Lovers of the Murder, She Wrote television series of the ‘80s and ‘90s may enjoy reading the spin-off book series of the same name, written by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain. Yes, the author shares credit for the novels with the fictitious Jessica.
For those who may never have seen the television show, let me “clue” you in.
Jessica is a widowed, childless, former substitute English teacher turned famous mystery writer and amateur sleuth. She lives in a small fictitious town in Maine called Cabot Cove. Murder seems to follow her around wherever she goes. It normally happens when she is traveling to promote her latest book or while she is visiting friends or relatives. Occasionally, her detective prowess is put to the test in her own hometown. More often than not, her meddling into these cases is met with resistance from law enforcement personnel who do not appreciate what they perceive as her busybody nature. But, of course, she is always the one to discover the murderer.
In the book series, she is the same Jessica Fletcher. She still doesn’t drive a car. When at home in Cabot Cove, she often uses her bicycle to get around town. Otherwise, she depends on friends or a taxi cab. In the books, she can fly a small plane. As in the later seasons of the show, she uses a computer, instead of her trusty old typewriter.
The books are written by Jessica in the first person. When I am reading one of the books, I feel like I am watching an episode of the television show in my head. I can picture Jessica (portrayed by Angela Lansbury) talking to Dr. Seth Hazlitt (William Windom) or discussing a case with Sheriff Mort Metzger (Ron Masak) or his predecessor, Amos Tupper (Tom Bosley).
That brings us to Killer in the Kitchen, the latest book in the series. Two new restaurants open up in Cabot Cove at the same time and right next door to each other. One is owned by Brad and Marcie Fowler. Brad is the son of Jessica’s dear friend, Isabel. The owner of the other restaurant is Gérard Leboeuf, famed chef from New York, who has a summer home in Cabot Cove. Jessica once interviewed him in New York while researching a novel she was writing.
Some of the town’s residents wonder if Cabot Cove can handle two new, upscale restaurants, while others view it as healthy competition. No one expects it to lead to murder. But, that is exactly what happens when the famous chef is found in the kitchen of his new restaurant with a knife in his chest.
Predictably, Brad is the main suspect, due to a rather heated and very public argument between the two. Even though other people had motive, Sheriff Metzger is sure he “has his guy,” and Brad is arrested. But, what about Jake Trotter, the sous chef who worked first for Brad and then for Leboeuf? Or, Walter Chang, the man Leboeuf hired to manage his new restaurant? Leboeuf”s wife? His son, Wylie? Each of them could have had reasons for wanting him dead, as did others.
And it is not just the local sheriff who is investigating. Because Leboeuf is famous, and due to another twist I won’t spoil for you, the feds are involved.
It is up to Jessica to prove who the real culprit is. And she is not entirely convinced of Brad’s innocence. As usual, she ends up putting herself in danger while trying to solve the case.
The books in this series are light, easy to read, cozy mysteries. After reading several nonfiction books or even more intense fiction, it is nice to pick up one of these and let Jessica entertain me.