Murder, She Wrote: A Date with Murder

Murder, She Wrote: A Date with Murder

by Jessica Fletcher, Donald Bain, Jon Land

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Jessica Fletcher investigates a friend's murder and a dangerous dating service in the latest entry in this USA Today bestselling series...

Jessica Fletcher takes up the cause of her good friend Barbara "Babs" Wirth after Babs' husband Hal suffers a fatal heart attack that Jessica has reason to believe was actually murder. At the heart of her suspicions lies a sinister dating site Hal had used while he and Babs were having marital issues--a site that may be complicit in somehow swindling him out of millions.

Jessica's investigation reveals that Hal was far from the only victim and when his former business partner is also killed, a deadly pattern emerges. Jessica teams up with a brilliant young computer hacker to follow the trail but as she gets closer to the truth, two near misses force her to realize that she may very well be the next victim.

The stakes have never been this high as Jessica finds herself being stalked by the killer she is trying to catch. She must now set the perfect trap to avoid her very own date with murder.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451489296
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/25/2018
Series: Murder, She Wrote Series , #47
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 49,534
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Jessica Fletcher is a bestselling mystery writer who has a knack for stumbling upon real-life mysteries in her various travels. Donald Bain, the author of more than one hundred and twenty books, collaborates, with Jon Land on this bestselling series.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"Come on, Jess-everything's riding on you."

Those words of encouragement came from Barbara Wirth, known to everyone in the town of Cabot Cove as "Babs." Babs and her husband, Hal, hosted what had become an annual event on Labor Day, a barbecue complete with friendly games, tasty grilled fare, finger food passed by well-dressed servers, and sumptuous desserts. A high-spirited memorial to the summer that had passed and the fall season now upon us. The couple's tennis court had been busy all afternoon, and the free-form pool ensured that the youngsters would be tuckered out (with puckered skin) and ready for bed when the festivities ended.

The horseshoe pit had been active all afternoon as well. The sound of the metal horseshoes hitting the iron spikes driven into the ground was a constant reminder that horseshoes was a popular game for young and old alike. I'd once read that it was a spin-off from the game of quoits, dating back two thousand years to just after horseshoes themselves had been invented. All I knew was that they seemed to get heavier with each toss, making me wonder how the poor horses managed with them nailed to their hooves.

The party had started to wind down. But the families gathering their belongings and saying their good-byes to Hal and Babs seemed equally matched by newcomers arriving unfashionably late. It was the day before the traditional start of school, explaining why this party, inevitably, lingered into the early-evening hours under the floodlights the Wirths had set up with just that expectation in mind. The sun was poised to dip behind the mountains in the distance, and those who'd elected to spend their day on the beach, a short walk from the Wirths' expansive property, brushed sand off their feet and bathing suits as they arrived.

I'd intended to join those who were leaving until Babs convinced me to team up with her for a final game of horseshoes. Our opponents were the town historian, Tim Purdy, and Brad Crandall, an old-timer known as the best horseshoe thrower in town. Standing nearby, camera in hand, was Eve Simpson, Cabot Cove's premier Realtor and gossip, two avocations that apparently went hand in hand. Eve was holding the camera but didn't seem to be taking any pictures. Servers from Cabot Cove Catering, meanwhile, filtered through the crowd, dispensing their wares with napkins to spare. A healthy assortment of the company's most delectable treats, now that we'd entered the dessert phase of the festivities, had replaced the trays of finger foods. My mouth watered at the sight of the bite-sized brownies, but I watched the last one snatched from the tray just before the server reached me.

I guess it wasn't my day.

We were down to the final tosses. Tim and Brad had twenty points, one shy of the winning number. Babs and I had surprised everyone (including ourselves) by accumulating eighteen points, three shy of the winning number of twenty-one. It was my turn to throw my two horseshoes at the iron stake, which stood forty feet from where I was poised to take what would be the final turn. I'd need a "ringer," worth three points, in which the horseshoe encircles the stake, for us to win. I didn't suffer any illusions that I was capable of such a toss, especially now that the horseshoe I was hefting felt heavier than the bicycle I often had to lift over the curb to chain in place.

"You can do it, Jess!" Babs assured me, upbeat as ever.

Her rosy voice made for a fitting match with her appearance. She had a headful of red curls that framed flawless, smooth skin that looked as though it belonged in a skilled artist's portrait. And her trim, athletic figure hadn't changed an ounce in the nine years I'd known her, as she looked more like someone who rode horses than tossed their shoes.

I eyed the stake, which seemed to be farther away than forty feet. The horseshoe, which weighed all of two and a half pounds, made me list to the side on which I was holding it. I drew a deep breath and glanced at Tim and Brad, whose bemused expressions reflected confidence in their victory. Then I closed my eyes, opened them, focused on the stake, and pitched the horseshoe, which caught the final rays of sun as it sailed through the air.

To my delight, the harsh sound of the horseshoe clanging against the iron stake rang in my ears.

"It's a ringer, Jess!" Babs yelled. "You tossed a ringer! We won!"

I guess it was my day, after all.

Tim gave me a hug. Brad, a sour expression on his weathered face, mumbled congratulations and walked away.

"Wait till I tell Hal," Babs bubbled. "Where is he?"

I fell in behind Babs in search of her husband. As we approached the sprawling New England-style house, we passed my dear friend Dr. Seth Hazlitt, who'd driven me to the gathering. People in town wonder why I've never learned to drive a car and trust my bicycle to get around, and look askance at me for having taken flying lessons and earning my private pilot's license. I'm not sure that I can adequately explain why I have a license to fly but not one that allows me to drive, and I've given up trying to figure it out myself. I guess one of the great things about Cabot Cove is you don't need a car to get around, much less a plane. I also hadn't needed either when I spent much of my time at the Manhattan apartment I seldom visited these days.

"Anything you'd like to say to Babs and Hal?" Eve Simpson said, approaching with her Canon still in her grasp. "I'm making a video for their anniversary."

I'd forgotten it was coming up. "Making a video with what?"

She held up her camera. "This."

"I thought you said video."

"I did," Eve said, shooting me the kind of stare adults aim at ten-year-olds. "This records video, too-on a memory card," she added, popping it from its slot. "See?"

I watched Eve slide the tiny thing back in. "What should I say?"

She positioned herself before me. "Whatever comes to mind. You and Seth are the last ones I need to get."

I remembered Eve spending the party circulating through the crowd with the camera dangling from her neck, mining for gossip, I thought, but now I realized her intentions had been considerably more hospitable.

"Ready whenever you are," I said.

"Just start whenever you're ready."

I smiled and plunged right in. "Congratulations, Hal and Babs. I feel like I've known you forever and I guess I have, at least since you moved to Cabot Cove. I watched your beautiful daughter, Alyssa, grow up and can only hope you've dissuaded her from becoming a writer. On the chance you haven't, my offer to serve as mentor still stands, so long as I don't have to teach her how to drive!" I stopped and moved my gaze from the camera to Eve. "How was that?"


"Ready to leave, Jessica?" Seth asked, coming up from behind me.

"Sure, but you need to record a video for Eve first, congratulating Babs and Hal on their anniversary."

"Ayuh. Sure thing. But where's the camera?"

Eve had begun to launch into her explanation anew when her eyes widened at the sight of someone passing between us and the entrance to the kitchen.

"My God, do you know who that is?"

I followed her gaze to a youngish man striding toward the outdoor bar with an empty drink glass.

"Can't say that I do."

"It's Deacon Westhausen, for God's sake."

The name rang a bell, but it took me a moment to realize the source of Eve's excitement.

"Of course, the tech giant," I said, watching as Westhausen was intercepted by a trio of party guests en route to the bar.

"Tech giant? That's putting it mildly. The man's Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson all rolled into one."

"I've read the stories, Eve," I said, not bothering to hide my lack of enthusiasm for Cabot Cove's latest local celebrity, who was building a massive home in a previously protected area of wetlands right on the bluffs forming the cove that gave our town its name. This in return for the sizable investment he'd made in the long-awaited expansion of our cherished marina. "And I've also read the stories questioning the source of his income."

"I think you're just jealous over not being the most famous person in town anymore. And look at all the jobs the amphitheater he's building at the marina has brought to town."

"Then we should dismiss the rumors about his cutting corners and using substandard building materials?"

"Yes, because that's all they are-rumors. Spread by those who are jealous of his success and all the good he's doing for this town."

"I don't count that monstrosity he's building off the docks as anything good, Eve."

She scampered across the lawn, weaving a zigzagging path toward Deacon Westhausen and leaving me to follow Babs through a door leading directly into the kitchen to say my good-byes.

"Hal?" Babs called out before I could say anything.

The kitchen was empty, or it seemed to be. But then I saw half of a man's shoe protruding from behind a large island used for prepping food. I approached it to have a better look. The shoe was attached to a leg-Hal Wirth's leg.

"Hal!" Babs shrieked.

I rushed out the door to get Seth, the primary care doctor for pretty much the entire town. But I didn't have to go far, since he was already running toward me, having heard Babs's anguished cry.

"What's wrong?" he asked as we shouldered through the door, trailed by Eve Simpson, camera in hand.

"It's Hal Wirth," I managed, barely. "I think he's dead."

Chapter Two

The sun had dipped behind the mountains when Seth and I set out behind the ambulance transporting Hal to Cabot Cove Hospital. I sat shocked in the passenger seat while Seth drove. He was uncharacteristically quiet, stunned by the tragic conclusion to what had been a joyous Labor Day. Hal's health had seemed to be fine throughout the party; he'd spent the day mixing and mingling with guests or tossing a football with a few teenagers.

There was a period of time toward the end of the day, though, when he and Seth ensconced themselves in a secluded corner of the property and sat together on a green wrought iron bench. From my vantage point, and from Hal's body language, I judged the subject of their impromptu conversation to be serious and not for other ears. They conferred for twenty minutes before Hal stood and walked away, leaving Seth alone on the bench to ponder what had transpired.

I hadn't seen him again until he lay supine in the kitchen. Had he suffered a heart attack? Although it's unusual for people in their late forties to succumb to a coronary, I'd immediately assumed that had to be the cause of his sudden collapse. Or . . .

As a mystery writer, I have to discipline myself not to imagine crimes unfolding on every corner and not to see something nefarious in every sudden and inexplicable passing. Still, in Hal's case, the fact that he'd been so buoyant just minutes before aroused my suspicions, whether warranted or not.

"I saw you and Hal huddled off by yourselves for a time, Seth," I worked myself up to say. "I have to ask what it was about."

"No, you don't, Jessica. Just like you know I can't share what we discussed. Doctor-patient privilege."

"Then you were discussing Hal's health."

"I didn't say that."

"You implied it. Just give me a notion."

"All I can tell you is that we didn't discuss his physical health."

It sounded strange the way Seth said that, but I didn't pester him further. People in Cabot Cove confided everything to Seth. He was the classic small-town doctor in an age where insurance companies were making such practices almost impossible to keep up. Seth was the exception to the rule, and I respected him too much to press him on the issue.

Meanwhile, thank heavens a medical professional had been there. Seth had recognized a pulse in Hal's jugular vein and shouted for the crowd that had gathered to call 911. He'd also instructed people to direct the paramedics to where Hal lay, while continuing to tend to him.

"Every second counts in situations like this," Cabot Cove's beloved physician said, kneeling over Hal to continue his CPR efforts.

Although the ambulance and its crew of two EMS paramedics arrived within minutes, it seemed an eternity to me. Cabot Cove's emergency personnel don't typically have much to keep them busy, although that was changing with an influx of new residents packing the town to its very gills, especially in the summer season, which was now drawing to a close. But the speed with which they showed up impressed me. Hal was fitted with an oxygen mask and rushed into the back of the ambulance. Babs, who'd been standing at the rear of the crowd, her fist pressed tightly against her lips to stifle the cry of anguish building inside, climbed into the vehicle with her husband. The sun was setting and, with it, summer itself. I could only hope the darkening sky didn't prove a portent for Hal's prognosis.

When Babs and Hal Wirth had arrived in Cabot Cove almost ten years ago, they injected a burst of youthful energy to a town that had begun to grow insular and perhaps too set in its ways. Their daughter, Alyssa, was in grade school when they chose our village as their new home, and Babs immediately threw herself into town activities, particularly as an active participant in the PTA and the historical society. She was also a skilled painter. My friend Mara was delighted to hang an exhibit of BabsÕs work in her luncheonette, and one of BabsÕs best-loved pieces, a seascape of the view beyond the bluffs, hung permanently on the luncheonetteÕs wall. IÕd also bought one of her paintings, now displayed proudly in my own home.

Babs had become one of my most treasured friends, a bond that became tighter as the years passed. A woman I've trusted with my innermost sentiments and secrets, she'd always been there whenever I felt the need to reminisce about my late husband, Frank, and had done her best to put a smile on my face, a consideration I was ready to return in kind. Now that such a time had come, it would fall on me to help support her through this ordeal, facing the possibility that she was about to lose her beloved husband, just as I had lost mine. Call us kindred spirits, but not for the reasons you'd ordinarily choose.

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Murder, She Wrote: A Date with Murder 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author doesn't appear to know the characters from MSW. If he did, he would know that Sheriff Metzger referred to Jessica Fletcher as Mrs. F, not by her first name. Seth Hazlitt called her Jess. May seem trivial but for those of us that have watched the show's over and over this detail is important so we can relate to Jessica Fletcher and the other Cabot Cove residents in the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The new writers are not portraying the characters correctly. I have ordered the next book being released in Nov 2018. If the characters are not more in line with previous stories, that will be my last Murder, She Wrote purchase. I havepurchased and read every book in this series. But maybe Nov 2018 will be the end. Sad.
JuliW More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love Murder She Wrote! I watched the show faithfully each week when it was on television in the 80s and 90s, and I have my DVR set to record reruns even now. I've probably seen every episode at least 10 times. Angela Lansbury was perfect in the part of Jessica Fletcher, a retired teacher and amateur sleuth in Cabot Cove, Maine. She toodled along on her bicycle and solved murders. It was just great television. A Date With Murder is the first novel based on the show that I have read. I'm so glad I did -- I loved it!! As I read the story, I heard the dialogue in my head in the voice of the actors....Angela Lansbury, Tom Bosley, William Windom. I could visualize the picturesque seaside of Cabot Cove, the characters, the story as it unfolded...and even imagine Jessica's horror as she discovered her friend, Hal Wirth, motionless on the floor of his kitchen during a party at his home. It was like getting to enjoy a new episode of Murder She Wrote after all these years. Some books just make you happy in your heart...know what I mean? The basics: A Cabot Cove businessman dies after having a massive coronary at his home during a luncheon. After Hal Wirth's death, it is discovered that his finances were in ruin. His memoir reveals that he was unhappy in his marriage and actually used an online dating site once trying to find happiness with someone else. When strange information pops up about the dating site, Jessica begins to investigate the service to see if the site somehow had something to do with Hal's financial ruin and subsequent death. She discovers there is a whole lot more going on at than just matching people with dating partners. I enjoyed this story. It moved along at a nice pace and there were plenty of twists and turns in the plot, plus plenty of suspects. Because this is the first Murder She Wrote book that I've read, I didn't notice any of the differences in writing that some other reviews mention. Donald Bain who wrote the earlier books in the series passed away, and this book was written by another author, Jon Land. I thought he stayed true to the characters, but I'm basing my opinion on the television show and not any prior novels in this series. I did enjoy reading a new Jessica Fletcher mystery, so I plan to go back and read the earlier books. A Date With Murder is the 47th book in the Murder She Wrote series, so I'm not sure if I will read them all....or just cherry pick a few that sound particularly interesting. But I know I will enjoy any of them! I love the television show and the characters! It's always great to re-visit Cabot Cove! Jon Land is the author of several mystery/thriller novels including the Blaine McCracken series. I enjoyed this book and will definitely be reading more of his work. **I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
CozyMarie More than 1 year ago
A fresh take on a classic series! I’ve read several books in this series. To be honest a few books back they got quite repetitive for me and I had stopped reading them as regularly. I felt this book was a fresh take on the series. It humanized Jessica Fletcher and brought depth to her as a character that I appreciated, while still holding true to her personality. The book dealt with current day issues and was an entertaining read. I would recommend it to fans of cozy mysteries and Murder, She Wrote in particular.
Carstairs38 More than 1 year ago
Labor Day in Cabot Cove, Maine, means the Wirth’s annual end of summer picnic, and Jessica Fletcher is there to enjoy the time with her friends. The party ends in tragedy, however, when Hal Wirth dies of a heart attack. Something feels off to Jessica about his death, and she starts looking for answers. When she is warned off and another body turns up, Jessica knows she must be on the right track. Can she prove it? As big a fan of the show as I am, I have never picked up one of the tie in novels until now. I’m glad I finally did because I really enjoyed this book. The Cabot Cove episodes were always my favorite, and I enjoyed reconnecting with Mort and Seth as well as Jessica. They were all in fine form, and it was comforting to be in their presence again. The mystery was complex, with several surprises that kept me turning pages. Unfortunately, I did feel that the ending was short changed, leaving one major plot point unaddressed. Still, I’m glad I picked up this book overall.
MariWatson1 More than 1 year ago
Jessica Fletcher is at it again in, A Date with Murder. Her close friends Hal and Babs Wirth have hosted a Labor Day Barbq with games. Hal Wirth dies during the event and everyone takes it for granted it is a heart attack. But something is nagging at Jessica and her instincts will take her into a complicated murder and us a great mystery. Donald Bain wrote 46 mysteries in the Murder She Wrote Series. Television and these books have made Jessica one of the most beloved characters in mysteries. Jon Land brings a fresh approach to the 47th in the series, more in line with his background writing thrillers. He brings a harder edge but the plot has all the turns and twists that keep you reading late into the night. I have loved revisiting this Series and Cabot Cove. There was always something so special about the Character and formed our own version of an American Miss Marple. Land has his writing cut out for him, but, he is first class and I look forward to him continuing the series. I gave it five stars. My thanks to Netgalley and Berkley.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
DATE WITH MURDER a Murder, She Wrote mystery By Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land Reviewed by Russell Ilg There are few brands with better name recognition than MURDER, SHE WROTE and, arguably,no sleuth better known than Jessica Fletcher. The fabulously successful television show, featuring Angela Lansbury, was a huge hit and spawned a book series that rested in the able hands of Don Bain for 46 titles. Following Bain’s passing last year, thriller author Jon Land stepped into his shoes and his first effort joining forces with the fictional Jessica, A Date with Murder, is a spectacular success. Lending a harder edge to an established formula has the dual effect of keeping things cozy, while at the same time making the series feel more fresh and contemporary. Look no further than Jessica’s uncovering a nefarious Internet dating site as responsible for a trusted friend’s murder as a prime example of just that. Following Jessica’s relentless crusade which brings her into the netherworld of the worldwide web made for great fun, especially when she ultimately poses as a lonely dowager herself to flesh out the murderous manipulators associated with the aptly named Love Is Written as always in first person means placing Jessica in every single scene, and we welcome her the same way we’d invite a trusted friend over for coffee (or tea, in her case). She drives a bicycle instead of a car, evokes unadulterated passion for her hometown of Cabot Cove, and seems to revel in her lively banter with the likes of Dr. Seth Hazlitt, Sheriff Mort Metzger, and private detective Harry McGraw as much as we do. Yes, Jon Land might be new at this series, but he brings that cozily comfortable cast of characters along for the ride, meshing them with some new millennial friends we meet for the first time. The difference, as Jessica investigates the murders of both computer maven Hal Wirth and his alcoholic ex-business partner, is that she finds her own life in peril at the hands of their killer. This along the fact that the sinister dating site is responsible for far more murders with a cutthroat clever economic motivation that stretches beyond the comfortable confines of Cabot Cove, combine to make A Date with Murder as much thriller as mystery, a bit more hardboiled than soft. But what’s in a name? Jessica Fletcher remains the quintessential American sleuth, our own Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes, a pop culture icon across multi-media platforms. And in A Date with Murder, Jon Land has penned a classic whodunit that rivals the best of Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle. His series debut is nothing short of a monumental triumph of form and function, replete with the kind of suspense and swift pacing certain to leave you guessing and gasping. This is mystery writing of the highest order, the MURDER, SHE WROTE series certain to be safe in his grasp, even if the same cannot be said for the beleaguered residents of Cabot Cove