Jessica Fletcher travels to Italy, finds herself in peril, almost dies, then flies to Chicago to deliver a runaway man by the name of Wayne Simsbury back to his stepmother, and to help exonerate an old friend--and unravel a murder or two.
But the story moves at a languid pace, with too much cultural descriptions, and the reader is left to wonder whether they have picked up a mystery novel or a travel brochure. There is not enough time in either place for Jessica to realistically aid law enforcement and bring a killer to justice. Too many goings-on in both Italy and Chicago to warrant a solid outing this time. As evidence, Jessica is given the runaround by a horde of unpleasant people and the story becomes listless and far-fetched. How many death threats can someone withstand until they reach a breaking point? Jessica's life is threatened a handful of times in both Chicago and Italy, and she seems to stay even-tempered through it all.
Much like "Destination Murder" and "Blood on the Vine," the newest Murder She Wrote novel surrounds itself with a group of ornery people that the reader doesn't give a hoot about--and could care less what happens to any of them. Why Jessica would "tolerate" such arrogance from people is still questionable--even after closing the book. Even her longstanding friend, Marlise Simsbury, is an unhappy and intolerable character. But considering what she has gone through with her stepson, Wayne, her deceased husband, Jonathon, and all of the mad family members and servants at the estate, is understandable. To a point.
Moreover, the author stretches the plot of Jonathon Simsbury's murder too far, injecting too much unnecessary dialogue and action (sightseeing) within the already slow conundrum of the mystery's finale.
However, Jessica does get some reprieve away from the awful Simsbury family in Chicago and travels back to Italy to help the police identify the assailant and thief from the beginning of the book. What she should have done was flown back to Cabot Cove and stayed home, instead of involving herself in all of that unpleasant drama. But by the time she travels to Italy the second time, the story picks up and moves along at a quicker clip.
There is a sense that the author wanted to write two different books, in both Chicago and Italy, but the page limit deterred him. Nevertheless, "The Fine Art of Murder" is a step up from the last Jessica Fletcher outing, "Skating on Thin Ice." The ending, however, is abrupt and everything is wrapped up in a few pages.