Murder He Wrote - Dark Streets by Toni LoTempio
Who doesn’t love Jessica Fletcher and Murder She Wrote? The popular eighties mystery series, which has reruns on some channel somewhere in the US every thirty minutes, has spawned forty-seven novels, which up until recently were written by the late Donald Bain.
Now there’s a new sheriff in town, and his name is Jon Land.
At first glance Land might seem an unlikely choice to step into the shoes of Donald Bain aka Jessica Fletcher. Land, a graduate of Brown University, is a suspense/thriller writer who bases his novels and scripts on extensive travel as well as a twenty-five year career in martial arts. He’s best known for his Caitlin Strong series, which chronicles the adventures of Caitlin Strong, a fifth generation Texas Ranger. Can a suspense author step into the skin of America’s favorite cozy sleuth?
Let’s take a look at Land’s signature series. The first novel in the Strong series, STRONG ENOUGH TO DIE, introduces us to Caitlin Strong is a fifth-generation Texas Ranger, proud to wear the badge of her father and grandfather—until a deadly shoot-out along the Mexican border causes her to question her calling.
Five years later, Caitlin is still trying to purge herself of guilt from the day that ended her Ranger career. But a shattering discovery will reopen old wounds, and Caitlin’s renewed investigation into the truth behind the bloody desert firefight uncovers a terrifying plot that reaches into every home and threatens the very core of the country.
Her only hope for success—and survival—is to team up with Cort Wesley Masters, a deadly outlaw who has every reason to want her dead. But he also holds the key to the truth she desperately seeks in the anguished brain of an amnesiac torture victim.
I know, I know….not exactly Jess Fletcher and Cabot Cove, right? But Land brings a new perspective to the MSW franchise that was missing from later volumes: he mixes Jessica’s down home charm with a heightened sense of suspense.
The first MSW novel with Land’s name on it is number forty-seven, “A DATE WITH MURDER”.
This time out, Jessica Fletcher takes up the case of her good friend Barbara "Babs" Wirth after Babs' husband Hal suffers a fatal heart attack that Jessica has reason to believe was actually murder. At the heart of her suspicions lies a sinister dating site Hal had used while he and Babs were having marital issues, a site that may be complicit in somehow swindling him out of millions.
Jessica's investigation reveals that Hal was far from the only victim and when his former business partner is also killed, a deadly pattern emerges. Jessica teams up with a brilliant young computer hacker to follow the trail but as she gets closer to the truth, two near misses force her to realize that she may very well be the next victim.
I have to confess, I have read all forty-seven MSW novels and this one was the first in a long time where I turned each and every page quickly, wanting to see what happened. I could not put it down! It evoked memories of the old series vividly in my mind, particularly of the last few seasons of the show when the plots were more complex and intense.
Land is ratcheting up the suspense factor in the 48th MSW novel, MANUSCRIPT FOR MURDER, debuting in November.
From the book jacket:
Jessica Fletcher has always felt that her longtime publisher,Lane Barfield, was one of her most trusted friends; that’s why when evidence of financial foul play leads to an FBI investigation, Jessica can’t believe it. And when Barfield is found dead, Jess knows she has to prove his innocence! Her investigation puts her in contact with shady characters galore, and turns up plenty of inconsistencies in the man’s death that points to a cover -up; but what is being hidden? At the center of it all is a manuscript that Barfield had purchased to publish after other publishers turned it down. And even more puzzling, that manuscript is now missing…….along with all traces of it ever having existed in the first place!
Jessica sets her sights on finding that manuscript and what about it might have led to Barfield’s death….and with every clue she unravels, finds herself that much closer to danger herself!
Visions of the very first Murder She Wrote flashed through my mind when I read this book. Land has taken Jessica to a new level, one that I am sure longtime fans of both the book and tv series will appreciate!
Here’s to a long and happy relationship for Jessica and Jon! Murder, He Wrote for many years to come!
While Toni Lotempio does not commit – or solve – murders in real life, she has no trouble doing it on paper. Her lifelong love of mysteries began early on when she was introduced to her first Nancy Drew mystery at age 10 – The Secret in the Old Attic. She (and ROCCO, albeit he’s uncredited) pen the Nick and Nora mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime – and the Cat Rescue Mysteries from Crooked Lane! Coming soon: The Pet Shop Mysteries from Midnight Ink! She, Rocco and company make their home in Clifton, New Jersey, just twenty minutes from the Big Apple – New York. Catch up with them at www.catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com or at www.tclotempio.net