Cover image for A time for murder : a novel
A time for murder : a novel
1st ed.
Physical Description:
292 pages ; 22 cm.
General Note:
A novel by Jessica Fletcher & Jon Land ; Based on the Universal television series created by Peter S. Fischer, Richard Levinson & William Link.
Personal Subject:
Added Author:
Added Uniform Title:
Murder, she wrote (Television program).
In the fiftieth entry in this USA Today bestselling series, two timelines converge as Jessica Fletcher returns to high school to investigate the murder of an old colleague. While we meet Jessica as a young teacher solving her very first murder... Young Jessica Fletcher's life couldn't be more ordinary. She teaches at the local high school while she and her loving husband, Frank, are raising their nephew Grady together. But when the beloved principal dies under mysterious circumstances, Jessica knows something is off and, for the very first time, investigates a death. Present-day Jessica returns to high school for a colleague's retirement party and has fun seeing familiar faces. That is, until the colleague winds up dead--and his death has mysterious links to Jessica's very first murder case. With nothing but her own instincts to guide her, Jessica embarks on a quest to find out what really happened all those years ago and who's behind these murders. Because time is running out to catch this killer. --


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Young Jessica Fletcher's life couldn't be more ordinary. She teaches at the local high school while she and her loving husband, Frank, are raising their nephew Grady together. But when the beloved principal dies under mysterious circumstances, Jessica knows something is off and, for the very first time, investigates a death.

Present-day Jessica returns to high school for a colleague's retirement party and has fun seeing familiar faces. That is, until the colleague winds up dead--and his death has mysterious links to Jessica's very first murder case.

With nothing but her own instincts to guide her, Jessica embarks on a quest to find out what really happened all those years ago and who's behind these murders. Because time is running out to catch this killer....

Author Notes

Jessica Fletcher was born Jessica Beatrice Macgill and writes under the initialed J.B. Fletcher. She is a fictional character portrayed by actress Angela Lansbury on the television series Murder She Wrote. She is a best selling author of mystery novels as well as an amateur detective. Within the sereis she holds the occupation of English teacher and novelist. She lives in a fictional town of Cabot Cove Maine. This town seems to have a high murder ratio based on the number of murders that occur in any one season of the show. She traveled a great deal as an author which took her to places around much of the English speaking world. This allowed her writers to stretch her character and her situations further than rural New England. In one episode she went to Hawaii and shared a case with Thomas Magnum of Magnum PI. Mrs. Fletcher was widowed from her husband Frank with no children but en endless supply of nephews, nieces, cousins and in-laws who are in need of her help. She began her career writing on an old Royal typewriter but as she progressed she purchased an Intel 80386 clsss computer. Her friends included both millionaires and homeless people. The format of the show usually had Jessica solving the mystery within 5 minutes of the end of the show. The show ran from 1985-1996. After the weekly series concluded Jessica Fletcher did appear in some made for TV movies based on Murder She Wrote.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Jessica Fletcher becomes entangled in mysteries past and present in Land's diverting fourth novel--the 50th in the overall series--to feature the indefatigable writer-sleuth from Cabot Cove, Maine (after Murder in Red). When a local high school journalist interviews Jessica, she wonders why the girl persists in asking about the first case she investigated 25 years ago, despite her expressed opposition to revisiting the painful event. At that time, Jessica was an English substitute teacher dreaming of a writing career, and the victim was high school principal Walter Reavis. When other deaths occur in the present, Jessica is convinced that the murders are connected to Reavis's murder. Recalling the details of the first case, she delves into the complex relationships of the principal's loved ones and co-workers and concludes that a vendetta might exist against Reavis's family. Readers will enjoy appearances by Jessica's familiar associates, including retired sheriff Amos Tupper and current sheriff Mort Metzger, as the action builds to a nail-biting climax. This long-running franchise remains as strong as ever. (Nov.)

Kirkus Review

Jessica Fletcher (Murder She Wrote: Murder in Red, 2019, etc.) must review the very first murder case she solved in order to find a brand-new killer.When high school senior Kristi Powell, interviewing Jessica for a series on former teachers at Cabot Cove High, asks about her first real-life murder case, Jessica is reluctant to answer. But Kristi keeps pushing about the case, which took place 25 years ago in the halcyon days when Jessica and her husband, Frank, were raising their nephew and she was a substitute teacher in the nearby town of Appleton. A visit to the high school reveals that Jessica's interviewer was an imposter who's shortly found shot dead. In death, the phony Kristi Powell is finally identified as Ginny Genaway, a 33-year-old whose divorced father, Walter Reavis, was the high school principal whose murder first turned Jessica from teacher to sleuthing mystery writer. Ginny had an older sister, Lisa Joy, who's long gone from the area and a brother killed while serving in the Middle East. An invitation to a retirement party for former fellow teacher Wilma Tisdale brings back a flood of memories from the days when Jessica helped the local law solve Walter's murder. Now she's eager to help Sheriff Mort Metzger with this one. So is Ginny's husband, an incarcerated mob boss who sends a few associates to Cabot Cove just in case Jessica needs help. Slowly Jessica reveals the details of how the earlier case was solved and who was involved, throwing light on the current case, which features some of the same people. Ginny's mother is found living in an area lighthouse, and Lisa Joy may or may not be dead in what may or may not be an accident. Wondering who's targeting the Reavis family gives Jessica ample opportunity to reflect on her storied past.A nostalgic portrait of the past illuminates a tricky case that's one of the heroine's best. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

It's been 25 years since Jessica Fletcher solved her first murder mystery. Now, she's being interviewed for a high school newspaper, that initial case comes back to haunt her. She was a high school substitute English teacher when she helped police detective Amos Tupper investigate the murder of the school principal. Jessica was a keen witness even then, helping to narrow the time frame to find a liar and killer. At present, the young interviewer turns out to be older than Jessica thought, and she's related to the victim from 25 years earlier. It's a retirement party for a teacher from that same school, though, that brings a new murderer out into the open. The combination of Fletcher's first case with a contemporary one is perfect for the 50th book in the popular series. Characters from Jessica's past, including retired sheriff Tupper, return to add a nostalgic element to the story. VERDICT Although there are so many implausible elements, including the startling climax with a freighter and a lighthouse, fans of the cozy mystery series will be eager to pick up this latest book. [See Prepub Alert, 4/22/19.]--Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN



Chapter One When did you solve your first murder?" the reporter for the Cabot Cove High School newspaper asked me from across the table at Mara's Luncheonette just before the noon lunch rush began. "Well," I said to wide-eyed senior Kristi Powell, who was doing a series on former teachers at the school, "that would go back to the first mystery I actually published, called-" "Mrs. Fletcher," Kristi interrupted, taking off her horn-rimmed glasses and tightening her gaze on me, "I mean in real life, not in your books. Was it here in Cabot Cove?" It's funny, but I'm not at all reluctant to talk about the murder cases I invent. On the other hand, I'm very reluctant to discuss the actual ones, which I'd much prefer to forget the moment they end. Call it the most common proclivity among fiction writers-a preference for the worlds we create over the one in which we're just as powerless as everyone else. Usually, I would have deflected or avoided the question altogether. But I hated to dodge an impressionable high school student, especially one who was already dreaming of a career in print. I figured it best to set a good example for her and be the best role model I could be by remaining as honest and forthright as I could without divulging more than I was comfortable with. "No, it wasn't in Cabot Cove." Kristi put her glasses back on and twirled a finger through some stray hair that had escaped the bun wrapped tightly atop her head-an odd way, I thought, for a high school senior to wear her hair. "Was your husband, Frank, still alive at the time?" I nodded, impressed. "You've done your homework, Kristi." She didn't look to be of a mind to accept my praise. "It's one of the first things that shows up in a Google search," she said. Having never googled myself, I wasn't aware of how the Internet prioritized the various elements of my biography. If I were writing that, instead of one of mystery novels, it would be painfully short, perhaps no more than a page. My actual achievements in life make for a pretty thin list, since I've long preferred to live vicariously through my alter ego, who's far better at solving fictional crimes than the real me is at the occasional real-life one. "What about that first actual murder you solved, Mrs. Fletcher?" Kristi said, prodding me. Yes, she would make a very good journalist, indeed. I wondered if Kristi really needed those horn-rimmed glasses. She had the look of a young woman bursting with enthusiasm and excitement over chasing her dream through college and beyond-the kind of student who was an absolute pleasure to teach, as I recalled from my days in the classroom. She had dressed fashionably in a skirt and blouse, donning a restrained, professional appearance perhaps to make me more forthcoming with my answers. I've probably done a thousand interviews over the years without such a thing ever occurring to me, perhaps because this was the first time one of those interviews had been conducted by a high school student. In any event, the ploy very nearly worked, because I almost, almost, told Kristi the truth I'd shared with extraordinarily few people over the years. "Would you believe the first real murderer I caught was my own publisher?" She looked up from her notepad. "Really?" I nodded. "And the murder happened at a party in my honor-well, in honor of the publication of my first book." "That would be The Corpse Danced at Midnight?" "It would indeed. It was a costume party with everyone coming dressed as famous characters, the brainchild of my publisher Preston Giles." "Then, he was the murderer?" "Sadly, yes," I told Kristi, elaborating no further. "I'll spare you the details. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Or the wrong place at the wrong time, depending on your perspective." "That seems to happen to you a lot, Mrs. Fletcher, especially right here in Cabot Cove." "I don't keep a running tally." "But your publisher, Preston Giles, he was the first?" I sensed something in Kristi's tone, an edge that hadn't been there a moment ago. It reminded me of my own voice when I was about to spring a trap on a man or woman I was convinced had committed murder. So I pulled back a bit, the physical space between us at a corner table in the back of Mara's Luncheonette remaining the same, but the distance widening. "For all intents and purposes, yes," I told her, splitting hairs. "It's all right, Mrs. Fletcher. The Eagle is only a high school newspaper, after all." Kristi seemed hesitant, then pushed herself to continue. "It's just that the research I did turned up a death where you used to live, where you were an English teacher." "Substitute English teacher," I corrected her, for the record. "And the town was Appleton, Maine, maybe a half-hour drive from Cabot Cove. That's where I met my husband, Frank." "And the murder that took place there?" "You called it a death before." "But it was a murder. I mean, someone was arrested. That's right, isn't it?" "There was a murder, and someone was arrested, yes, Kristi." "Were you the one who caught him, Mrs. Fletcher?" I reached across the table and patted her arm. "Who said it was a him?" I asked, smiling. "TouchZ," she said, smiling back. "Beyond that, I'm going to need to plead the Fifth." "For legal reasons?" "Personal ones. If you've researched me, you're aware that you're asking me about something I've never discussed publicly or in the media. With that in mind, I'd ask that we proceed to something else out of respect for those who don't need all this dragged back into their lives. People moved on, a town moved on, and having the story dredged back up by even the Cabot Cove High School Eagle could do harm to those who, if they haven't forgotten, have at least stopped remembering." Kristi started to make a note, then stopped. "This would have been twenty-five years ago?" I shrugged. "That sounds about right." "And you were teaching high school at the time." "Substitute teaching," I corrected her again, "yes." She broke off a fresh corner of her blueberry muffin and chased it down with the iced tea she'd ordered with it. "This is a great muffin." "Mara, the owner this place is named for, bakes them herself using wild Maine blueberries. I've teased her about expanding the business to produce her baked goods on a bigger scale." Kristi took another bite. "That's actually not a bad idea. Do you have any food-based mysteries, Mrs. Fletcher?" I laughed. "I leave the kitchen to other mystery writers, but I've done a few books where cooking plays a prominent role." "Do you enjoy cooking yourself?" "Less so as I've gotten older. When you live alone, it just doesn't seem to be worth the effort as much. And I've been living at Hill House for the past few months while my house is being repaired. I fear room service is going to be a tough habit to break." "Well, there's always Grubhub," Kristi said, flashing a fresh smile. "That didn't exist when you started your career . . . or when you were living in Appleton." "Clever," I complimented her, nodding. "What?" "The way you worked back to the original question, trying another way to get me to answer it." She didn't bother denying that, but laid down her pen as if to concede my point. "Do you blame me?" "Not at all. You're just doing your job." "It's only a high school paper, like I said before." "Maybe so," I told Kristi. "But you came here this afternoon better prepared, and with more challenging questions, than anyone who's interviewed me in quite a while." "I'm sorry if I'm pushing too hard." That sudden doubt-second thoughts, so to speak-exposed Kristi's vulnerability, reminding me that she was just a high school student. I wished I could tell her what she wanted to know, give her the scoop she was hoping for. I couldn't, though. Too many years had passed. Appleton might have been only twenty miles or so away as the crow flies, but for me it was another lifetime, another life. I think it was as much a matter of all that transpiring before I'd become a writer, while Frank was still alive, while we were raising our nephew Grady after his father, Frank's brother, had been killed in an accident and his mother needed some help. Grady . . . He'd been a little boy when I encountered my first murderer, and I guess he was one of the people I was trying to protect by refusing to discuss that time, with Kristi Powell or any of the reporters who'd poked me about the case over the years. There were some places in my past I didn't want to go, and this was one of them. In the silence that had settled between us, I wondered whether the real reason for my reluctance to speak about the first murder I ever solved lay in the two separate lives I'd built for myself: my life with Frank and my life after him. His death had provided the impetus for my becoming a writer, and my writing was what had too often embroiled me in very real-life mysteries. It was as if I didn't want my life with Frank to be at all tarnished by that mess, which meant I needed it to remain wholly separate from my life afterward to keep the memories pure. All we had shared and done together needed to be left apart and not demeaned by such a difficult experience, which haunted me to this day. I'd stored those memories at the periphery of my consciousness, like a dream I couldn't quite remember, until they were occasionally dug up again by reporters with cigarette-stained fingernails and coffee on their breath. Which, of course, didn't describe Kristi Powell even one little bit. "Tell you what, Kristi," I said, starting in again without being prompted. "If I ever decide to share the details of the first murder case I was involved in, you'll be the first person I call." She smiled. "Then I'd better make sure I give you my phone number, Mrs. Fletcher. I think you only have my e-mail address." I hadnÕt thought in quite some time of Appleton or that townÕs high school or even the murder that was a prime inspiration for what would ultimately become my future career. Back then, I dabbled in writing as a beloved hobby without ever imagining IÕd someday be the author of fifty mystery novels. After giving up on my original dream of becoming a so-called "serious" writer, I submitted stories one after another to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine among others. While it's a testament to the enduring qualities of the genre that those magazines are still in existence today, I never received anything from them but rejection letters and renewal notices. A few articles on me have advanced the theory that it was coming face-to-face with murder in real life that allowed me to write not just a story but an entire book that I ended up selling to Coventry House. Little did I know at that point that my publisher, Preston Giles, would end up murdering one of the guests at a party in honor of my debut novel's publication, and that I'd be the one to ultimately catch him. Most mark that case as the first time I ever solved a murder, when in fact it was the second. But I don't think that experience made me a better writer, at least not directly; after all, I didn't plunge into the book-length work that became The Corpse Danced at Midnight until Frank's death, when I turned to the keyboard as a respite for my grief and loneliness. Who knows, though? The subconscious is a strange and unexplored place where I guess it's more than possible that my experience with murder up close and personal in Appleton left an indelible impression that continues to influence me to this day. I like to believe all my stories spring entirely from the imagination, but my proclivity for finding real-life crimes to investigate inspires me to do justice to the process and always pay proper respect to the victims. When you've seen so many up close, often with people with whom you're personally acquainted, murders are bound to leave their marks on you. I picked up my mail at the front desk of Hill House upon my return from Mara's. I'd enjoyed my months living there, but looked forward to the day when I'd be able to return to my beloved Victorian home on Candlewood Lane. The reconstruction in the wake of the fire that had almost claimed my life was coming along nicely, after the contractors had encountered some initial setbacks, and they'd assured me that in a few short weeks I'd get a fresh look at all the progress they'd made. While Hill House had proved to be such a blessing during those months, there was no way to surround myself with books the way I could at home. And the first thing I intended to do upon my return to 698 Candlewood Lane was restock my refurbished bookshelves. The stack of mail, containing the usual circulars and junk, also included an oversized stiff envelope that appeared to contain an invitation of some kind. I opened that envelope first and slid out its contents, a single card with big black text in fancy script. You Are Cordially Invited to A Retirement Party in Honor of . . . I scanned the rest of the invitation without absorbing all of its content. A name I recalled well followed, but the words my eyes fixed on next stoked memories long dormant, until earlier that day, thanks to my interview with Kristi Powell of the Cabot Cove High School Eagle: . . . Appleton High School. I'd been a substitute English teacher there for more than five years, up until a quarter century ago. It was where I looked murder in the face for the first time and tried to stare it down. Tell you what, Kristi. If I ever decide to share the details of the first murder case I was involved in, you'll be the first person I call. Right now, though, those details came roaring back front and center in my mind, starting at the very beginning. Chapter Two Twenty-five years ago . . . You'll catch your death, Grady," I warned my young nephew, who'd refused to put on a sweater or even one of those hooded sweatshirts he had become increasingly partial to. Excerpted from Murder, She Wrote: a Time for Murder by Jessica Fletcher, Jon Land All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.