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Posted January 8, 2009
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Decent Book, But Not Really "Jessica Fletcher!"
Let me start off by saying that I am a big fan of the television series "Murder, She Wrote." I loved all the major, returning characters and the mystery plots were fun and done with a light touch. I continue to buy and read these "Murder, She Wrote" mystery novels by Donald Bain, not because he writes them just like the television show, but simply because with the show cancelled, this is about as close to Jessica Fletcher as I can get. Having said that, let's review this book, "Gin & Daggers."<BR/> This reveiw is for the Signet reprint of this title. Originally, this was the first book in the series, when it was published by Avon Books. So, if you really want to read this series, I suggest you start here. This is the book that introduces Jessica Fletcher to Inspector George Sutherland of Scotland Yard, and some books in the series refer to a few incidents from this novel.<BR/> The book isn't bad, in fact, the reprint has actually made the book better. (I have read and own both verisons). Donald Bain's writing style is simple and clear. It's a very easy read. Jessica Fletcher is just as charming, curious, and lively as Angela Landsbury portrayed her in the television series. However, I'm afraid that Mr. Bain doesn't really know his characters as well as fans of the show do. Other reviews has stated his many obvious mistakes, (Jessica began writing after her husband Frank's death, not before, etc.) However, the issue of Jessica not driving has been fixed with this reprint, and the ending of the book feels better the way it plays out because of it. It is because of this editing that I gave this book 3 stars, but actually I'd really only give it 2.<BR/> Mr. Bain sets up a classic Jessica Fletcher story. Marjore Ainsworth, the worlds most celebrated, British mystery writer, is killed during a weekend house-party at her secluded mansion in a tiny village in England. Jessica, Marjore's friend, is in London attending the International Soceity of Mystery Writers convention and is herself, a guest at the fatal house-party.<BR/> However, this set-up disolves more into a police procedural than a classic "Murder, She Wrote" episode. The story is 255 pages long, but Mr. Bain fails to establish the other guests as firm suspects until almost 3 quarters of the way through the novel. We don't really get to know many of our suspects and then we are tossed a few facts to establish their motives in the crime. Without giving the plot away, I have to say that you can pretty much guess the solution based on character details alone. (Read the book and you'll understand better what I mean).<BR/> Also, being a fan of the show, Jessica doesn't detect like she usually does. It feels more as though she stumbles into situations that give her the clues she needs. Gone are the great clues that mystery readers love to spot, (Why is a suspect wearing a different tie after the murder? Or, the killer giving themselves away by revealing a small tidbit that only the killer would know?) I can understand if Mr. Bain was writing his own series, with his own characters. However, I feel if your going to do a "Murder, She Wrote" novel, then it should be as close to the source as possible. Mr. Bain does know his way around London and the book is a great homage to this wonderful city. The book is also missing the light touch the show had. Decent book, but it's not "Murder, She Wrote."
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