Cooking the Books: Pink Lemonade Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke
It seems like the whole town of Lake Eden, Minnesota, is in an uproar with the news that Detective Mike Kingston is thinking of quitting police work. Our heroine, Hannah Swensen, calls in the big guns to help her sort-of boyfriend Mike figure out what he really wants and feels. Top of her list is his career mentor, Stella Parks, who was also his training officer back in Minneapolis. When she hears Hannah’s story, she diagnoses burnout and decides to whisk Mike off for a lakeside rest cure.
Unfortunately for Mike’s peace of mind, however, murder soon strikes their small town once more. Using a combination of supportiveness and reverse psychology, Hannah, Stella, and Hannah’s other boyfriend, dentist Norman Rhodes, assure Mike that they don’t need him back in town and conspire to keep him up at the cabin where he’s staying. Of course, this strategy will only work if Hannah and Co. can actually solve the case before he can make his way back home.
The case itself is tricky. Former Major League Baseball star Bernie “No-No” Fulton has come roaring back into town for the Tri-County Summer Solstice Celebration, which features a mini-tournament starring local high school baseball teams and retired celebrity ringers. No-No’s pitching talent is unfortunately exceeded by his arrogance. He’s made a habit of collecting enemies, from the athletes whose careers he ruined to the irate parents of the impressionable teen girls he’s sweet-talked or worse. Even Hannah’s mother, Delores, has sworn vengeance on him for a series of completely unnecessary humiliations.
So when Hannah finds Delores standing over No-No’s dead body while holding a baseball bat, Hannah knows she has a formidable task in front of her. Delores would never resort to murder, but the real killer likely has no qualms about letting her take the fall. Hannah will have to sort through a long list of suspects to figure out whodunnit—and fast. After all, the last thing she needs is for Mike to come running back into town at the expense of his own cure. But when things get dangerous for both her and Norman, who else will they be able to turn to?
Despite the emphasis on figuring out whodunnit quickly, this mystery is quite leisurely paced, perfect for anyone who wants a soothing cozy mystery to mull over while getting reacquainted with the inhabitants of Lake Eden. Baseball fans will also find much to love with the many anecdotes of the sport. I was most taken with the cliffhanger ending that has me super ready for the next book in the series!
As with all the other books, there were over 20 recipes included here. I really wanted to make the following dessert and have edited the recipe lightly here for space.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F., rack in the middle position.
1 Frozen deep-dish premade pie crust
1 15-ounce can apricot halves (cut into slices as you would for an apple pie)
2 15.25-ounce cans pear halves (cut into slices as you would for an apple pie)
1 20-ounce can pineapple slices (cut each ring into 8 chunks)
French Crumble Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup (1 stick, 8 tablespoons, ¼ pound) cold, salted butter (cut into half-inch chunks)
½ cup brown sugar
Remove the deep-dish pie and thaw according to package directions.
In a bowl of your food processor combine the flour, salted butter, and brown sugar.
Process with the steel blade in an on and off motion until the resulting mixture is in uniform small pieces.
In a medium-sized bowl combine the apricot slices, pear slices, and pineapple chunks with ½ of the French Crumble mixture.
Arrange this mixture in the deep-dish pie shell.
Sprinkle the rest of the crumbled mixture over the top of your pie.
Pat the top down with your impeccably clean hands and cut several slits in the top to vent.
Place your pie on a baking sheet lined with aluminum and bake at 375 degrees F. for 45-55 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let your pie cool on a cold stovetop burner or wire rack.
Serve with strong, hot coffee or glasses of icy-cold milk.
This tastes a lot more sophisticated and complicated than it was to actually make! It’s also delightfully different from your usual pie, even if the name is a misnomer: while pineapples are certainly tropical, apricots and pears come from more temperate climates. Regardless of the name, the fruit mixture is delicious in this pie (and I saved the juices from each can to make the base for punch by adding ice and fruit-flavored seltzers later on).
I was especially impressed by the use of the French crumble mix in this pie. Fruit pies are always tasty, but the crumble mix elevates the whole dish to another level entirely. The final product was so good that no one in my family even commented on the idiosyncratic appearance of the top crust, a result of me accidentally dropping that pan and having to reconstruct it, as has been my recent, unfortunate habit. I very much endorse Ms. Fluke’s recommendation of enjoying each slice with a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream and a slice of cheddar cheese as well.
Next week, I’m on vacation! I’ll be back the week after that with delightful concoctions from a book inspired by the Grand Dame of Murder Mysteries herself, so do join me then!