With Manuscript for Murder (Berkley), the second installment of the long-running Murder She Wrote series penned by Jon Land, the author pushes the series into new territory, blurring the boundary between cozy mysteries and thrillers. Or perhaps he is forming a new genre: the cozy thriller.
Land took the mantle of this franchise with A Date with Murder last year after the passing of series author Donald Bain. With his new voice for Jessica Fletcher, our mystery-writer-slash-detective is breaking out of her traditional mold as well as her traditional setting, the sleepy yet murder-prolific Cabot Cove. In Manuscript for Murder, we find Jessica in New York City, visiting local friends including a disgruntled fellow author and the publisher the two of them share.
When Jessica’s publisher hands her a manuscript that he claims will be the next mega-bestseller, her close-knit world begins to unravel. The manuscript, a political thriller well outside Jessica’s preferred genre, is toxic. All who touch it fall to the grim reaper’s scythe—arson, a suicide, an equestrian accident, and the bodies keep falling. Each disparate death has but one thing in common: The victims have all seen this unpublished book. It cannot be a coincidence, and now Jessica has seen this deadly literary work as well.
Jessica’s dog-with-a-bone style and the threat to her life leave her no option but to keep pulling at each successive thread, but the more she pulls, the more her own adventure begins to mirror the dark and dangerous world of the mysterious manuscript. Her path takes her into a battle with Deep State forces, placing her in life-threatening situations and pitting her against high-level enemies, the likes of which neither Jessica nor her usual readers have ever experienced. Is she ready? Are they?
Fans both old and new will enjoy Jessica’s first-person introspection and analysis, and the ease with which Land adds a depth of character by the simplest motions and utterances of his cast. Land’s prose is vivid. His dialogue is sharp and witty, sure to leave readers laughing out loud in quiet rooms. And his action sequences grow in intensity until the pages are racing by.
Thriller readers will find a new home here, but longtime fans of this series, accustomed to the quiet of Cabot Cove, may find themselves clutching their pacemakers.
Without a doubt, Manuscript for Murder is a rip-roaring thrill both for Jessica and her readers, but the world of Murder She Wrote may not be ready. And that makes Jon Land’s new take on a time-tested staple a series to keep your eye on.
Manuscript for Murder is now available for purchase.
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ABOUT JON LAND:
Jon Land is the bestselling author of over 25 novels. He often bases his novels and scripts on extensive travel and research as well as a 25-year career in martial arts. He is an associate member of the U.S. Special Forces and frequently volunteers in schools to help young people learn to enjoy the process of writing. Jon is the Vice President of Marketing of the International Thriller Writers (ITW) and is often asked to speak on topics regarding writing and research. In addition to writing suspense/thrillers, John is a screenwriter, with his first film credit coming in 2005.