Easily one of the most popular TV crime/drama series, Murder She Wrote had almost 23 million viewers in its prime and the show and its leading lady, Angela Lansbury, were nominated for more than a dozen Golden Globe awards and almost as many Emmys. After 12 years, 4 movies, and a spin-off series, The Law and Harry McGraw, the show still survives in serialization and in books written by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain.
I believe I have all of them (mass paperback) and yesterday I read my latest acquisition Domestic Malice. In addition to having an intriguing plot centering around the Cabot Cove community with plenty of suspects, twists, and surprises, this puzzler is a somber reminder of how prevalent violence and intolerance is (not just in small communities where people think they know people well but throughout the world, as statistics show) and how shelters for abuse victims play a vital role.
To start, there is the usual Cabot Cove cast with mystery writer Jessica Fletcher, crusty Doc Hazlitt, Cabot Cove Gazette editor Evelyn Phillips, Sheriff Mort Metzger, and an old favourite from Boston, PI Harry McGraw. In addition, there are several totally unsavory characters in this story, some of them disguised as good guys.
Winter is over and people are starting to think about the upcoming Blueberry Festival. Loudmouth manufacturer Richard Mauser (whose factory is almost certainly polluting the nearby river) is extremely outspoken at the City Council meeting against funding the local woman’s shelter. He believes it just gives whiny women an excuse to leave and divorce their husbands. A locally respected investment counsellor turns out to be not only an abusive husband and father but also isn’t much more than a swindler in his business dealings and has several enemies around town who lost their money through his investments. He even misrepresented to them that Jessica was one of his clients in order to get them on board. His shooting death stuns the community. The wife is accused. She denies any culpability; then, days later, confesses to the murder. The ending was a bit of a surprise to me but shouldn’t have been. Clearly the victim’s wife’s confession was false and engineered by the domineering mother but why is she going along with it? who is she protecting?
The story is a strong reminder that victims of abuse, male and female, are not the ones who should be embarrassed or ashamed and that when there are children, they are at least psychological victims if not physical victims. This book is not new and so its statistics are a couple of years out of date but it cites that “25 million American women are the victims of domestic violence each year, resulting in more than 2 thousand homicides”. Could be more; not all cases of abuse are reported. Chances are that someone reading this is also a victim. If you live in the US, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline @ 1-800-799-SAFE. In the UK, call Women’s Aid @ 0808 2000 247. In Australia, call 1-800-RESPECT. In Canada, we apparently do not have a national hotline; I spent almost an hour following links that turned out to be provincial or regional. If I had been desperate, it would have been too bad. You can call the Domestic Abuse Hotline for Men and Women (DAHMW) @ 1-888-7HELPLINE; it is located in Maine. If you live in Ontario you can call the Assaulted Women’s Help Line @ 1-866-863-0511, TTY 1-866-863-7868. For all areas, call 911 if it is available to you or a local police station if it is not and you are in imminent danger. Don’t live with abuse. Make the call!