Monday, May 17, 2010



Based on the Universal TV series created by
Peter S. Fischer, Richard Levinson & William Link
ISBN: 978-0-451-22927-4

I was a huge Murder She Wrote fan when the series was on and even in repeats I still DVR them. Remember when Jessica and Seth found the guy drowned in the desert! Genius, sheer genius.
The best thing about MSW were the twists and turns that made the story worth watching. Jessica was also a huge part. The everyperson’s best friend/grandmother/cool aunt. People invited Jessica everywhere, she knew how to get inside any locked room, and around law enforcement or mafia goons in order to find the clue she needed to solve the mystery.

In Nashville Noir, Jessica is back on her home turf of Cabot Cove and one of their own is a soon to be rising star. Apparently, the people of Cabot Cove don’t try that other small town stuff of keeping young people at home. Instead, CC has grants given to young people with potential in the arts to send them to another state or city for them to receive tutelage and live without having to work. In this situation, Cindy Blaskowitz, is the chosen one and because she leans towards country music she is being sent to Nashville.

Now, in MSW there was some trite writing and some things seemed forced even in the later years since Jessica had to leave CC in order to keep the viewers from wondering why every other small town had a murder every 10 – 20 years and CC had them almost twice daily. I’m not looking in this book for a new Hemingway or Shakespeare but I did want some semblance of common sense. The show had deadlines and inevitably the stars and co-stars/guest stars would have had input and wanted changes; all making it understandable if not necessary not to have perfect writing in the script in sacrifice for time and budget.

However, this is a book and books are a different animal. You are able to write several drafts and since this is obviously being written to follow the series should have planned with enough forethought to prevent silly mistakes. After all, there is a guaranteed following for this book and the publishers should have spent enough money in preparation to make sure people were satisfied. Poor editing on the writing and publishing end makes me think this was rushed.

Page 13 has the initial plot twist of Cindy no longer being happy in Nashville due to her record label giving her best song away to someone else and worse yet putting that starlets name as co-writer all without her knowing about it. In response to this bombshell delivered by Cindy’s mom Jessica says, “That’s outrageous,” I blurted, “to say nothing of illegal. It’s fraud. It’s theft. It would be like taking one of my novels, putting another writer’s name on it along with mine, and publishing it without my knowledge or approval.”

No, Jessica, it would not be similar to what you just said it would be exactly what you just said. Because you repeated the “real-life situation” Cindy’s mom told you and put yourself in it. Makes me wonder about the psyche of someone who single-white female themselves.

In real life, mothers and daughters argue and go back-and-forth, but when written it interrupts the progression of things and throws the reader off balance. Cindy and her mother arguing on the phone and the constant mother advice of being polite got on my nerves and I couldn’t wait for the scene to be over.

There is also the notes to the readers without explanation. Jessica goes to Nashville and visits a diner “where a waitress took my order of a bowl of fruit and a narrow wedge of buttermilk chess pie, a tasty but very sweet Southern specialty she’d recommended.” Umm… excuse me, Fletcher/Bain, shouldn’t you be showing and not telling? Why not have the conversation with the waitress and have Jessica say I’ll take that blah blah the rest of the order blah. This is another factor that threw me off and almost irritated me, this was originally written for television where the luxury of bad expositions weren’t available and they had to include everything as conversation or a found letter or some such thing. Why not follow up on that tradition here instead of doing the worst mistakes a writer can make?

Page 178 Det. Biddle speaking, “…no love lost between him [the victim’s son] and his step-mother either… They barely said two words to each other in the waiting room.”
“Not a Norman Rockwell family,” I [Jessica Fletcher] commented.
“Not the sort of loving family the artist depicted in his paintings,” I explained.
“Not at all.”
Stuff like the above, you’ve got to be kidding me. How could this get past editing? Did they give the ghostwriter a deadline and a word count to meet? You couldn’t have cut this and still had a good book, this exchange was essential for others to know? Why?

OK, once I got into the rhythm of the book things picked up. I knew what I was getting into when I read the inside cover flap, Jessica on a travel excursion solving a murder or MSW – The Later Years. The poor editing and bad writing faded after a while and you enjoyed the usual twists and turns that MSW provides. Towards the end there are a slew of suspects to choose from which heightened the suspense just like old times. Finally, the villain is revealed and all the clues are laid bare.

I must admit to really liking this book but only because it’s based on the TV show. Had it been anyone else’s first attempt I wouldn’t have finished reading it. I got this book from the library but if you’re going to buy it $22.95 is the price though of course by now it should be a bit cheaper on Amazon and the usual sources of book buying.

Out of 5 stars

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