Monday, November 25, 2019

Book Review: A Time for Murder by Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land (Murder, She Wrote #50)


Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong mysteries – past and present
Cons: Climax is over the top, characters sniping at each other
The Bottom Line:
Revisit murder
In light of current events
Milestone entry




Jessica’s First Murder Mystery Comes Back to Haunt Her

This year marks thirty-five years since Jessica Fletcher first graced our TV screens in Murder, She Wrote.  And this month, the franchise reaches another milestone with the publication of A Time For Murder, the fiftieth novel based on the long running show.

Years before she wrote her first novel, Jessica was involved in a murder case.  At the time, she and her husband, Frank, were living in Appleton, Maine, and raising their eight-year-old nephew Grady.  Jessica was a long-term substitute English teacher at the high school.  One morning, the principal of the high school was found in his office, and Jessica finds herself involved in figuring out what happened to him.

What brings this case from twenty-five years ago to mind?  A reporter from Cabot Cove High School asks Jessica about it in an interview.   Jessica dodges talking about the case, as she normally does, but when she decides to go and share a little more with the reporter, she realizes she was talking to an imposter.  Who interviewed her?  What is her interest in the case?

I picked up the book skeptical since it has been long established that Jessica’s first real life murder case was the murder she solved in the pilot episode.  (Speaking of which, they spoil that particular mystery in the first chapter here.  But after thirty-five years, I doubt there are many fans who haven’t seen it yet.)  I was happy to see how they explained that away so that this new book still fits with what has come before.  Since this is set twenty-five years in the past, we are obviously outside of real time with these novels.  With as young as Grady is, I’m not sure that even works with the timeline of the series, but I’d have to go back and rewatch the pilot to verify that.  Either way, I just accepted the books logic and moved on.

And I’m glad I did because this book was a lot of fun.  We spend part of the time in the past, and I enjoyed getting a glimpse of Jessica’s life with Frank and Grady as a boy.  There are some other surprises and cameos from the past that fans will absolutely enjoy.  Plus, the mystery is good.  This story is dribbled into the action of the present, and each time we returned to now, I was a little disappointed since I wanted to find out what had happened all those years ago.  And don’t worry, it is always clearly marked when we are moving to the past, so both timelines are easy to follow.

The majority of the book takes place in the present as Jessica works to figure out how the past is impacting what is happening to in the present.  Both storylines are compelling, so when it was time to return to the past, I was a bit disappointed because I wanted to know what would happen next in the present.  (Never happy, am I?)  In other words, I was once again pulled into this book and had a very hard time putting it down.

Unfortunately, my issues with the books I’ve read continue here.  The climax is an over the top action scene that stretches credibility.  It is page turning, but it also doesn’t feel right for this franchise.  Likewise, Jessica, Mort, and Seth snipe at each other a bit too much for my recollection of their relationships in the later seasons of the show.

On the other hand, Jessica has stopped swearing, which I appreciated tremendously.

It is obvious this book was written with its milestone status in mind.  The mystery from the past allows us to introduce a few Easter eggs that fans will love as they read.

It is a testament to the characters that Murder, She Wrote has so many fans so long after it debuted.  If you are one of them, I recommend you pick up A Time For Murder.  You’ll be glad you did.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

Giveaway!

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of this book to give away.  Because it is a physical book, the contest is limited to residence of the US.

Just leave me a comment with your e-mail address so I can get in touch with you if you win.  I will pick the winner Monday, December 2nd, so please leave your comment before midnight Pacific Time on 12/2.  You will have until midnight on 12/7 to get back to me, or I will choose a new winner on 12/8.

21 comments:

  1. I love the Jessica Fletcher books. Would really like to read. Thanks for the chance.
    diannekc8(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. You want be disappointed, Dianne. I promise!

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  2. I loved the show as a kid and have been reading the books almost as long. I'm really looking forward to reading this one, I think the premise is great.
    kozo8989@hotmail.com

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    1. I had a blast writing it, Alicia, and watching the pieces fall together myself. There's a great "Columbo" moment when Jessica solves the murder 25 years in the past! Let me know what you think after you've finished reading.

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  3. I always watched Murder She Wrote when I was younger and was so happy when they recently started playing them again on one of my cable channels. Thank you for this chance!
    peggyhyndman (at) att (dot) com

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    1. Fans of the television show especially enjoy my take on the books, Peggy, because I've gone back to the feeling and flavor of the very best episodes like MURDER TAKES THE BUS--my personal favorite. I think you'll really enjoy meeting a young Amos Tupper in the flashback thread!

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  4. I’d love to read this!

    Legallyblonde1961@yahoo.com

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    1. I had so much fun writing it, I know you'll have fun reading it!

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  5. I'm a fan of the TV show, but only heard about the books recently. Thanks for the chance to win #50! mbradeen [at] yahoo [dot] com

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    1. This is the perfect book to start with, Marla, especially for those who know the TV series better than the book series!

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  7. I was 25 when MSW debuted, & I watched faithfully every Sunday night. Funny thing is,it made me feel like an old fuddy-duddy to admit I was a fan back then. Now, I AM an old fuddy- duddy, turning 60 on Thanksgiving.
    I've read several of the books, but never realized there are 50 of them.
    Thanks for the chance to win Mark!
    cameronbarbara@ymail.com

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    1. I heartily recommend starting your discovery of the book series with A TIME FOR MURDER because it echoes so strongly of the TV show.

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  8. Thank you for your review on "A Time for Murder" by Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land. I've always loved this TV series - watched it way back when and still to this day. Love that they now have books about this great woman sleuth. Thank you for the fabulous opportunity to win a copy! Shared and fingers crossed.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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    1. Let me know what you think after you've given it a read. You can drop me a line at my website www.jonlandbooks.com.

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  9. I can't wait to read it ... win, lose or draw! Thank you for your review ... you have definitely piqued my interest.

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    1. And you're really going to enjoy it, Christine!

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  10. I'm glad she has stopped swearing so maybe I will try this book. Thanks for the honest review. ckbmeg (at) gmail (dot) com

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    1. I actually don't remember her ever really swearing in the last few books I've written. I think there was a single "damn" once. But A TIME FOR MURDER is clean as the driven snow!

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  11. I have never read her books,but I have always loved her TV Series..I still watch the reruns.

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  12. As I've mentioned several times above, I write these books specifically for fans of the TV series because that's what I was. The best compliment I've been given lately is when readers say they can hear Angela Lansbury's voice in their heads!

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