Murder, She Wrote: A Date with Murder by Jessica Fletcher, Donald Bain and Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

A Date with MurderThere are few brands with better name recognition than MURDER, SHE WROTE and, arguably,no sleuth better known than Jessica Fletcher. The fabulously successful television show, featuring Angela Lansbury, was a huge hit and spawned a book series that rested in the able hands of Don Bain for 46 titles.

Following Bain’s passing last year, thriller author Jon Land stepped into his shoes and his first effort joining forces with the fictional Jessica, A Date with Murder, is a spectacular success. Lending a harder edge to an established formula has the dual effect of keeping things cozy, while at the same time making the series feel more fresh and contemporary.

Look no further than Jessica’s uncovering a nefarious Internet dating site as responsible for a trusted friend’s murder as a prime example of just that. Following Jessica’s relentless crusade which brings her into the netherworld of the worldwide web made for great fun, especially when she ultimately poses as a lonely dowager herself to flesh out the murderous manipulators associated with the aptly named Love Is

Written as always in first person means placing Jessica in every single scene, and we welcome her the same way we’d invite a trusted friend over for coffee (or tea, in her case). She drives a bicycle instead of a car, evokes unadulterated passion for her hometown of Cabot Cove, and seems to revel in her lively banter with the likes of Dr. Seth Hazlitt, Sheriff Mort Metzger, and private detective Harry McGraw as much as we do. Yes, Jon Land might be new at this series, but he brings that cozily comfortable cast of characters along for the ride, meshing them with some new millennial friends we meet for the first time.

The difference, as Jessica investigates the murders of both computer maven Hal Wirth and his alcoholic ex-business partner, is that she finds her own life in peril at the hands of their killer. This along the fact that the sinister dating site is responsible for far more murders with a cutthroat clever economic motivation that stretches beyond the comfortable confines of Cabot Cove, combine to make A Date with Murder as much thriller as mystery, a bit more hardboiled than soft.

But what’s in a name? Jessica Fletcher remains the quintessential American sleuth, our own Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes, a pop culture icon across multi-media platforms. And in A Date with Murder, Jon Land has penned a classic whodunit that rivals the best of Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle. His series debut is nothing short of a monumental triumph of form and function, replete with the kind of suspense and swift pacing certain to leave you guessing and gasping. This is mystery writing of the highest order, the MURDER, SHE WROTE series certain to be safe in his grasp, even if the same cannot be said for the beleaguered residents of Cabot Cove.

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