The Christmas Cake Murder turns the clock back to before Hannah opened her bakery, The Cookie Jar.
In a short prequel set before the rest of the books in the series, Hannah returns home from college to attend her father’s funeral. Her mother, Delores, is understandably depressed so she is given a task to take her mind off her troubles. She is asked to help a local older woman, Essie, who has broken her hip. Essie wants to return to her youth by recreating the old-fashioned Christmas Cake Ball. Delores, Hannah and her sisters work together on the project by renovating an old ballroom and baking lots of cakes. Most of the cake and frosting recipes are shared with the reader.
Meanwhile, Hannah decides to drop out of college and forego her dream of becoming a college professor. Why quit college? Over a man (foreshadowing the issues many had with the previous book in the series). Also, the family reads a unfinished crime novel by Essie they find in her room.
The mystery in the Christmas Cake Murder is painfully obvious from the beginning. However, Essie’s crime story is good and drives readers to finish the book. It was also nice to hear why and how Hannah started her business. In addition, there is a heartwarming Christmas story ending. However, the lack of any mystery in a cozy mystery is a serious plot problem. For completists out there (like me) who have read the entire series, this is an interesting read. For others, I wouldn’t recommend it. Do not start the series here—start at the delightful series beginning. 2 1/2 stars.
Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy.