It’s been awhile since I’ve read a really good who-dunnit featuring Jessica Fletcher of Cabot Cove, Maine. Of course, Jessica Fletcher is not the co-author of these books since she is a character from the television series, Murder She Wrote, in which she is portrayed by Tony award-winning actress, Angela Lansbury. According to Donald Bain, though, he has been collaborating with his wife, Renée Paley-Bain, for about the last 3 years, and “we hear [Ms. Lansbury’s] voice as we write Jessica’s dialogue”.
In Close-Up On Murder, one of Jessica’s books is being made into a movie, and since it is based on a true story that happened in Cabot Cove, the cast and crew has migrated from Hollywood to Maine to create the production on location. We have an aging star, Vera Stockdale, who hasn’t performed in many years, playing the strong supporting role of the judge who becomes the murder victim, her ex-husband, Terry Chattergee, as producer who has led her to believe it’s a starring role, her astrologer, Estelle Fancy, who has advised her that the stars are in alignment for this to be a propitious time to return to the screen, and a young director, Mitch Elovitz, who only has one major hit under his belt. The Cabot Cove airport hangar is turned into a studio, Loretta’s Beauty Parlour gets an entire new make-over, and merchants are up in arms about roads being blocked for days with nothing being done on them what-so-ever.
In the midst of this, ghosts from the past trial return to haunt the set. The playboy husband originally accused of killing the judge stalks Jessica and the sets, trying to stop the production, the girlfriend who told a P.I. that the husband had threatened to kill his wife but then recanted her story when called as a witness would like to get the trial re-opened and see him put away, and Vera is found on the set of the judge’s chambers sitting dead behind the desk with a length of thirty-five mm film wrapped tightly around her neck. And of course, everyone seems to have an alibi.
No spoilers here. Doc Hazlitt and Jessica take a flight to Bangor to see a specialist to help determine which hole was the entry wound and which was the exit. Sheriff Mort Metzger gets frames of the film blown up to try to establish what, if any, connection there is between the film and a motive for murder. And, the Cabot Cove rumour mill says that Jessica has wrestled the playboy husband to the ground and disarmed him. Everything gets straightened out, complex family relations come to light, the innocent are exonerated, and the killer(s) are sent to trial. No more film crews in Cabot Cove for Jessica.
This falls into my reading “comfort zone”. Finished it in one day. A great read with more than a couple of surprises at the end. * * * *