Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Beach Read: MURDER, SHE WROTE THE FINE ART OF MURDER by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain

Intro:  I had the pleasure to meet Donald Bain and his wife Renée Paley-Bain at the New England Crime Bake Conference last November.  The two (along with fictional character Jessica Fletcher) write the Murder, She Wrote series.  For those of you who don’t know, in the television show, the main character, Jessica Fletcher, is the author of wildly successful murder mystery books who goes around solving murders that seem to happen wherever she goes.  The character of Jessica Fletcher was played by Angela Lansbury.  The show ran from 1984 to 1996.  When I approached the two Bains to autograph my copy, I said, “My father is a huge fan, and speaks of Jessica Fletcher as if she were a real person.”   Donald Bain quipped, “I do the same thing.”  

Book Title:  Murder, She Worte The Fine Art of Murder

Author:  Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

Genre:  Mystery

Setting:  Italy, Chicago, and a brief stop in Cabot Cove, Maine

Format:  Hardcover

Pages:  277  

Publication date: October, 2011

Publisher:  Obsidian

Opening Line: “This is the Basilca of Santa Maria di Collemaggio, one of the finest in all of Abruzzo.” 
Favorite Passage:  Simone’s description of Giovanni di Paolo’s paintings was accurate.  They were certainly dramatic, and somewhat upsetting, but I recognized the skill that went into creating them.  I tried to picture one of them hanging on my office wall at home and shuddered at the thought. 

Beach Read Rating:  5 out of 5 Beach Umbrellas

Review:  This is the quintessential beach-read mystery, as it’s a fast, light read that gives you a peek into the Italian art theft world (well researched, and not the slightest bit pretensions, which makes interesting for this fine-art ignoramus) and a glimpse into the world of the Chicago elite.  The author (or in this case the trio of authors) manage to create a believable plot that ties together murders from two sides of the Atlantic Ocean.  Of course, this kind of coincidence is only believable when Jessica Fletcher is involved!  My only complaint is that too little of the book is set in the idyllic town of Cabot Cove, Maine.  (I was depressed all day when I learned that Cabot Cove is purely fictional.  In fact, the exterior shots for the TV show were filmed in Mendocino, California!)  But I remain a fan of the stories, and anxiously await the release of 37th Murder, She Wrote installment. 

Flap Copy:  In the latest novel in the USA Today bestselling series, Jessica         Fletcher may not know much about art—but she sure knows when someone is being framed…

Jessica vacations in Italy, where she joins a tour that takes her to a variety of private homes,, restaurants, and rural churches where lesser-known Italian masterworks are displayed.  Her idyllic time is interrupted by a pair of young Italian gunmen who steal a painting off a church wall, killing a retired policeman in the process.  Agreeing to help identify the crooks at a later date should they be caught, Jessica returns to Cabot Cove and puts the shocking experience behind her.

Months later, both art and death land on her doorstep in the form of Wayne Simsbury, stepson of a woman with whom Jessica was friends years ago.  Wayne’s father—a wealthy Chicago businessman and owner of an impressive art collection—has been shot to death.  Not only is Wayne’s stepmother, Marlise Simsbury, a suspect in the murder investigation, but Wayne himself claims to have witnessed the crime.  Unsure of what to do, he has searched out Jessica—the one person his stepmother always claimed could help out with any problem.

Now Jessica has a seemingly open-and-shut murder case to crack in Chicago and also must travel back to Italy to help the police make their case against the church bandits.  And she faces a looming danger that may connect the Italian killers to the fate of her old friend…