Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Page turning plot
Cons: Darker for franchise; characters mean to each other
The Bottom Line:
Jessica in race
Caught in political plot
Is Jessica Reading a Motive for Murder?
Last year, I finally read my first Murder, She Wrote novel even though I’ve been a fan of the TV series for years. I enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to reading Manuscript for Murder, the newest in the series. Unfortunately, I had a mixed reaction to it.
Jessica Fletcher is in New York City for the launch of her newest book. As a result, she has a run in with Thomas Rudd. The two authors share the same publisher, but Rudd doesn’t have nice things to say about Lane Barfield. Rudd thinks that Lane is skimming money off his royalties. Jessica finds it hard to believe, but she decides to look into it.
However, before Jessica can fully do that, both Rudd and Lane are dead. And Jessica begins to think that the motive is the political thriller that Lane asked her to read. Is that as crazy as it sounds? Or is Jessica now in danger herself?
Without giving too much away (beyond what the title implies), this book turns into a political thriller to rival the one that Jessica is reading. It’s definitely different territory for the franchise (at least based on the TV show), but I quickly got caught up in the action. There was so much danger, I devoured the book as quickly as I could to find out how Jessica was going to survive it all.
Along the way, the book turns the franchise very gray. I wouldn’t call it fully dark, but some of the twists and turns of the plot definitely were darker than anything we would normally find on the show. These bothered me at the time and are still bothering me now.
What bothers me more is how Jessica interacted with some of the other characters. We get plenty of recurring characters like Harry McGraw and Artie Gelber, not to mention Mort and Seth back in Cabot Cove. However, none of these characters really seem to get along. I suspect that the author was going for teasing, but instead it comes across as mean. Mind you, these are all characters I looked forward to seeing on the show since I loved seeing Jessica interacting with them. They were friends. Here, they don’t really come across as friends.
And there’s the fact that we really have two different plots. I can’t even say one is a sub-plot since it really gets dropped. This book actually would have worked better if it had focused on the story the author really wanted to tell.
This is a hard book to rate as a result. On the one hand, I was racing through it, but on the other, I was deeply disappointed with aspects of it.
If you are a fan of Murder, She Wrote, there is no reason to rush out and read Manuscript for Murder. If it is a sign that Jon Land is planning to take the series darker, maybe I will stick with my DVD set when I want to revisit Jessica Fletcher. Or try to read the earlier novels.
NOTE: I received a copy of this book.