This’ll be a bit informal, which suits the book rather too well. I was going to try to summarise the book when I realised that although I finished reading it just last night, I have forgotten the main character’s name. That should be a good indicator of how impactful the book itself is.
Hanna Denton (thank you, Google) has moved back to her small hometown and taken over her grandmother’s pie shop, but before she can find her feet, her grandmother is accused of murdering a fellow resident of the upscale retirement home, Heavenly Acres. Hanna herself is implicated, and must deal with her lingering attraction to the investigating detective (an old flame), while she attempts to find the real murderer.
This book is very much like a little sister. It has seen its older, more successful siblings, and although it tries in its own endearing manner to imitate them, it just can’t do it. Even the main character’s name, Hanna, looks like a hopeful, thumb-biting allusion to Hannah Swensen. There are other similarities, most notably that Hanna sans second h brings her baked wares everywhere, often using them as a gateway to information, gives them cutesy names, and there is much description devoted to them.
Unfortunately, although A Good Day to Pie appropriated a good deal from Hannah Swensen, it does not incorporate its emulated traits very well, and most of the original traits and content are flaws or flawed. None of the characters are developed beyond the surface, and the half-hearted love triangle does not go anywhere. In fact, “does not go anywhere” is a phrase that can be applied to nearly all of the subplots, from Hanna’s grandmother’s love interest to the mention of the murder victim’s will being contested.
Many of the dropped plot threads are introduced in a way that makes them sound as unnecessary as they proved to be. There are often references to a belief that the killer is of the serial variety and will strike again, but simple common sense underlines this as unlikely, and in my opinion, a stupid assumption. The victim was widely disliked, and she was killed by a combination of too much medication and a reaction between that increased medication and ingredients in the pie she ate. There is no reason to expect further victims.
The two most egregious flaws of this book are actually disturbing, albeit in different ways. Although a second character in the retirement home dies, his death is quickly brushed aside–and in spite of that, it is never made clear whether or not his death had anything to do with the first murder, or if he was murdered rather than a victim of simple old age. This is terrible, and something an editor really ought to have zeroed in on.
The other flaw, which bothers me a good deal more, is that when the killer is revealed in a rather tedious anticlimax, the reaction to the confession is unanimous, cheerful gratitude. “Thank you for killing that awful woman.” Maybe people in real life might feel that way to some extent, but I’m fairly certain they would be horrified by the idea that someone thought it was okay to kill someone for pettiness and violent dislike. The murdered woman was mean, a cheater, and also an advocate for positive change in the retirement home. She did not torture animals or physically attack people. And yet the characters in this book praise and outright reward her killer for the murder.
All in all, this book could have really used a more diligent editing job and a moral compass that points North instead of Nonexistent. The writing is passable but amateurish, the borrowed elements come across as stickers attached to a wooden box, and the conflict is about as gripping as the contents of a glass of water. There is a second book in the series, but I see no reason to seek it out.