THE FINE ART OF MURDER


By Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

Obsidian, 2011 ($23.95)

ISBN-13: 978-0-451-23473-5

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

Mystery novelist Jessica Fletcher leaves her home in Cabot Cove, Maine, for a relaxing vacation in Italy. As is usually the case, her idyllic interlude is marred by a murder. While visiting a small village church, two armed robbers barge in, shoot one of the members of her tour group right in front of her, pry a large painting off the wall, and make their escape. Jessica sees one of the young men up close and personal, and she knows she'll never forget his face. The police are counting on that, and tell her they'd like her to return when and if they make an arrest in the case to identify the thief. She promises that she will, and returns to Cabot Cove hoping for some peace at home. It's not to be. She reads that Jonathan Simsbury, the husband of an old friend, has been murdered in Chicago, and the next morning the man's son turns up on her doorstep. Wayne Simsbury says he is confused and scared, and his step-mother Marlise told him Jessica was a person who could be trusted.

She convinces him to return to Chicago to help clear his step-mother, who is a person of interest in the case. Marlise asks Jessica to come with him, and, reluctantly, she does. Wayne shocks everybody when he changes his story. Jessica and Marlise know he's lying, but he sticks to the new version of what he saw the night his father was killed.

Jonathan had collected a small fortune in art, and Jessica is introduced to Tony Curso, who is appraising the collection. He is charming, if eccentric, and is smitten with Jessica. When she gets the call to come back to Italy, he tells her he has business there too, and meets her in Rome. He tells her he has a surprise for her, and boy, does he ever. He introduces her to the wide world of art forgery and theft, involves her in another murder, and brings her to the attention of the Mafia. Being Jessica Fletcher, she is able to handle things even when the going gets rough.

With her mission accomplished, she returns to Chicago to help her friend. The two cases turn out to have something in common, and Jessica is able to use what she learned in Italy to help solve part of the mystery of Jonathan's death.

This is an entertaining, well-written novel for fans of the traditional mystery. It is fun, and informative, to walk with Jessica through the streets and churches of Rome, and the discussion of crime in the art world is interesting.

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