Murder, She Wrote: Design for Murder by Jessica Fletcher, Donald Bain and Renée Paley-Bain

Danger alert: Jessica Fletcher’s in town…

😀 😀 😀 😀

design-for-murderDuring a catwalk show in New York’s Fashion Week, a young model collapses and dies. Rowena Roth had been an unpleasant girl, arrogant and rude, so few people other than her mother could truthfully say they grieved for her loss. It seems like one of those tragic things that happen sometimes – perhaps a heart condition that she had never been aware of. But then a second model is found dead. The question is: are the deaths connected? Fortunately for the NYPD, Jessica Fletcher is in town, ready to offer them as much advice as they can take…

I love the TV series of Murder, She Wrote. It’s my go-to cosy for winter afternoons, and I’ve been known to binge-watch several shows one after the other. This is largely because I think Angela Lansbury is fab in the role, plus the style of the show means that, despite the phenomenal murder rate, nothing distasteful ever really happens, and Cabot Cove still looks like a wonderful spot to spend some time. Would the books work as well without Lansbury’s presence?

The fabulous face of Angela Lansbury 2...
The fabulous face of Angela Lansbury 1…

The story is told in the first person (past tense) from Jessica’s perspective, so we get to see the thoughts inside her head. Jessica is all sweetness and charm on the outside, and full of some rather waspish thoughts on the inside. I kinda liked that – I always assumed on the TV show that, behind that ultra-friendly exterior, an astute and clear-sighted brain must be ticking away. Like Miss Marple (from whom she’s clearly directly descended), Jessica must be an ‘expert in wickedness’ if she’s to see through the façade the villain erects to cover his/her crimes. I found I could easily imagine Angela Lansbury speaking her lines, and the marvellous facial expressions she would have used to convey the unspoken thoughts.

The fabulous face of Angela Lansbury 2...
The fabulous face of Angela Lansbury 2…

I was rather disappointed that the book was set in New York rather than Cabot Cove. But Seth and Mort both appear during phone conversations, so I didn’t have to do without my two favourite men completely. The description of Fashion Week felt thoroughly researched – though given, of course, that Murder, She Wrote spin of cosiness that means it doesn’t feel quite authentic to real life. The plot covers the lengths to which young girls will go to succeed in the cut-throat world of modelling, touching on subjects like extreme dieting and cosmetic surgery. The jealousies are shown too, but it’s all done with a light touch. And, of course, we don’t care about the murder victims, so no dismal grief or angst to contend with.

The fabulous face of Angela Lansbury 3...
The fabulous face of Angela Lansbury 3…

Jessica is just as irresistible to men as she is in the show – this time it’s Detective Aaron Kopecky who’s badly smitten by her charms. Got to admit, this was the one bit of the book that I found tedious – Kopecky’s admiration became repetitive and his attempts to woo Jessica by dangling information about the case in front of her became laboured and annoying in the end. But it wasn’t enough of an issue to spoil the book for me overall.

The fabulous face of Angela Lansbury 4...
The fabulous face of Angela Lansbury 4…

The plot is quite interesting, and stays more or less within the bounds of credibility. Jessica is at the show because of her friendship with the designer’s mother – she and her son both hail from Cabot Cove originally. And it’s not long before Jessica is nosing around amongst the models, publicity people, cosmetic surgeons, et al, coming up with stunning insights long before poor Detective Kopecky is even close. I don’t think it could really count as fair-play, though maybe that’s just sour grapes because I didn’t work out the solution. But it’s well written – a nice cosy, with the genuine feeling of the show and enough contact with the familiar characters to prevent me missing the Cabot Cove setting too much. I’ll cheerfully read more of these, and recommend it not just to fans of the show, but to cosy lovers in general. Good fun!

The fabulous face of Angela Lansbury 5...
The fabulous face of Angela Lansbury 5…

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group.

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36 thoughts on “Murder, She Wrote: Design for Murder by Jessica Fletcher, Donald Bain and Renée Paley-Bain

  1. Preaching to the choir with your admiration of Jessica . . . I always crow with delight when she’s asked out to dinner or to a swanky party right off the getgo–
    she’s one lucky widow!

    thanks for the fun.


  2. It does sound like fun, FictionFan. And I’m so glad you mentioned Angela Lansbury’s skill as an actor. She really did have the best ways of nonverbally communicating exactly what the character was thinking. Perfect choice for the lead role in the series. As to this book, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Like you, I prefer the Cabot Cove setting, but still, as you say, it sounds like a fun read.


    • It really was a piece of perfect casting. And actually, so were the regular supporting cast – I think that’s why I always enjoyed the Cabot Cove ones more. I was pleased the book caught the spirit of the series – I can see why they’re so popular… I must look out for one of the ones set in Cabot Cove.


  3. I’ve never actually seen this series, but my adviser on all things TV-related tells me it is repeated on lots of obscure channels, so I’ll look for it!


  4. Ooh, I loved Jessica in these shows, and it’s been so long since I’ve seen one that I really need to read the books, too. Thank you for such an excellent review, FF. Drat, only four days into the new year and already I’m adding to my TBR!!!


    • I went through a spate of wacthing them all the time, but I’m more in control of my addiction now… 😉 Haha! I should warn you there’s zillions of these books, so you’d better make a big space on your TBR for them…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve never seen the series myself, would you believe? I tend to avoid characters with waspish thoughts. But I’d forgive her based solely on those wonderful facial expressions! 😁😳🤔


  6. Do you know I haven’t watched one of these for years although I always loved Angela, as you say she brilliantly captured the hidden thoughts – I’ve never read any of the books either – one for when the TBR is slightly lower 😏


    • I went through a spate where I watched them on a loop, but I’m better now! I do find them incredibly relaxing though, and the book was the same – I suspect I’ll keep one on my Kindle for emergencies… 🙂


  7. MSW was one of my favorite shows. I love the cozy mystery……and I liked her character a lot. Have never read the books though.


    • I love these cosy afternoon shows and this one is my favourite (though I have a soft spot for Diagnosis Murder with the lovely Dick Van Dyke, too… but don’t tell anyone! 😉 ) This was the first time I’d tried one of the books too, and I thought they kept the spirit of the show pretty well…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I remember watching the show as a kid and enjoying it but haven’t seen one in years. We have so many of these books at the library where I work and I’ve never read one. They’re popular with our mystery readers. I’m glad you liked it so much!


    • I went through a spate of re-watching them a few years ago and found them totally addictive… but in a good way! I can see why the books are popular – easy reading and angst free – perfect for relaxing. I can see I’ll keep one on standby for emergencies in future… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love Murder She Wrote! I totally agree with all you say. Plus its fun when a really famous actor appears from earlier in their career trajectory, like George Clooney (MSW is obviously the peak in that trajectory, which then sinks down into massive Hollywood films 😉 )

    Have you seen the Instagram account Interiors of Murder She Wrote? I think you’ll enjoy it 🙂


    • Ha! Yes! Mind you, I still think of Clooney as he was when he appeared in Roseanne… thank goodness he got rid of the perm eventually! (Though secretly I loved it at the time…) I shall pop over to Instagram – it always amazes me that there is nothing in this universe which doesn’t have an image on’t ‘net… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  10. All the faces had me in stitches!!! 😂

    I’ve never seen the show, and I didn’t know it was based on a book. To me, Angela Lansbury is always Mrs. Potts from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.


    • I think in this case the books are based on the show rather than the other way round. The shows are great fun – not demanding, but that’s their appeal. True cosies! I love Angela Lansbury in anything I’ve seen her in – that face! She could do anything with it, and still look so lovely… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. This post is hilarious with the fabulous faces of Angela Lansbury.
    I read some of these mysteries many years ago. I didn’t know they were still being written!


    • Haha! Glad you enjoyed it – isn’t she just wonderful? 😀 I think they churn out several every year – this is my first, but I’ll happily read more in the future. The kind of thing that’s good for when you just want to relax…


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