Release Date: Nov 24, 2020
Series: Murder She Wrote
Publisher: Penguin Group
Jessica Fletcher, mystery writer and amateur sleuth, is back in her home after extensive restorations have been made after a fire. While the finishing touches are being made to her updated septic system, Jessica is looking forward to the Christmas holidays and a visit from her beloved nephew Grady and his family. However, Jessica’s plans get complicated when her contractor finds human bones and a wooden box buried in her yard. The bones are from murders more than two hundred years apart and the contents of the box could contain information that puts the town’s founding fathers in an unpleasant light. A tabloid journalist is in town to do a story on the unusually high murder rate in Cabot Cove, Maine, but it seems he is hiding something. To make sure everyone is able to have a Merry Christmas, Jessica lends her assistance to solve the case.
I have read most, if not all, of the books in this long-running series. The mystery stands on its own, but will be more enjoyable for readers familiar with the recurring characters either from prior books or the television series. The last few books have been written by a different author. The books have been good and Jessica is the same intelligent and generous woman readers have enjoyed over the years. However, the banter between her and Sheriff Mort Metzer has become more sarcastic than the gentle teasing found in older books of the series. Mort has toned it down a little, though, and I enjoyed the two of them working together on the case. If they’re not bickering too much, they make a great detective team.
This book takes place during the holidays and the story includes a Christmas play, Christmas cookies, and decorations. However, the plot of the book and the truth about how the founding fathers were able to help Cabot Cove to prosper is too heavy for a cozy mystery, especially one set during Christmas. Some of the historical information about the town slows the story, but I did enjoy the excerpts from one of the founding father’s journals. There are plenty of suspects in the more recent murders for Jessica and Mort to question, and Jessica even enlists the help of her private eye friend, Harry McGraw. It’s also nice to see Grady and his family pay a visit for the holidays. The plot, however, in addition to being less than cozy, is also convoluted in places. Clues throughout the story pointed to the identity of the murderer, but when everything was revealed I felt some details were missing. There were still some holes in the plot and that left me unsatisfied when the book ended. I enjoyed the book and recommend it for fans of the series even though it isn’t my favorite of Jessica’s cases.