A Time for Murder
Murder She Wrote #50
By Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
In the fiftieth entry in this USA Today bestselling series, two timelines converge as Jessica Fletcher returns to high school to investigate the murder of an old colleague, while we meet Jessica as a young teacher solving her very first murder–that of the high school principal.
Young Jessica Fletcher’s life couldn’t be more ordinary. She teaches at the local high school while she and her loving husband, Frank, are raising their nephew Grady together. But when the beloved principal dies under mysterious circumstances, Jessica knows something is off and, for the very first time, investigates a death.
Present-day Jessica returns to high school for a colleague’s retirement party and has fun seeing familiar faces. That is, until the colleague winds up dead–and her death has mysterious links to Jessica’s very first murder case.
With nothing but her own instincts to guide her, Jessica embarks on a quest to find out what really happened all those years ago and who’s behind these murders. Because time is running out to catch this killer….
Rarely does a mystery series reach the milestone of fifty books! And this milestone is an outstanding, stunning, fast-paced, and compelling read. One does not have to read the mysteries in order, each can be read as a standalone Jessica Fletcher, bestselling mystery author, lets us see part of her life that was previously kept private. Characters are developed well throughout, and we enjoy seeing her friend, long-term PI, Harry McGraw, and retired Cabot Cove sheriff, Amos Tupper. Jessica opens up about the real first murder she solved in Appleton, Maine, in conjunction with Amos, who was an Appleton detective in his first murder case.
Jessica was contacted by a teen from the Cabot Cove high school newspaper, wanting to do an article on her. At one time, Jessica had taught there until her writing career took off. When Kristi, the reporter, asked pointed questions about her time teaching in Appleton, Jessica didn’t want to talk about it for various reasons. It seems Kristi found out that the first mystery Jessica solved was there rather where most folks assumed, in London, where the first Murder She Wrote book was centered.
Jessica later had a change of heart and wanted to give Kristi more information. What better way to share the truth than to give an award-winning high school reporter who acted and dressed as a polished professional a big scoop? When she went to the high school, however, the principal took her to meet Kristi. The real Kristi, who had never even heard of Jessica. Who had she been interviewed by? Jessica talked with current sheriff, Mort Metzger and began to research who the girl might have been. Jessica worked on a special software program until very late and called Mort when she had a likeness of the girl she had met. Mort got the text that a young woman was found dead in her car, her description matching the woman Jessica met. When the fingerprints came back, they learned it was Ginny Genaway, daughter of the principal of Appleton High School and ex-wife of a mob boss from Boston and now serving life in prison.
Jessica and her late husband Frank had once lived in Appleton. He gave flying lessons and Jessica was a substitute teacher at the high school. The principal, Walter Reavis, saw something in Jessica that he valued as an educator, and set up a time for them to meet one afternoon in hopes that he could give her a full-time teaching position in the English department. When going to his office to meet, she heard his voice outside his door, on a heated phone call in which he finally said, “Over my dead body”. She left without meeting him that afternoon, planning to see him first thing the next morning rather than risk embarrassing him about the phone call. Except that for Reavis, tomorrow never came.
When Frank brought her to work the next day, she learned that Walter Reavis was dead, possibly murdered. She brought the phone call she overheard to the attention of a police officer, who introduced her to the only detective in town, Amos Tupper, for whom working a murder case was a first. Jessica’s skills of observation and putting information together began the start of a beautiful working relationship that lasted until Amos retired. What a crazy tragedy, with Reavis’ younger daughter being murdered 25 years after his untimely death!
Jessica, Mort, and their long-time friend Dr. Seth Hazlitt do what they do best with the help of Harry, her long-suffering friend and PI who never sends her a bill. She talks with Amos by phone, as he is now in Kentucky, and discuss their first murder and how it could relate to the present. We meet one of the teachers Jessica worked with in Appleton, Wilma, whose retirement party she was invited to the following Saturday.
Jessica is still awaiting completion of the rebuilding of the home she and Frank had purchased in Cabot Cove all those years ago, damaged by fire by the bad guys from another case. This mystery takes her back to Appleton, as well as to the lighthouse Reavis’ ex-wife now worked at, and the state prison where Ginny’s ex-husband Vic is incarcerated. She even has protection from the mob, as he wants justice for Ginny.
Plot twists and turns keep this impressive story moving! I appreciate Jessica’s gift of observing and putting together clues, how well organized her thinking process is, and the details that most people would miss (or not include in the novel). I enjoyed learning a little about Jessica’s life with Frank and Grady, and the easy banter she has with Harry, Mort, Seth, and Amos. I did guess a little bit of the solution, the full scope of it was still a surprise! While I question the athleticism displayed by Jessica, whose age I am guessing at, I won’t discount the phenomenon of the adrenaline rush pushing her through some of the final scenes. Under the new authorship of Jon Land, this is not your mama’s Jessica Fletcher! She is a 21st-century woman, even if she doesn’t have a driver’s license, and will be a favorite for years to come. I highly recommend it!