Murder, She Wrote: The Fine Art of Murder Hardcover – Oct 4 2011
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About the Author
Jessica Fletcher is a bestselling mystery writer who has a knack for stumbling upon real-life mysteries in her various travels.
Donald Bain, Jessica Fletcher’s longtime collaborator, is the writer of over eighty books, many of them bestsellers.
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Back home in Cabot Cove, Maine Jessica learns that Jonathan Simsbury, husband of her best friend Marlise from her New York days was murdered in their home in Chicago. Not long after that Jonathan's adult son from his first wife Wayne arrives. He asks Jessica for help because his stepmom always said she was levelheaded. Jessica agrees to accompany a troubled Wayne back home where Marlise is the prime suspect in her spouse's homicide. At the office of Marlise's attorney Mr. Corman, Wayne says his stepmom murdered his father. Stunned by the revelation, Jessica investigates the murder while the Italian police want her to return there to testify in the art theft homicide in the Abruzzi region.
The latest Murder She Wrote is an exciting twisted thriller that has Jessica for the most part still on tour (see The Queen's Jewels). The Chicago caper takes several unexpected spins while stealing of art is the third most profitable felony. Readers will appreciate the latest Fletcher amateur sleuth as the heroine learns it is hard to be in two places an ocean apart at the same time.
Lackluster writing. Poor characterization and unbelievable circumstances strain credulity to the point where I laughed out loud on several occasions.
Just To Say
This book review may be longer than what some of you are accustomed to, so, by all means, read as little or as much of it as you want. If any of you find my opinions on this book to be harsh, all I can say is that I feel strongly about it. You may feel otherwise. I am not averse to trying another book from the series.
Falls Short of Expectations
I am a long-time admirer of the "Murder, She Wrote" television show. I hoped this book might be of a similar caliber; however, I was greatly disappointed.
Copious geographic details, inordinate descriptions of what characters are wearing and a contrived plot make it difficult to retain the necessary motivation to finish the story.
Does Not Flow Naturally
At one point, when we have just learned that a gun is pointed in the general direction of Mrs. Fletcher, we are, yet again, forced to endure detailed clothing descriptions - because that's what you're thinking about when a gun is pointed your way. Even if she noticed such details, including them at that point like some kind of arbitrary fashion commentary needlessly jars the reader from the story. These details, if important, could be mentioned later.
Too Many Characters & Too Much Location Bouncing
Flitting between Rome and Chicago is tiresome. Ridiculous coincidences are rife in this tired, flimsy plot. The inclusion of too many characters makes for an exhausting reading experience. The aforementioned weak characterization makes it hard to really care what happens to any of them.
Unexpectedly Graphic for "Murder, She Wrote"
Blood spurts. "A plume of blood filled the air." Blood even gets on Mrs. Fletcher. - Besides, it's just a bit dramatic.
My Two Cents
While it doesn't go as far as a shower scene in another book or show might, there is no need for narration to continue while Mrs. Fletcher is in the shower.
She has a pilot's license? Since when? Did I miss an episode? Perhaps this was established in another book in the series.
The brief phone conversations with Seth and Mort could be better, but considering the rest of the book, they are fairly decent in comparison.
"One woman on the tour began wailing and collapsed." - Such an occurrence is not impossible, but it certainly does not ring true. Really? I'm too busy shaking my head to care what happens next.
"Aside from the wailing woman, we remained in stunned silence." - Needless histrionics. - This is precisely the kind of thing that reinforces the fact that a man wrote this story. As this is not a soap opera, I deem it quite out of place.
"Can't you say something to stop them?" - Mrs. Fletcher, of all people, said this in the midst of armed thugs carrying out a crime. Why, sure, good ol' Mrs. F. Isn't that what she always does...suggest someone ask the bad guys to cease and desist? Right.
"Would you be offended if I preferred a glass of wine?" - Because Mrs. Fletcher is so insecure about herself as to be worried about such an absurd thing. Mhmm.
"No problem." - No, just no. Mrs. Fletcher does not talk this way.
"How horrible, I murmured." Okay, seriously. The next person to "murmur" something needs to be voted off the island. "How horrible," I said. There. Nice and simple. If you have written your story well, the rest will take care of itself. A similar instance involved "concurred" used in the same manner. - Stephen King, in his book, On Writing, gives advice on this matter with which I agree: "Don't do these things. Please, oh, please."
At times needlessly judgmental, at other times overly shocked, upset or wishy-washy, this book did not contain the J.B. Fletcher I know and love - merely a poor facsimile.
"His dark eyes were filled with surprise, anger, and hate." - Were they now? How marvelous for you to be able to manage such an assessment in the blink of an eye. Perhaps you might consider showing us, through your story, what we need to know, instead of summing it up based on a half second's observation. - Stephen King wrote that description should "begin in the mind of the writer and end in the mind of the reader." -- Sound advice.
"Assuming the photographs were of recent vintage." - No, this had nothing to do with wine. Just say "assuming the photographs were recent." - To say "recent vintage" is grandiose and silly.
"Google foray." - Truly, simplicity is a virtue, not a crime. "Google search." That's what you mean.
"I did some prowling on the Internet." - Oh, really now? Like a tiger prowling in the night? Nope. Just an Internet search. No need for tiger mimicry.
"I was torn." - Mrs. Fletcher is not an uncertain character (though anyone has moments, of course) in the television series and ought not to be portrayed as such in novel form. Sure, it's not impossible for her to feel torn, but in the instance or instances where she is depicted this way in the book, it is out of place due to the extent, nature and frequency involved.
"While the washing machine performed its sudsy task." - Sloppy, silly and just plain unnecessary.
"We eschewed dessert." - Merriam Webster defines "eschew" as "to avoid habitually, especially on moral or practical grounds," so, okay, just no. You can eschew violence, sure...but dessert? How about simply opting to skip it or not mentioning it at all?
"I appreciate that," I said, meaning it." - There was a similar statement at least one other time with "meaning it" at the end. If you mean it, fine, but let us deduce that based on what is written. Poor form. Distracts from the story and diminishes the credulity of this character being Mrs. Fletcher.
"I undressed for bed and used the adjoining bathroom for my nightly ablutions." - Needless grandiose phrasing. Nightly ablutions, really? "I got ready for bed." There is no need to belabor the point. - As one of my professors was so fond of saying, "KISS it...Keep It Simple, Stupid."
"I climbed under the covers and sighed." - Bit dramatic in my opinion. Maybe it works for some folks, but it just makes me shake my head and lament the absence of the Mrs. Fletcher I had hoped to find between the pages of this book.
Not Entirely Devoid of Merit
There are points of minor interest, but the best reason I can think of to read this book is a bit of advice Stephen King offered in his book, On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft:
"We need to experience the mediocre and the outright rotten; such experience helps us to recognize those things when they begin to creep into our own work, and to steer clear of them."
The Italian policemen didn't seem authentic and the flitting back and forth from Chicago, Cabot Cove and Italy a bit unrealistic as well.
The author seemed to think he needed to bang the reader over the head with certain things being repeated - It felt as if he wanted to be sure that certain things were noticed. I like to catch clues as I read, not be led to them so obviously. It took me a while to read it as it didn't hold my attention. I finished it only to see if I was right about whodunit and I was.