Hannah and Andrea talk to Dr. Beverly Thorndike's mother, they find she's the one who really raises Bev's daughter Diana, since Bev is always more concerned with her own personal life. While not outright stated, it can be inferred that she became Diana's only guardian after Bev died in Red Velvet Cupcake Murder.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: In Cream Puff Murder, pretty much all the experienced deputies from the sheriff's department (and even the sheriff himself) have to take themselves off the case when Ronni Ward is murdered. Stella Parks, Mike's replacement in the Minneapolis detective division, is brought in to take over; when she meets Hannah, rather than ordering her to mind her own business, she actually asks her to keep doing what she always does to solve her murder investigations - listen and ask questions, and report any important information about the case to Stella.
  • Redhead In Green: There are a few occasions where Hannah, one of the few redheads in the series, ends up wearing green. One example includes Candy Cane Murder where she wears a red-and-green elf outfit for a Christmas event.
  • Revealing Cover-Up: More than a few of the victims in the series were killed to try and cover up some other crime. The discovery of a dead body inevitably leads to that very crime being discovered.
  • Riches to Rags: In Blueberry Muffin Murder, Greg Canfield had a successful, thriving business. But then Connie Mac made the local mall terminate his lease so she could take over the spot, not wanting any competition (he ran an import business, including cookware, which her stores also sold). He wound up losing everything, even his wife, who divorced him for his financial troubles. It drove him crazy to the point of killing Connie and her lawyer in revenge.
  • The Runaway:
    • Candice "Candy" Roberts of "Candy For Christmas", a fifteen-year-old who leaves home when her mother remarries, out of the mistaken belief that she can't live up to her new stepsister Allison (whom the girl's father is always complimenting) and that it'll cause fights between her mom and stepdad if her mother stands up for Candy over Allison. Allison, for her part, is embarrassed by her father's always talking her up, and is eager to meet her new sister. When the two meet (without Candy knowing Allison's identity, though Allison knows full well who she is) and become friends, Candy finds out the truth and happily returns home.
    • In Blueberry Muffin Murder, college-age Marcia is perfectly willing to do this rather than acquiesce to her father's attempt to forbid her from dating a coworker, having sworn that if her father goes through with his threat of firing her boyfriend and sending Marcia herself to college in Alaska, she'll elope with the boyfriend and put her schooling on hold until he can get established at another publishing firm.
  • Sabotage to Discredit: The motive for the killing in Cherry Cheesecake Murder. Burke Anson was slated to get the lead in another movie, Remember Last Tuesday, until the director for his current project had it reported that he was "difficult to work with". Burke felt that Lawrence had done this deliberately to sabotage his career, and set up his murder in retaliation.
  • Sauna of Death: In Cream Puff Murder, the murderer attempts to kill Hannah by locking her in the sauna at the local health club. She's able to escape by overheating a plastic car ornament, which sets off the fire alarm.
  • Scatterbrained Senior:
    • Jack Herman, Lisa's father, has this due to suffering from Alzheimer's. It's the main reason she gave up her college scholarship and came home to take care of him.
    • Warren Dalworth also suffers from it in Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, when he's dying of cancer.
  • The Scrooge: Wayne Bergstrom, the murder victim of Candy Cane Murder, is a notorious cheapskate. His ex-wife explains that his father lost everything in a bad investment when Wayne was a child, leaving Wayne paranoid about suffering the same fate.
  • Second Place Is for Losers: Boyd Watson firmly believes in this, as stated in Strawberry Shortcake Murder. As he puts it, "If you don't come in first, you're a loser."
  • Secret Ingredient: In Fudge Cupcake Murder, the late Alma Koester had one for her fudge cupcakes, which she never wrote down or shared with anyone, fully intending to take the secret to her grave. After her death, her son and daughter-in-law give Hannah the recipe so Hannah can try and figure out the secret, and gladly let her include it in her new cookbook and share it with the world. It turns out to be raspberry syrup.
  • Series Continuity Error:
    • In Cream Puff Murder, Phil Plotnik says his son Kevin had turned two on November 3. This contradicts Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, in which Hannah meets Kevin as an infant in late October.
    • Winthrop Harrington the Second is misidentified as Winthrop Harrington the Third in Plum Pudding Murder.
    • Devil's Food Cake Murder is pretty bad about this.
      • Andrea says Tracey is six, but she should be at least seven.
      • Hannah refers to events from Cream Puff Murder as if they'd happened just the year before, when in fact it had been over a year.
      • Hannah thinks to herself that she'd hired Lisa two and a half years ago. The series has covered almost three and a half years at this time.
      • In the same scene, Hannah mentions Lisa getting married just the year before. It's actually been two years.
    • In Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, Jack Herman's diagnosis of Alzheimer's is said to have happened "over a year ago", implying it was fairly recent. It actually happened pre-series, almost five years before.
    • In Blackberry Pie Murder, set in August, Hannah reads a news article saying it's been four months since a member of her family found a dead body. The previous book, in which Hannah found a dead body, was set in June - just two months before.
    • In Chocolate Cream Pie Murder, Mike says it's been three years since his wife died. The series has covered more years than that.
  • Sham Wedding:
    • In Candy Cane Murder, it's revealed that Wayne Bergstrom's second marriage wasn't legitimate, because his new wife Melinda was still married to her husband Cory; the sham marriage effectively allowed them to mooch off him. When an unknowing Wayne decided to "divorce" Melinda, Cory killed him to prevent him from doing so.
    • Having married Ross Barton in Wedding Cake Murder, Hannah later finds out that he was actually still married to his first wife, meaning her marriage wasn't legitimate.
  • Shipper on Deck: In Peach Cobbler Murder, Lisa suggests that Hannah's cat Moishe is this for Hannah and Norman, since he let Norman put a harness on him without any fuss.
  • Short-Distance Phone Call: Early in Sugar Cookie Murder, Hannah calls her sister's cell phone, but soon finds her phone has developed "a strange new echo". It turns out Andrea was right outside the building when she first answered, and the last bit of the call is "Turn around, Hannah. Lisa just let me in and I'm standing right behind you."
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Hannah is the only one in her family (with her deceased father as an exception) with red hair. Because her sisters looked like their mother and she looked like her father, people assumed that Hannah was adopted.
  • Smelly Skunk: In Cherry Cheesecake Murder, while snooping around Dean Lawrence's personal Winnebago, Hannah and Michelle catch a whiff of what they're pretty sure is skunk smell coming from its bathroom. Hannah later goes to look in there and confirms there is one; luckily for her, it's too busy trying to get back out the window (which it finally succeeds at doing) to spray her.
  • Someone to Remember Him By:
    • In Fudge Cupcake Murder, Luanne Hanks finally confessed the identity of her daughter Suzie's father, and that she sent the letter telling him, only to find out he'd died before getting it. The father is Jamie Grant, son of Sheriff and Nettie Grant.
    • Variant in Candy Cane Murder, when it's revealed that Wayne Bergstrom died without ever getting to know his daughter - she was five or so when his ex-wife (whom he'd divorced when she was pregnant, though he didn't know that) returned to town to tell him, only for him to be murdered before they had a chance to talk.
    • In the very end of Chocolate Cream Pie Murder, Hannah calls Doc Knight, suspecting she might be pregnant with Ross's baby. Subverted in the very first chapter of Coconut Cream Pie Murder (included as a preview at the end of the previous book), in which Doc confirms she isn't pregnant and it's just stress causing similar effects.
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: During Cinnamon Roll Murder, Claire Knudson voices to Michelle (who later tells Hannah) that during Norman and Beverly Thorndike's wedding, she wants to be the one to do this, since she doesn't like Bev. She doesn't get the chance - Norman calls off the wedding after figuring out Bev was lying to him about her daughter being his.
  • Springtime for Hitler: Invoked for the events of Cherry Cheesecake Murder, as revealed in Chocolate Cream Pie Murder. As the killer explains, Ross's earlier movies had all lost money, so his main investors, fully expecting Crisis in Cherrywood would also fail, bought insurance on it and informed Ross of this, making him agree to ensure the production wouldn't make back its money. Ross then went behind their backs and sold the rights to someone else, therefore making enough money off it to prevent them from cashing in on the insurance - which would have been much more than they'd get from selling the rights. While he paid back the original investment money, they were furious at losing a chance at a bigger sum from the insurance, and one of them finally kills Ross in revenge.
  • Stage Mom:
    • "Sports Dad" variant in Strawberry Shortcake Murder, in the form of Mason Kimball. He forced his son Craig to use a new form of steroid to increase his muscles and proficiency at basketball, and when Craig confessed the truth to his coach Boyd Watson and Boyd was ready to suspend Craig from the team, Mason killed Boyd to prevent it.
    • Discussed in Cherry Cheesecake Murder, when Tracey gets a part in the movie being filmed in Lake Eden. Hannah, having recently watched a documentary on the subject, hopes that Andrea doesn't turn out to be one of these.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: As mentioned in Lemon Meringue Pie Murder, Andrea's mother-in-law thinks she should quit her job and be a stay-at-home mother and wife. Her husband Bill isn't much better, since he refers to Andrea's real estate career as "her little hobby".
  • Stealing from the Till: As revealed in Cream Puff Murder, this got Ronni Ward fired from one of her previous jobs - she was a cocktail waitress at a bar, where she totaled her customers' bar tabs early, took their credit cards and rang them up. Then, when they'd order another round, she'd ask them to pay in cash and pocketed it. When the owner complained to the bartender about his coming up short, the bartender started keeping a closer eye on the cocktail waitresses and caught her in the act.
  • Struggling Single Mother: Luanne Hanks, who dropped out of high school in her senior year after becoming pregnant and spent the next few years supporting her baby and mother by working as a waitress and selling Pretty Girl cosmetics door-to-door - since she won't accept outright charity, Hannah and Andrea clandestinely support her via buying her cosmetics, even if they never use them. Later, when Delores Swensen and Carrie Rhodes open their antique shop "Granny's Attic" between the events of Blueberry Muffin Murder and Lemon Meringue Pie Murder, they hire her to work for them, which helps her finances a great deal. It later comes out that Suzie's father was Jamie Grant, and he'd died before ever finding out. Jamie's father didn't take too well to finding out he'd fathered a child out of wedlock and forbids her from ever admitting their relationship.
  • Succession Crisis: Minor one in Fudge Cupcake Murder. After Sheriff Grant is killed while running for re-election, Mike Kingston (as highest-ranking deputy) is appointed Acting Sheriff until a new one is elected. His temporary secretary, Shawna Lee Quinn, briefly wonders what would happen if, despite his being dead, Sheriff Grant got re-elected anyway, since his name's still on the ballet. Hannah, who's not thrilled by her obvious interest in Mike, informs her that in that case, Mike would automatically remain Acting Sheriff until the Winnetka County Board of Supervisors can schedule another election. It turns out to be a moot point, since Bill gets elected after helping bring Grant's killer to justice.
  • Suicide, Not Murder: Subverted in Cinnamon Roll Murder and Red Velvet Cupcake Murder. Clayton Wallace, the bus driver for the band Cinnamon Roll Six, dies in the accident in the opening of the former book. When it turns out he overdosed on heart medication, there's some suspicion that someone tampered with his pills so he'd take too many, but by the time of Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, the coroner has concluded it was suicide, thus denying Clayton's son the insurance money from his death. Luckily, after Hannah meets Clayton's nurse from the eye clinic he went to, said nurse is able to provide evidence that he had vision problems that would explain how he could misidentify the pills when filling his pill pockets, and thus it really was an accident on his part.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Marge Beeseman's sister Patsy, introduced in Carrot Cake Murder, cannot swim. At all. She's completely unable to float for some reason, as confirmed by the school swim teacher.
  • Supreme Chef: Hannah is a superb baker, and is good at other things too.
  • Sweet Tooth: Many characters love The Cookie Jar's pastries.
  • Switching P.O.V.: Happens a few times, usually overlapping with In Medias Res, in which the prologue or first chapter starts with the POV of one character (or the series' standard omniscient third-person narrator) before going to follow Hannah for the rest of the book.
    • Cherry Cheesecake Murder opens with a prologue in director Dean Lawrence's point of view, ending in his death.
    • "Candy For Christmas" uses the "narrator" variant, with a few chapters following Candice "Candy" Roberts instead of Hannah.
    • Plum Pudding Murder uses the "narrator" variant, following salesman Larry Jaeger shortly before his murder.
    • Banana Cream Pie Murder uses the "narrator" variant, following Delores Swensen as she overhears a murder and then finds their body.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Mike is regarded as this, although his hair is dark blond.
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: An in-universe fictional example in Cherry Cheesecake Murder, where the movie Crisis in Cherrywood is being filmed in Lake Eden. One scene being filmed is of a teenage character, who gets harassed by his peers for acing a test and thus "wrecking the grade curve", making the rest of them look bad.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: This is how Dr. Beverly Thorndike dies in Red Velvet Cupcake Murder - an overdose of tranquilizers are found in her stomach. While it's initially assumed they were in the Red Velvet Surprise Cupcakes that Hannah gave her, it's eventually proven they were actually in the coffee she'd gotten elsewhere.
  • Teacher/Student Romance:
    • As revealed in Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, Hannah was briefly involved with one of her college professors, Bradford Ramsey.
    • Ramsey returns in Plum Pudding Murder, and in Apple Turnover Murder, Hannah finds he'd been romancing her youngest sister, though Michelle had broken it off by that point.
  • Technophobia: It's a running gag that Hannah is somewhat slow to embrace new communications technology. In Key Lime Pie Murder, she's the last of her family to get a computer (and she doesn't even unpack it for several weeks after buying one) and a cell phone (she only gets one because Norman bought it for her). In the latter case, she keeps it off most of the time (she doesn't want to make it easier for her mother to be able to keep in touch with her at all hours), only turning it on when she has an emergency.
  • The Teetotaler: Norman. It's revealed in Carrot Cake Murder that back when he was working in Seattle, there was an incident that resulted in his being arrested for drunk, disorderly and resisting arrest, and he had to spend a night in jail as a result. He hasn't touched alcohol since.
  • Tempting Fate: While pregnant with her second child, Andrea was so sure she was having a boy that she promised her mother that if she was having another girl, she'd name them for Delores, and then made the same promise to her mother-in-law Regina. Naturally, she winds up with a second girl in Sugar Cookie Murder. Fortunately, Hannah's able to come up with a suitable compromise for the name (Bethany) by combining nicknames from the two women's respective middle names.
  • Third-Option Love Interest: Through most of the series, Hannah is unable to choose between the two men she dates, Norman (Betty) and Mike (Veronica). But eventually she strikes up a romance with her old college friend Ross and marries him in Wedding Cake Murder. Just two books later, he leaves her to go back to his first wife, and later becomes another of the series' murder victims.
  • Throw It In!: In-Universe example in Blueberry Muffin Murder. Hannah mentions an incident in high school when she, Andrea and Janie were all at Hannah's home studying, and Hannah decided to make grilled cheese sandwiches for them. She'd already started when she found out they were out of regular cheese, so she sliced some cream cheese instead and used that in place of the regular cheese. The trio considered the resulting sandwiches to be very tasty, and Hannah's been making them ever since.
  • Til Murder Do Us Part:
    • Why Willa Sunquist was killed in Key Lime Pie Murder. Willa was still in love with her husband and wouldn't divorce him, even though he didn't want her anymore. He killed her to be free to marry another woman... and also because if he married the other woman, he'd get a lot of money when his intended father-in-law died.
    • Late in Carrot Cake Murder, Patsy's husband Mac tries to kill her to keep his previous murder a secret.
  • Trail of Bread Crumbs: In Candy Cane Murder, after a trail of miniature candy canes leads to Wayne Bergstrom's body (and there was no hole in his pocket to suggest they might have fallen out that way), Hannah comes to believe that he suspected he was in danger and had left the trail on purpose. It turns out to be a red herring clue - the killer left them to fool everyone into thinking that way.
  • Trash of the Titans: In Cherry Cheesecake Murder, Hannah and Michelle do some snooping around Dean Lawrence's personal Winnebago, and find it's a disaster area. Later, when they find a skunk has gotten stuck in his bathroom, Hannah jokingly suggests it came in because it mistook Lawrence for another skunk, due to his habits.
  • Tsundere: Moishe to a degree. He is very cuddly with Hannah, Mike, and Norman, but he hates Delores so much that he shredded several pairs of her pantyhose.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: In Gingerbread Cookie Murder, when Ernie Kusak is murdered, it's found he left four million dollars to his friend Gary, who'd let Ernie move in with him until Ernie could get back on his feet. Gary is understandably shocked, especially given he'd been the one to kill Ernie in the first place for stealing Gary's lottery ticket and winning eight million dollars with it.
  • Wacky Cravings:
    • In Blueberry Muffin Murder, Hannah notices that Andrea is eating a lot more than usual. It turns out she's pregnant, something even she didn't know until the very end of the book. The baby, a girl named Bethany, is born in Sugar Cookie Murder.
    • In Apple Turnover Murder Hannah realizes that Sherri Connors' earlier "flu" was actually Morning Sickness when she sees her enjoying an apple turnover dipped in mustard, with pickles on the side.
  • Wacky Marriage Proposal: Lower on the scale, but still wacky in its own way. In the last chapter of Peach Cobbler Murder, Mike asks Hannah to marry him in a traditional manner... and then, before she can answer, she sees Norman waving his arms, and the intercom (they're at a celebration at the Lake Eden Inn) suddenly interrupts to call Mike away for an "urgent" phone call at the front desk. It turns out to have been Norman, who comes over and asks Hannah to marry him instead. Hannah, uncertain as which to accept, decides to ask for some time to make up her mind.
  • Weight Woe:
    • There are times where Hannah has to struggle with her weight problems, as in Lemon Meringue Pie Murder and Cream Puff Murder. Not that Norman and Mike mind her size at all.
    • Andrea gets concerned about putting on so much as a single pound, fearing her husband will leave her if she looks anything less than perfect.
    • Mike of all people works out constantly so as to avoid gaining weight, and dropping any excess he gets.
  • Went to the Great X in the Sky: In Blueberry Muffin Murder, Tracey tells her mother and Hannah that her pre-school teacher always tells the class that their dead goldfish "go to the great fish tank in the sky", but she knows better, having once caught said teacher flushing the dead fish down the toilet.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: Christmas Caramel Murder has a frame story set a month or so before Hannah's wedding, and the main story is set during the previous Christmas season.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole?:
    • In Fudge Cupcake Murder, Sheriff Grant's wife admits that "We'll be here all night if I tried to name all of them" when asked if he had any enemies. Earlier, Mike Kingston was noted as looking into pretty much everyone in the sheriff's department, since Grant tended to treat new hires with kid gloves for the first six months; after that timeframe, he started reprimanding them over the slightest things, such as not having their tie straight after an all-night stakeout; plus, he tended to steal credit for the cases other people had solved, or pulled them off so he could solve them just to increase the odds of his being successfully reelected Sheriff.
    • August "Gus" Klein, the murder victim of Carrot Cake Murder, had a lot of people who hated him. When questioned, Doc Knight says he's surprised at how long he lasted in Lake Eden before someone killed him.
    • Ronni Ward, the victim in Cream Puff Murder, was hated by a number of women for her constant flirting with their husbands.
    • Bradford Ramsey, the victim in Apple Turnover Murder, had several people who hated him for his seducing and abandoning women. Mike admits that he himself would have been a suspect if he'd found out about all this before Ramsey's death.
    • Preemptive version in the opening of Chocolate Cream Pie Murder. After Hannah informs the town of the truth about Ross's betrayal, Grandma Knudson tells her that if he "comes back and winds up dead, you're going to have a whole town full of suspects!" Sure enough, he's dead by the end of the book.
  • Wicked Weasel: During Barbara Donnelly's stay in the hospital in Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, she keeps seeing a "white monster" in her hospital room at night. People think she's hallucinating, but it turns out to be an albino weasel that was getting in through a hole in the window screen.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: A completely unintentional example in Strawberry Shortcake Murder. Boyd Watson, who has a bad temper and hits his wife Danielle from time to time (and is in therapy to try and learn how to control his anger), is the initial murder victim; while Danielle was a suspect in his death, it's later revealed that Boyd's killer had gone after him for completely different and utterly self-serving motives, and may not have even known about the abuse.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Andrea's daughter Tracey, introduced at the age of four in Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, is very mature for her age, both emotionally and intellectually. It's mentioned in Cherry Cheesecake Murder that she taught herself to read about "a year and a half" ago (about a year before entering kindergarten), and is currently at a fifth-grade reading level.
  • Witch with a Capital B: Andrea describes reporter Lucy Richards this way (and Hannah agrees) in Strawberry Shortcake Murder when talking about how the other woman called her at the crack of dawn to try to get information about Boyd Watson's death. She chalks the use of the phrase up to force of habit from having to avoid swearing where her young daughter can hear it.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: When Michelle Swensen is introduced in Lemon Meringue Pie Murder, she comes off a bus with green hair, to Hannah's shock. She relaxes when Michelle explains she was in a student play earlier that day, and hadn't had time to change out of her costume or wash the spray dye out of her hair before she needed to catch her bus.
  • You Killed My Father: This provides the motive for murder in Cinnamon Roll Murder. Bernard "Buddy" Alan Nieman, under his real name of Chaz Peyton, killed a man named Gene Burroughs over a woman they'd both liked, who'd dumped Chaz for Gene. Gene's stepbrother Ben Matson later killed Chaz/Buddy in a fit of rage when he saw him in the hospital.

The films provide examples of:

  • Adapted Out:
    • Four-year-old (as of book 1) Tracey Todd, Hannah's niece and Andrea's daughter, is nowhere to be seen in the movies.
    • Ross Barton is completely absent from the films; of the five, only Plum Pudding Murder is adapted from a book set after his introduction in the novel series, and it's one he didn't appear or even get mentioned in.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job:
    • Hannah is a Significant Green-Eyed Redhead in the books, but a blue-eyed blonde in the movies.
    • Same for Mike. He has reddish-blond hair as well as a mustache in the books, but he becomes a mustache-less brunet in the movies.
    • Delores, Hannah's mother, is also portrayed by a blonde when she was described as a brunette in the books.
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • In the adaptation of Peach Cobbler Murder, Shawna Lee Quinn becomes Melanie Quinn, and Winthrop Harrington II becomes Douglas.
    • In the adaptation of Fudge Cupcake Murder, Ted Koester is renamed Gary Koehler, and the late Jamie Grant is renamed Peter Grant.
  • Adaptation Personality Change:
    • If you've read the books, then you know that Moishe hates Delores. For some bizarre reason, he likes her in the movies, as seen when Hannah hosts a dinner for her mother and sister at her house at the end of Peach Cobbler Murder. Delores pets him, and he's perfectly fine with it.
    • Mike in Murder She Baked: A Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery is portrayed as more antagonistic towards Hannah when she offers her help.
    • Winthrop undergoes one in the film adaptation of Peach Cobbler Murder. In the book, he was a ruthless and greedy murderer who was involved in the death of Vanessa Quinn's husband and who tried to kill Vanessa just to keep her quiet about the murder. He also didn't love Delores and mocked her in front of her eldest daughter who he planned to kill. In the movie, Douglas/Bobby was a conman who was blackmailed by Vanessa into killing her husband and tried to kill Vanessa just so that he could live a happy life with Delores. He also saved Hannah from Vanessa's shot during the confrontation.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: While he was already one of Hannah's boyfriends in the books, the movies are clearly leaning more towards Hannah and Mike. It's especially evident with the DVD covers, which show Hannah and Mike together, as well as the casting list, which has Mike's actor as second billing.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Boyd and Danielle Watson's characters, who appeared in the adaptation of Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, are absent from the adaptation of Strawberry Shortcake Murder. Their roles are instead filled by Leonard and Michelle Bishop.


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