Murder, She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond
Murder, She Wrote #53
By Terrie Farley Moran
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
When a friend’s husband dies while Jessica Fletcher is in town visiting, Jessica’s vacation turns into a murder investigation in this latest entry in the long-running USA Today bestselling series.
After traveling to Bethesda for a mystery writers’ conference, Jessica Fletcher decides she’s earned a vacation and takes a train to Columbia, South Carolina, to visit her old college friend Dolores, who has recently married her third husband, Willis Nickens, a wealthy and cutthroat businessman. They’ve moved into an opulent historic home with plenty of space for guests, and Jessica is ready for a week of shopping, gossiping, and relaxing at the grand estate.
But the morning after she arrives, Jessica discovers Willis facedown in the koi pond, and despite what the police think, she’s sure foul play is involved. She hadn’t known Willis long, but it’s clear to her that he didn’t concern himself with making friends. The question isn’t if her friend’s husband was murdered but by whom. (From Goodreads)
It was a delight to read this new Jessica Fletcher mystery by a favorite cozy mystery author, Terrie Farley Moran! We see a new side to Jessica as she visits Dolores, a college friend now living in Columbia, South Carolina, after attending the annual Malice Domestic conference. On the way to Dolores’s elegant, historic home, Dolores showed Jessica the biggest fire hydrant ever, something she would never have seen in Manhattan or in Cabot Cove, Maine. I love the fictional town of Cabot Cove, and I did enjoy seeing Jessica in what would have been a foreign setting to her New England soul. Columbia exudes Southern charm and hospitality with a different world of sayings and cooking, including Cola cake. The mystery was plotted and executed well.
Willis is Dolores’s new, adoring husband. Willis is a wealthy businessman, but Dolores doesn’t know anything about his businesses or financial means. He purchased their impressive home with their life together in mind; it had been owned by the same family for many generations. There are wonderful gardens, and even a koi pond put in especially for her. Willis’s first wife passed away twenty years ago, then his only daughter passed away several years earlier. His son-in-law Clancy and their daughter Abby are regular visitors. For Willis and Dolores, the sun rises and sets on that little girl, especially since Dolores had no children of her own.
The first night Jessica is there, they hold a small dinner party that includes Willis’s business partner, Norman, Clancy and Abby, and a few neighbors. Willis has a fascinating dichotomous personality, blunt, confrontational, even rude, to several guests while sitting on the floor in his tux to play with Abby. He clearly adores both Dolores and Abby.
After the dinner party, Jessica couldn’t sleep and went downstairs to find something in the library to read. Before she made it there, she heard Willis and Clancy arguing in his office. He found irregularities in the management of the trust fund established for Abby and is going to give the administration of it to Dolores, knowing he could trust her. The conversation is not pretty, and Clancy stormed out.
Early the next morning, Jessica went outside for a short jog around the extensive driveway of the property and had a terrible surprise. Willis was lying dead with his head partly in the koi pond. The sheriff and his deputies treat Jessica like an airhead, allowing her to tell Dolores that Willis was dead but did not want to hear anything she has to say about what she found. Over the next few days, the devastated widow learns too much about murder investigations, especially when she is the only suspect of the good ol’ boy sheriff. Jessica places a call to her favorite PI, Harry, whose help has been invaluable in the past. After talking with him, Jessica, widowed for many years, is ready to help Dolores navigate the worst club any wife could find herself in.
I enjoyed meeting most of the folks in Columbia. The characters were defined well; I could almost picture Dolores, her husband, family, and friends. The staff and neighbors adore Dolores, but Dolores and Abby are the only ones who truly love Willis. I did not like the good ol’ boy sheriff because he aimed his sights on Dolores and refused to consider anyone else, and he was completely dismissive of Jessica. Jessica’s encouragement and insight into people bring out the best of others.
There are surprises throughout regarding Willis and his business dealings, the things Harry digs up on most of the people involved, and even the grace and strength with which Dolores responds to all that happens and is found. She doesn’t have any close friends in Columbia, and I believe she will remedy the situation in the future. Jessica is the only true friend with her through these hard days and is so very thankful that if the worst had to happen, it was while Jessica was visiting. I missed seeing Jessica’s thought processes throughout but appreciated being in on her conversations with Harry. There was one little clue early on that helped me focus on one person as the killer despite mounting challenges with a few others. The end was satisfactory with all loose ends tied up, and I am looking forward Jessica’s next adventure. I highly recommend this to fans of the author and series!