Eat the Kool-Aid

Author: Joanne Fluke

Murder is once again brewing in Lake Eden, and this time the suspect is Hannah’s own mother! When outcast base-ball hero “No-No” rolls into town, corrupting youth, stirring up controversy, angering old enemies, and bringing back bad memories for Delores, it’s only a matter of time before Hannah stumbles over his broken body. Meanwhile, Mike is still suffering the effects of burn-out and Hannah and team think that excluding him from this case is, oddly, just what the doctor ordered.

In this strange little offering, all that’s silliest in Lake Eden is in full effect, from stomach churning recipes (blue cheese meatloaf and Kool-Aid cookies anyone), to sloppy cooking (really, Hannah, pre-diced carrots), inconsistencies galore (volunteering for the dunk tank and then being infuriated at being dunked), stagnating romances that give “friend zone” a whole new meaning (literarily, poor Norman is living in the guest room of his own house), extreme judgmentalism (some teen girls show their mid-drifts – scandal!), childish ego wars (Delores WANTS to be considered a prime suspect,) and reverse psychology gone bad (showing Mike he isn’t needed for the investigation is supposed to help him feel better?). I still kind of like this series, but the quality is long gone, and Pink Lemonade Cake Murder is an especially sloppy offering, undoing some of the marginal improvements from the last few books.

First – what is wrong with Delores!? She demands that everyone considers her the prime suspect and goes out of her way to tell her motive and opportunity. She is seriously offended that her friends and family don’t think her capable of cold-blooded murder. Yeah . . . those are some bad friends for sure.

And then . . . then her reason. Once upon a time, in the long long-ago days of Lake Eden, Delores volunteered to be in the dunk tank for some charity or county fair, or something equally improbable and 1950ish. She buys an extremely nice dress for this, and then gets furious when the murderee dunks her multiple times, ruining her dress! This, apparently, is the stone that stays in her heart. The trauma of losing a husband, of a daughter who is continually turning up dead bodies, and of all the murders she has witnessed is nothing compared to the ruin of this dress. Because, hey, you can always get another husband, but buy another dress! Also . . . who dresses up for a dunk dank? Like, really, what kind of idiot would do that?

Meanwhile, we have some women of “ill repute” to deal with, literarily. Everyone in the narrative is just horrified that some teen girls who wanted to ride in “No-No’s” cool Caddy dressed in (are you sitting down?) short skirts and mid-drift baring tops! Obviously, these girls’ futures are entirely ruined, they are shunned by the community, and potential weddings are now halted (I’m not kidding). The town stops just short of hanging them . . . but only because this is PG, am I right? What . . . just what ridiculousness is this? Have I gone back in time? Where are my calling cards, my whale-bone skirts, my smelling salts!

Image by Moira Nazzari from Pixabay

Then, there is another motive for murder that gets introduced for a tedious 40 pages in a side story, but is dropped, because come on, the obvious evil is with these girls in their short skirts. Ugh.

In the end, after a lot of side-conversations that do not matter, absolutely no development in the stale romance, the world’s most amateur and inappropriate investigation (they literarily held interviews in The Cookie Jar), and a very weird story about making Mike feel better by excluding him, the killer gets exhausted from the stupidity and outs himself. Because it just needs to end at this point. And even the killer couldn’t stand more random baseball trivia and Kool-Aid, insta-mix, pre-chopped everything, blue cheese, ooeey-gooey recipes or more of Hannah’s snide remarks about Norman being a good man but just not exciting enough for her. Really b****, you just made blue cheese meatloaf? You have no right to judge anyone.

For fans of the series, you’ll read it, and you’ll even enjoy it some, because there is some collective insanity going on that keeps us compelled to read onward. For new readers, start at the beginning with Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, back when the series was good, and save yourself from the recipes and illogical antics that come later.

Also . . . where do Delores and Doc get the money to have their own penthouse full conservatory in Lake Eden? Like . . .are they trillionaires now? And. . . stop releasing hundreds of lady bugs in there. That’s just weird.

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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