Book Review: Murder, She Wrote: The Murder of Twelve by Jessica Fletcher & Jon Land
By John ValeriMay 22, 2020
Murder, She Wrote: The Murder of Twelve by Jessica Fletcher & Jon Land is the 51st entry in the USA Today bestselling series, where Jessica Fletcher finds herself stranded in a hotel during a blizzard with twelve strangers and a killer in their midst.
Jon Land is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than 50 books, including the popular Caitlyn Strong thrillers. In 2018, he took over writing duties for the venerable Murder, She Wrote series after Donald Bain’s passing. A Date with Murder and three subsequent titles—including last landmark November’s 50th entry, A Time for Murder—have attempted to meld Bain’s world with the television show, which has both challenged and expanded readers’ expectations. Land’s newest, The Murder of Twelve, offers a contemporary take on the locked-room mystery.
As the story opens, readers find Jessica still residing at Cabot Cove’s historic Hill House after an earlier attempt on her life resulted in a temporary displacement from her beloved home (see Manuscript for Murder). The hotel is hosting a wedding party of 12, but an impending blizzard threatens to derail the nuptials. Jessica meets the mother of the groom, Constance Mulroy, in the lobby only to learn that her son and his bride-to-be have gone missing between the airport and Hill House. Not wanting to further upset the woman, Jessica downplays her concerns but accepts an invitation to the rehearsal dinner so she can do some digging on the down-low.
Earlier that morning, Jessica and Sheriff Mort Metzger were called to a death scene on the grounds of the town’s old textile mill. Initial inquiry reveals that the victim was a private investigator, the cause of his demise suspicious, and that others were present and may have abandoned an automobile nearby. But just how, or if, this relates to the missing bride and groom remains to be seen—though, the exposure of family secrets and scandals strongly suggests a connection. Further, a near-deadly poisoning at the aforementioned dinner is followed by multiple murders in rapid succession that reveal one terrifying truth: there is a killer, or killers, intent on picking off members of the wedding party one by one until nobody is left alive.
The setup is an homage to Agatha Christie’s classic whodunit And Then There Were None, right down to the perpetrator(s) obliterating numbers on the hotel’s old grandfather clock to mark each victim. Only instead of being separated by water, Jessica and company are isolated by feet (and feet!) of snow, spotty cell service, and failing electricity. And, in a clever twist, our beloved sleuth (with the assistance of the hotel’s manager) must act as law and doctor while the sheriff is otherwise indisposed and beloved-if-curmudgeonly physician Seth Hazlett offers investigative assistance from afar. Comic banter between the trio—and Jessica’s trusty phone-a-friend, New York PI Harry McGraw—provides levity throughout, though some might find the familiar schtick a bit much.
Land’s fifth entry in the MSW canon may very well be his best. While his earlier efforts valiantly straddle the line between cozy and thriller, The Murder of Twelve captures the tone of a more traditional mystery (albeit with some non-traditional skullduggery) in which Jessica Fletcher must use everything at her disposal to survive the night and restore order. Kudos to the author for his bold melding of old and new, which ensures that the iconic character he has been entrusted with remains both timely and timeless in a world that is forever changing.