A nostalgic portrait of the past illuminates a tricky case that’s one of the heroine’s best.

MURDER, SHE WROTE

A TIME FOR MURDER

Jessica Fletcher (Murder She Wrote: Murder in Red, 2019, etc.) must review the very first murder case she solved in order to find a brand-new killer.

When high school senior Kristi Powell, interviewing Jessica for a series on former teachers at Cabot Cove High, asks about her first real-life murder case, Jessica is reluctant to answer. But Kristi keeps pushing about the case, which took place 25 years ago in the halcyon days when Jessica and her husband, Frank, were raising their nephew and she was a substitute teacher in the nearby town of Appleton. A visit to the high school reveals that Jessica’s interviewer was an imposter who’s shortly found shot dead. In death, the phony Kristi Powell is finally identified as Ginny Genaway, a 33-year-old whose divorced father, Walter Reavis, was the high school principal whose murder first turned Jessica from teacher to sleuthing mystery writer. Ginny had an older sister, Lisa Joy, who’s long gone from the area and a brother killed while serving in the Middle East. An invitation to a retirement party for former fellow teacher Wilma Tisdale brings back a flood of memories from the days when Jessica helped the local law solve Walter’s murder. Now she’s eager to help Sheriff Mort Metzger with this one. So is Ginny’s husband, an incarcerated mob boss who sends a few associates to Cabot Cove just in case Jessica needs help. Slowly Jessica reveals the details of how the earlier case was solved and who was involved, throwing light on the current case, which features some of the same people. Ginny’s mother is found living in an area lighthouse, and Lisa Joy may or may not be dead in what may or may not be an accident. Wondering who’s targeting the Reavis family gives Jessica ample opportunity to reflect on her storied past.

A nostalgic portrait of the past illuminates a tricky case that’s one of the heroine’s best.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0430-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

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THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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An overly anodyne attempt at Southern gothic.

THE STOLEN MARRIAGE

A series of unfortunate errors consigns a Baltimore nurse to a loveless marriage in the South.

It’s 1943, and Tess, from Baltimore’s Little Italy, is eagerly anticipating her upcoming nuptials. Her frustration grows, though, when her physician fiance, Vincent, accepts an extended out-of-town assignment to treat polio patients. On an impromptu excursion to Washington, D.C., Tess has too many martinis, resulting in a one-night stand with a chance acquaintance, a furniture manufacturer from North Carolina named Henry. Back in Baltimore, Tess’ extreme Catholic guilt over her indiscretion is compounded by the discovery that she’s pregnant. Eschewing a back-street abortion, she seeks out Henry in hopes of arranging child support—but to her shock, he proposes marriage instead. Once married to Henry and ensconced in his family mansion in Hickory, North Carolina, Tess gets a frosty reception from Henry’s mother, Miss Ruth, and his sister, Lucy, not to mention the other ladies of Hickory, especially Violet, who thought she was Henry’s fiancee. Tess’ isolation worsens after Lucy dies in a freak car accident, and Tess, the driver, is blamed. Her only friends are the African-American servants of the household and an African-American medium who helps her make peace with a growing number of unquiet spirits, including her mother, who expired of shock over Tess’ predicament, and Lucy, not to mention the baby, who did not make it to full term. The marriage is passionless but benign. Although Henry tries to be domineering, he always relents, letting Tess take the nurses' licensing exam and, later, go to work in Hickory’s historic polio hospital. Strangely, despite the pregnancy’s end, he refuses to divorce Tess. There are hints throughout that Henry has secrets; Lucy herself intimates as much shortly before her death. Once the polio hospital story takes over, the accident is largely forgotten, leading readers to suspect that Lucy’s death was a convenient way of postponing crucial revelations about Henry. Things develop predictably until, suddenly and belatedly, the plot heats up in an unpredictable but also unconvincing way.

An overly anodyne attempt at Southern gothic.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-08727-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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