When Joanne Fluke says her Double Fudge Brownies recipe is “to die for,” it’s just a figure of speech.
There are many ways a person can expire in Fluke’s culinary murder mysteries, but poisoned food is off the table.
Years ago, when she was writing the first of her bestselling cozy mysteries, novels that are laced with actual recipes, the author established this rule: No tasty treat prepared by small-town baker/sleuth Hannah Swensen can take a life.
“Poison can be used as a murder weapon in my books,” Fluke says. “But it can never be in something that Hannah bakes. And it can never be served at the Cookie Jar in Lake Eden, Minn.”
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In other words, the recipes in her books are safe to follow at home.
For that matter, when Fluke’s book tour for Double Fudge Brownie Murder brings her to the North Richland Hills Library on Thursday, the refreshments served at the event will be safe to sample, too.
“This isn’t the Arsenic and Old Lace tour,” the author jokes.
Fluke’s career is really cooking these days.
Double Fudge Brownie Murder (Kensington, $26) is her 18th Hannah Swensen novel.
Meanwhile, Hallmark Channel is about to turn the first book in the series, 2001’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, into a movie starring Alison Sweeney as Hannah and Cameron Mathison as Mike, Lake Eden’s handsome lawman.
“The success I’ve had with these books is beyond anything I imagined,” Fluke says.
The books are popular because they’re fun. Even though there’s death in every one of the Hannah Swensen mysteries, the only thing dark about them is the chocolate.
Fluke says her readers seem to be equally divided between those who love the books mainly for the mysteries and those who crave new recipes for cookies, pies, cakes and candies.
Her readers also have very strong opinions about Hannah’s love life. Again, it’s split pretty evenly regarding which suitor they want her to settle down with: Mike or Norman (the town dentist).
“You would not believe the letters I get,” she says. “People tell me, ‘You cannot let Hannah marry Mike! He is going to cheat on her! Doesn’t she know that Norman is better husband material?’
“Once, when I was in Florida for a signing, I had these two women get into a big disagreement about that. One stood up and said, ‘She cannot marry Mike! Mike is a cad!’ Then the other woman jumped up and said, ‘Well, she can’t marry Norman! Norman’s a dud!’
“They started to argue, hands on their hips. The first one said, ‘Well, I know she shouldn’t marry Norman, because I married a Norman — and I should have married a Mike!’ Then other one said, ‘Oh, yeah, well, I married a Mike and I should have married a Norman!’
“I kept looking around for men in the group, but these women didn’t seem to be with their husbands, thank goodness.”
It’s hard to say what these fans will think about Ross, a new man who enters the picture in Double Fudge Brownie Murder.
It’s worth noting that, even though Hannah’s fabulous brownies can be found at the scene of the crime in the new book, it’s not a poisoning case, per Fluke’s self-imposed rule. The victim is a judge, and the weapon is his gavel.
Hallmark’s Hannah Swensen movie was scheduled to begin filming this week in Vancouver. It’s expected to air in the spring. No word yet on whether it will be just one film or the first of many, but Fluke has her fingers crossed.
“I think Hallmark is a perfect fit for Hannah Swensen,” she says. “And Alison Sweeney is so right to play Hannah. I mean, she actually bakes! I was delighted to hear that.
“When I met her, Alison told me, ‘I can hardly wait to try the new brownie recipe.’ I said, ‘Be careful or you’ll put on a few pounds making this movie.’”
Fluke wishes she could visit the set during filming, but her cross-country book tour will keep her busy for the next three weeks.
“I guess I’ll just have to watch it on TV like everyone else,” she says.
Double Fudge Brownie Murder
▪ By Joanne Fluke
▪ Kensington, $26
Meet the author
Joanne Fluke will be featured in a private reception, speaking engagement and book signing Thursday at the North Richland Hills Library, 9015 Grand Ave. The $25 reception, limited to 50 people, begins at noon. The talk and signing, which begin at 1 p.m., are open to the public. To register for the reception, go to www.friendsofnrhlibrary.org.