The latest `Murder She Wrote' novel, set in Maine's fictional idyllic town, Cabot Cove, is a meandering whodunit in the ongoing mystery series.
And for many reasons:
The resolution, for example, is a bit of a stretch, with implausible scenarios and an unmoving confession by the killer.
But let's rewind to the beginning, where the story opens with mystery writer, Jessica Fletcher, and her friend and Cabot Cove's physician, Dr. Seth Hazlitt, discussing Jessica's return to the ice rink--as a skater (Another implausible scenario, trying to place the character on the rink. It doesn't work). Moreover, chapter one is in no way an awful opener for a mystery book. But the lack of suspense, particularly throughout the novel, while trying to grip the reader, seems to slow down the story. In other words: too much dialogue and description; not enough action.
That said, the first 104 pages, or ten chapters, is mostly an account of the goings-on in the sport of figure skating. The author sprinkles the pages, sparingly, with clues, culminating to the formulaic showdown between Jessica Fletcher and the killer, but even the trail of clues are suffocated with too much filler (i.e., the description of someone's costume, which sounds more like a L.L. Bean ad, and background on the insignificance of a character's life). None of this advances the plot of the story, which, at times, makes you want to roll your eyes in disbelief.
As evidence, in chapter 14, while Jessica and Sheriff Metzger are snooping through a character's apartment, combing the area for a viable clue that might point a finger at a suspect, an out-of-the-blue chitchat about Seth's dinner the night before--a pot of stew--bypasses the importance of the moment, fleetingly, but the discussion seems out of place here.
And as for playing a major role in the story, Cabot Cove's man-hungry real estate agent, Eve Simpson, makes a brief appearance, which may be maddening for many readers, considering the high hopes for her return to the novel. A cameo would be more apt to describe Simpson's involvement in the story: in Loretta Spiegel's beauty shop at the beginning and end of the book, and in the middle, where Jessica confronts Eve on her latest investment: a love interest by the name of Harvey Gemell, a shady business man. But even that storyline falls flat.
Luckily, amid the slow-paced first half, the story does pick up speed midway, and Jessica gets to do what she does best: investigate, putting herself in inevitable harms way. And for the most part, the reader will be satisfied to watch Jessica deduce, alone, at home in her cozy digs, and at the side of Cabot Cove's sheriff, Mort Metzger, while traipsing across the quaint seaside town.
Other highlights: Bain's deft hand at characterizations of people. Tommy Mulvaney, for example, is an interesting character in more ways than one, and he is depicted as such in this outing, with a background the reader will be shocked to discover. Too bad Eve Simpson did not get enough page time, what with all the anticipation of her return. But maybe next time.
SKATING ON THIN ICE is not a strong entry in the popular mystery series, but if you're interested in learning the ins and outs of the world of figure skating, the newest Murder She Wrote whodunit will satisfy many sports enthusiasts--and some mystery readers too.