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Murder, She Wrote: Manuscript for Murder by Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

Manuscript for Murder

“What’s the most fun you’ve ever had killing someone?”

So opens Manuscript for Murder, the second Murder, She Wrote mystery to be penned by Jon Land and lofty forty-eighth overall, placing the series in rarified air indeed. And rightfully so, given Jessica Fletcher’s status as undeniably America’s most famous sleuth. While the fabulously successful television show starring Angela Lansbury is primarily to blame for that, Land seems determined to have the books leave their own indelible mark on pop culture.

And he takes a great step toward just that end with Manuscript for Murder, a tale that adds thriller elements to already savory mind snack mix that features a more sharply seasoned Jessica herself. She’s got a bit of an edge now and so does this scintillating series entry that bears some resemblance to Umberto Ecco’s The Name of the Rose and, especially, to the great Roman Polanski film The Ghost Writer.

That’s because Manuscript for Murder focuses on just that: a book that kills. Not literally, of course, but close enough given that anyone who reads the manuscript dies, including Jessica’s longtime publisher Lane Barfield who sees the book within a book as the next Da Vinci Code that can restore him to publishing relevance. Not being one to take the murder of friends lightly, Jessica takes up the case, only to find herself marked as the next victim.

Old-school fans of the book series might raise their eyebrows at the thought of incorporating such thrills and spills into the narrative. But Land doesn’t so much reinvent the cozy formula as tweak it a bit. Cabot Cove is still Cabot Cove and the tried and true cast of recurring characters are well represented from Sheriff Mort Metzger to Dr. Seth Hazlitt to private eye Harry McGraw. Land’s dialogue hums with more rapid and pointed exchanges, true more actually to the spirit of the television show than the voluminous series of books that predated his involvement.

Murder, She Wrote: Skating on Thin Ice by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Murder She Wrote: Skating on Thin IceThis series has been around forever and as you read the book you figure out why. It holds your attention, reads fast, basically is sound, and is enjoyable.

Perhaps like me you will picture Angela Lansbury doing all the things that Jessica does and you will hear Angela’s voice as Jessica talks.She stood out in the TV series a few years ago.

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In today’s Cabot Cove, Jessica’s hometown, some happenings going on as the ice skating rink is not only being rejuvenated but it is rumored that it may be for sale. Since Jessica used to love ice skating she digs out her old skates and heads to the rink over the protestations of Seth Hazlitt, her doctor friend.