Manuscript for Murder
Murder She Wrote Book #48
By Jon Land and Jessica Fletcher
Author’s website: jonlandbooks.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Jessica Fletcher investigates a mysterious manuscript with deadly consequences in the latest entry in this USA Today bestselling series…
Jessica Fletcher has had plenty to worry about over her storied career, both as a bestselling novelist and amateur sleuth. But she never had any reason to worry about her longtime publisher, Lane Barfield, who also happens to be a trusted friend. When mounting evidence of financial malfeasance leads to an FBI investigation of Lane, Jessica can’t believe what she’s reading.
So when Barfield turns up dead, Jessica takes on the task of proving Barfield’s innocence–she can’t fathom someone she’s known and trusted for so long cheating her. Sure enough, Jessica’s lone wolf investigation turns up several oddities and inconsistencies in Barfield’s murder. Jessica knows something is being covered up, but what exactly? The trail she takes to answer that question reveals something far more nefarious afoot, involving shadowy characters from the heights of power in Washington. At the heart of Jessica’s investigation lies a manuscript Barfield had intended to bring out after all other publishers had turned it down. The problem is that the manuscript has disappeared, all traces of its submission and very existence having been wiped off the books.
With her own life now in jeopardy, Jessica refuses to back off and sets her sights on learning the contents of that manuscript and what about it may have led to several murders. Every step she takes brings her closer to the truth of what lies in the pages, as well as the person who penned them.
This is the best Murder She Wrote that I’ve read so far. The plot is intriguing, and Jessica is at her best, despite the murder of her long-time publisher and friend, Lane Barfield. Jessica’s favorite law enforcement fellas come when needed – and this time they are very needed as she travels around New York City, the delightful Cabot Cove, and Washington, D.C. The characters are three-dimensional, many of whom have a great sense of humor. Jessica’s mettle is put to the test as she tracks the elusive murderer(s}.
It seems to begin with the suggestion that Barfield is skimming from the royalties of his authors, then it quickly escalates to the possibility that there may have been more involved: the massive manuscript that is Lane Barfield’s last great hope of discovering a top-notch new author, entitled The Affair. Jessica is in NYC for a book signing event when she sees Thomas Rudd, an old acquaintance and author who was also published with Lane Barfield but his last book went unpublished. After the book signing, she is out with Cabot Cove friends Mort Metzger, Cabot Cove’s sheriff, and Seth Hazlitt, the town’s doctor, when Thomas Rudd arrives drunk. Mort asks him to leave, so Jessica makes plans to meet Rudd the next morning. Unfortunately, he never shows. Within a short time, Jessica knows why – a gas explosion occurred in his apartment a few short blocks away, leaving him dead.
Jessica goes to see Lane Barfield to talk with him about Tom Rudd and his accusations of royalties being skimmed. Lane, nearing retirement, is very excited about a manuscript he purchased that looks like the next huge bestseller. He gave a hard copy of the 800-plus page novel to Jessica to read and give her opinion. He did mention that while Rudd was in his office to talk about royalties, he suspects that Tom swiped a flash drive from his desk. The flash drive included a digital copy of The Affair. The next morning, Jessica hears on the news that Lane is dead, suspected of suicide. Somehow the two men’s deaths so close in time doesn’t sound right, especially since Lane was so excited about this new novel by a new author. When another author who may have had a copy dies in a freak accident, there just might be a connection between these guys and the novel.
The Affair is about a president’s daughter who is on the run and just happens to meet a man who is a trained killer, made obvious when the motel room they were in was invaded. They began to talk about their lives, how the president’s daughter overheard some things her parents said, and that her life was in danger because of what she heard. Jessica has a hard time putting the manuscript down, hoping to find some sort of answer or solution. It sounds as if the manuscript could have come straight from a DC insider, someone with connections. As the bodies start to pile up, it also sounds as if someone else doesn’t want what is in the novel revealed.
I enjoy reading Jessica Fletcher novels written in the first person; I like to see how she reasons out the cases she does. I also like to “watch” her powers of observation and memory for events. Jessica is still my favorite, as she is kind, loyal, humble, very intelligent and has a great memory. When defining “think outside the box”, Jessica’s picture should be included! Thankfully, she has friends such as Mort, Seth, and Artie, an NYPD lieutenant, to watch for danger around her.
This is an extremely complex mystery for which there are no easy solutions. There is comic relief at times as Artie Gelber begins to have empathy for Mort; this high-ranking NYC cop from Major Cases has not met anyone like Mrs. Fletcher! Jessica is a courageous lady as, if I were to investigate as she does, I would not have had the grit to go to DC after the murders in NYC and Cabot Cove. Nor would I have been willing to go back to her home. There are many plot twists that build the mystery and suspense! There is but one small piece of the puzzle that I figured out. I admit, I finally stopped trying to solve it and simply appreciated the process. The end holds surprises, and the pieces fall into place in rapid succession. I highly recommend Manuscript for Murder; the fast pace, intricacy, and level of intrigue make this mystery head and shoulders above the ones I’ve read to date.