Too Many Christmases

I’ve mentioned in a couple of my Swensen series reviews that the timeline is showing cracks. This problem is more common than not in longer series, and it’s something that’s so incredibly easy to fix, it drives me absolutely batty.

The cracks occur when the author is making explicit reference to the fact that the series is flowing in ‘real time’ — the seasons change, people get older, and time is acknowledged to pass. Now, there are many series where this isn’t the case. Example: Nancy Drew. The world may change around her, but Nancy remains her teenagery self. I have no issue with a series like that, where clearly the detective is in a bubble. But if you’re going to have time pass, then you need to make an effort to keep track of it. It’s really not that hard.

The Hannah Swensen cracks developed because there are too many Christmases in her universe. Some of them are novels (or were marketed as such, even if they turned out to be novellas with a pile of recipes to pad out the book), some of them are novellas in a book with additional stories by other authors. And their existence has messed up the timeline in Hannah’s world.


  • 3rd week of October – Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder
  • December – Strawberry Shortcake Murder
  • Christmas – “Candy for Christmas” (in CCC Murder Special Edition)

  • February – Blueberry Muffin Murder
  • June – Lemon Meringue Pie Murder
  • Mid-October – Fudge Cupcake Murder
  • Pre-Christmas – Sugar Cookie Murder
  • Christmas – “Twelve Desserts of Christmas” (in Sugar and Spice)

  • February – Peach Cobbler Murder
    • Herb and Lisa’s wedding
  • March – Cherry Cheesecake Murder
  • June – Key Lime Pie Murder
  • December – “Candy Cane Murder” (in Candy Cane Murder)
    • Lisa referred to by her married name

  • August – Carrot Cake Murder
  • November – Cream Puff Murder
  • December – Plum Pudding Murder
    • mentions Candy Cane murder ‘last
    • Lisa and Herb married ’10 months’??

  • June – Apple Turnover Murder
  • December – Gingerbread Cookie Murder

So you can see where the problem crept in. That extra Christmas (which must be that Christmas, since Lisa was married) bumped a bunch of stories forward. Hannah’s sister should have graduated by now, and you can see how crazy it makes Hannah’s boytoys seem (though even reducing the timeline by a year doesn’t really make them look any better…)


  1. jun:

    Urgh, that’s irksome.

    The Adam Dalgleish series by P. D. James is mostly like the “detective in a bubble scenario.” He ages a bit, but I get the impression it’s only about 10-15 years across the series, which actually spans about 35 years in terms of advancing technologies and such.

    (October 17th, 2010 at 11:49 am)
  2. K:

    You wouldn’t believe this one series I was reading — the “Badge of Honor” series by WEB Griffin. The first 6 or 7 books are all set in the 1970s. It was actually pretty cool, and the details were well researched and everything.

    Then, suddenly, book 8 was in the present day. Everyone was the same age and stuff, but there were computers and lots of women on the force and W.T.F.!!! There’s been a couple more books released now that continued in that vein.

    I just had to stop reading. My brain hurt.

    (October 19th, 2010 at 4:04 pm)
  3. jun:

    Wow, that is flagrant time abuse! Those books were actually recommended to me by an older gentlemen at the church where I played organ for a couple of years. After he spotted me reading at one point we had a chat about the awesomeness of Hornblower and other books we like. :)

    (October 19th, 2010 at 7:51 pm)
  4. K:

    My dad was a huge fan of WEB Griffin, which is why I have a lot of those books floating around. The more recent books of his are authored with his son (who obviously plans to take over the family franchise) and aren’t as good. I haven’t read his other series — his series tend to last 5-10 books and then he moves on to something else.

    (October 20th, 2010 at 1:30 pm)
  5. krebabble » Blog Archive » Return to Cookieland:

    […] Cookie Murder (Hannah Swensen #13.5) As noted in my post ‘Too Many Christmases‘ this novella takes place in December following book #13, which occurred in the summertime. […]

    (October 20th, 2010 at 2:49 pm)
  6. jun:

    Maybe I’ll still read the ones set in the ’70s, at least. I always think of these in the same breath with the 87th Precinct books by Ed McBain for some reason.

    (October 21st, 2010 at 8:02 pm)
  7. K:

    They might well be similar. There’s huge amounts of police procedural books I’m sure I’ve never read. Anyway, I liked Badge of Honor quite a lot right up until the sudden temporal anomaly. The continuity could have been a wee bit better but it wasn’t horrid.

    (October 22nd, 2010 at 1:29 am)