MURDER, SHE WROTE (Book 53):
KILLING IN A KOI POND
By Jessica Fletcher and Terri Farley Moran
Pub date: 08-June-2021
AMBER LOVE 04-JUNE-2021 This review is a courtesy provided by NetGalley. To support this site and my other work, please consider being a monthly donor at Patreon.com/amberunmasked; you can also buy my books through Amazon (or ask your local retailer to order you copies). I’m also an Amazon Influencer so you can shop through my lists of recommended products.
When a friend’s husband dies while Jessica Fletcher is in town visiting, Jessica’s vacation turns into a murder investigation in this latest entry in the long-running USA Today bestselling series.
After traveling to Bethesda for a mystery writers’ conference, Jessica Fletcher decides she’s earned a vacation and takes a train to Columbia, South Carolina, to visit her old college friend Dolores, who has recently married her third husband, Willis Nickens, a wealthy and cutthroat businessman. They’ve moved into an opulent historic home with plenty of space for guests, and Jessica is ready for a week of shopping, gossiping, and relaxing at the grand estate.
But the morning after she arrives, Jessica discovers Willis facedown in the koi pond, and despite what the police think, she’s sure foul play is involved. She hadn’t known Willis long, but it’s clear to her that he didn’t concern himself with making friends. The question isn’t if her friend’s husband was murdered but by whom.
Although this is Book #53 from the MURDER, SHE WROTE novels and I’ve been a huge fan of the television show since it ran originally, I had never read a J.B. Fletcher book until now. It was perfectly paced with characters one-hundred-percent true to the show. Killing in a Koi Pond takes place outside of Cabot Cove, Maine, but there are still cameos of Dr. Seth Hazlitt and Boston-based P.I. Harry McGraw.
Jessica is in South Carolina to visit a college friend, Dolores Nickens. Dolores married well. The estate is grand. There are full time kitchen staff and eventually a driver. The good ol’ southern accents easily come through without the authors having to write phonetically. There are plenty of nods of southern cuisine including cola cake and benne wafers.
Killing in a Koi Pond is a perfect cozy mystery or beach/poolside read. For me, it was rainy afternoons in New Jersey. Readers are led to the body of Dolores’s wealthy husband, Willis, a man with so many business dealings even his wife doesn’t know what it is he does. The body appears after a few chapters to slowly ease readers into murder rather than take off running at page one.
The cook, Lucinda and the maid (I guess? Title is never given) Marla Mae are the first friends Jessica makes when she begins her own investigation into the death of Willis Nickens. Eventually, a relative of Marla Mae comes on board as their driver, Elton. The trio match the more innocent type of gossips back in Cabot Cove that Jessica and fans are used to.
The book is modern with amenities that were first-gen luxuries in the TV show. Jessica always has her cell phone and she’s comfortable using it to search the internet. If you remember the show, there were several Cabot Cove sheriffs. The book names Sheriff Mort Metzger as the present top cop in Cabot Cove which he was at the show’s end.
Jessica has two possible lines of inquiry to figure out who, besides her dear friend Dolores, had a motive to kill her husband. She looks into business and personal connections. The local cops don’t welcome Jessica’s meddling. She gets her information from other ways including Dolores doing whatever she can to learn more about her husband. Something else that brings the character of Jessica Fletcher back to life for us is that she cleverly drops nuggets of this information she has learned to different people to see where any leaks in the grapevine might be.
Dolores Nickens is a sweet character. She comes across much younger than she is due to her naivete and rich woman shallow existence. She grows from a clueless and as-expected frazzled widow into a competent woman ready to learn how to operate her husband’s financial matters.
In all honesty, the clues were not difficult to note and the murder was obvious as long as you catch one that’s particularly revealing. One thing is a bit unfair to readers is that Harry McGraw does his part in the investigation off-page. When he does call Jessica to explain what he found, she holds onto the information until confronting the murderer in her typical Miss Marple way. In other words, readers don’t have the same information as Jessica even though it’s told in first person POV.
To summarize, Killing in a Koi Pond is a delightful read whether you’ve seen an episode of Murder, She Wrote or not. You don’t need to know about the characters in the cameos in order to enjoy the story about greed and consequences in the elite world of South Carolina.
Rating: 5 stars