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Murder, She Wrote: Murder in Red


Murder, She Wrote: Murder in Red

At one point in this latest entry of the bestselling Murder, She Wrote series, Jessica Fletcher explains to readers about the writing process and the challenge that exists between the authors' real lives and that of their fictional creation. I'm sure this speaks directly to the same dichotomy between the creator of these novels, the late Donald Bain, and Jon Land, who has graciously continued this extremely popular series to the adoration of fans worldwide.

Mind you, this isn't your grandmother's “Murder, She Wrote.” Leave behind visions of an elderly Angela Lansbury having a cup of tea by the fireside. Land's Jessica Fletcher may bear senior citizenship as a personal trait, but she also has the grit that comes along with the toughest private detective. In fact, Jessica has written so many murder mysteries that stepping into one in her real life is second nature. In MURDER IN RED, she is faced with a multiple murder case as just the tip of the iceberg, and one that is very personal for her.

"Jessica Fletcher is alive and well in Land's very capable hands, and I speak for all of us when I say that I look forward to my next literary visit to Cabot Cove."

With victims and suspects mostly being from Cabot Cove, Maine, it makes one think twice about the nature of innocence and who your neighbors may really be. Land uses a terrific quote from Graham Greene that speaks to this scenario: “It is only if the murderer is a good man that he can be regarded as monstrous.” Jessica has a conversation with the town physician, Dr. Seth Hazlitt, who has a large chip on his shoulder about the new private hospital in town, the Clifton Clinic. He is suspicious of their tactics and medical acumen, and personally blames them for the death of one of his patients who he had been treating for years. Not long after that conversation, Jessica learns of the death of an acquaintance, Mimi Van Dorn, another former patient of Dr. Hazlitt.

Jessica was not at all enamored of Charles Clifton, founder of the clinic, but now there is clear evidence that something strange may be going on with Hazlitt's claims. Concierge medicine is becoming more and more prevalent in our country, especially with health care coverage being such a mess and possible solutions like socialized medicine not being a sensible option. This is one reason why Jessica chooses to look further into the dealings of the Clifton Care Partners group. The other is that her potential gentleman friend, George Sutherland from Scotland Yard, is currently a patient there undergoing tests concerning an unknown ailment.

Jessica asks her colleague, PI Harry McGraw, to assist her in getting access to the FDA in Washington, D.C. to investigate the clinical trials being run by the Clifton Clinic. She also needs help determining that the pharmaceutical firm provided the medication for these trials.  Additionally, another line of inquiry pertains to Mimi’s son, Tripp, with whom Mimi did not have a close relationship. Nevertheless, Tripp tragically lost the use of his legs in a near-fatal car accident over a decade earlier, and Jessica fears that Mimi may have been milking money from his medical care to fund the clinical trial that killed her. After meeting with Tripp, Jessica feels for him and knows there is more to his story. He calls her one night to schedule another meeting as he has important information regarding his mother that he wishes to share.

Being a Murder, She Wrote novel, readers will not be surprised when things don't always go according to plan, and this is the case when Jessica is informed that Tripp took his own life the evening before their scheduled meeting. After gaining entry to his room, Jessica sees enough evidence to consider Tripp a murder victim. The question is why, and how did it relate to his mother's death? With everything from shady medical practitioners to greedy pharmaceutical reps and suspicious attorneys, the book never fails to disappoint. It quickly calls to mind the television series, which seemed to have a cliff-hanging plot twist before every commercial break. One character refers to this investigation as “murder in red,” with “red” representing blood. This is not at all far from the truth as Jessica once again overextends her involvement and finds herself a potential victim of some very dangerous people.

MURDER IN RED has something not only for longtime, loyal fans of the series, but also for readers of Jon Land’s work. It bears none of the trademark grit or “saving the world” mentality that is more than evident in his terrific Caitlin Strong series --- and that's not a bad thing. In fact, it allows him to show off his plotting skills to an entirely new set of readers. Jessica Fletcher is alive and well in Land's very capable hands, and I speak for all of us when I say that I look forward to my next literary visit to Cabot Cove.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on May 31, 2019

Murder, She Wrote: Murder in Red
by Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land

  • Publication Date: September 24, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • ISBN-10: 0451489357
  • ISBN-13: 9780451489357