Monday, April 08, 2024

Virtual Book Tour & Giveaway: Murder, She Wrote: Murder Backstage (Murder, She Wrote, #58) by Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Farley Moran


Murder, She Wrote: Murder Backstage
Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Farley Moran

Cozy Mystery
58th in Series
Setting - Edmonton in Alberta, Canada
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: April 2, 2024
Paperback: 272 pages
ISBN-10: 0593640756 / ISBN-13: 978-0593640753
Digital ASIN: B0CHDKVL78




The newest entry in the USA Today bestselling Murder, She Wrote series.

Jessica Fletcher’s British cousin, Emma MacGill, will be traveling to Edmonton in Alberta, Canada, to perform with internationally famous star of stage, screen, and television Derek Braverman in an old-fashioned musical review. Emma would love for Jessica to join her there and suggests she bring along some friends. Having just finished her latest book, Jessica is ready for a vacation and is delighted to agree. Dr. Seth Hazlitt and Sheriff Mort Metzger are huge fans of Braverman, so they are eager to tag along, and their fanboy behavior gives Jessica and Mort’s wife, Maureen, more than occasional cause to roll their eyes.

Upon arrival in Edmonton, Jessica is quickly outed as mystery writer J. B. Fletcher, and despite numerous protests, a hotel staffer arranges a book signing for her. This and touristy adventures arranged for the group make for a much busier trip than Jessica was expecting. When a hotel bartender, who also happens to be a stagehand for Emma’s play, turns up dead backstage at the theater, Jessica’s fun and relaxing vacation quickly becomes anything but.



Chapter One

I was in the midst of writing a pivotal scene in my latest book, When Margot Was Murdered, so I simply ignored my ringing telephone. The book's protagonist, Luisa, Margot's best friend, over the course of the last two paragraphs had her "aha" moment and realized who the killer must be. She was about to devise a plan to trap the murderer when the phone's jangle brought me back to the dining room of my home in Cabot Cove, Maine, far from the book's location of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

I was able to ignore the ringing until the answering machine kicked in and I heard an unmistakable British accent with just a hint of London cockney calling my name. I dashed to the telephone and picked up the receiver before my favorite cousin, Emma Macgill, could complete her message and hang up.

"Hello, Emma. I'm here," I said.

"Jessica, is that you? I was about to ring off. I haven't called too early in the morning or too late in the evening, have I? You know I never can keep the time difference between our two countries straight." The words tumbled out fast and furious, a true reflection of Emma's animated personality. When we were children, at every family gathering Emma was always the one who led the rest of us in raucous games of Sheriff of Nottingham, Capture the Flag, and a few others that she invented on the spot.

"Emma, it's been such a long while, and your timing is perfect; it's nearly seven in the evening here, so I am guessing that it's close to midnight in London. You are in London?" Knowing that Emma's career as an actress had her traveling all over the globe, I could never be sure.

"Oh yes, dearie, I am. I was asked to fill in for Glory Adams when she, well . . . I am not sure how to make the truth sound believable, but I will give it a go. Everyone knows we actors wish one another good luck by saying 'Break a leg.' Well, Glory had the misfortune to break hers right on the stage of the Apollo Victoria Theatre in the middle of act two of that lovely new musical by Carlton Craig." Emma's slight giggle let me know that there was some better news to follow.

"I can tell you I was proper chuffed when Carlton himself called and asked me to take on the role. With less than a week's rehearsal, I took over from the understudy, who I thought was doing rather a nice job but the producers didn't agree, so here I am." Emma sounded as proud as she rightfully should. Carlton Craig was the most highly acclaimed composer and lyricist in London's West End, which, in turn, was the most celebrated theater district in all of Europe.

"That sounds like quite an honor, and I am certain you are a smashing success," I said.

Emma surprised me with her reply. "The audiences seem to think so. Their response has been extraordinarily kind at every performance. The past eight weeks have been grand, but . . . let's just say I wasn't entirely comfortable playing a role that wasn't actually mine, so it was somewhat of a relief when Glory called Carlton to tell him that her surgeon and her physical therapist have both pronounced her fit to return to the stage. She will take back the role next week." Emma sounded quite relieved.

"How nice that she has healed so quickly," I said. "Is it possible that you will have some free time on your hands? If so, I hope you are thinking of coming to Cabot Cove for a bit of rest and recuperation. We haven't seen each other in ages, and I am very close to finishing my latest book. We would have plenty of time to catch up. And I can assure you that Seth Hazlitt and my other friends would be delighted to see you again."

"Close enough. I am flying across the Atlantic, and I have high hopes we can organize a get-together even though I won't be landing anywhere near Cabot Cove, worst luck. Wait until you hear my latest news. You'd have to have been living under a rock for decades and decades if you've never heard of Derek Braverman," Emma said, but there was still a touch of uncertainty in her voice.

"Heard of him? Emma, of course I have. Who on earth hasn't? Derek Braverman has been a major entertainer for at least forty years. He acts, he sings, he dances, and he has won numerous awards for his work in theater, movies, and television. Not to mention he's achieved great notoriety for his off-camera escapades. And he appeared to enjoy every moment of those antics." I truly hoped that Emma hadn't gotten involved in any escapades, so I stopped there, curious to hear whatever news she had that involved Derek Braverman.

"Well, Derek has just celebrated his eightieth birthday and has decided to retire, but before he does, he wants to star in a good old-fashioned revue, because it was in musical revues that he got his start in the industry. You'll remember the type of stage show I mean-lots of singing and dancing, with skits aplenty, not to mention a magician and a comic or two. I believe in bygone America, shows similar to our revues were called vaudeville. He's arranged for two months of performances at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in his hometown of Edmonton, which is the capital of Canada's province of Alberta. I can tell you that I was absolutely gobsmacked when he invited me to costar."

"Emma, that is marvelous. If he wants his final show to be memorable, he certainly made a wise choice in selecting you." Knowing her as I did, I was sure my cousin would add the pizzazz that the aging lothario would need in order to wow the audience with a lively show.

"Jessica, it is all turning up roses. With Glory coming back to take her rightful place here in London, I will have time to take a few days' holiday in sunny Spain, and when I get home, Alan Hughes, who has long been Derek's favorite director, will be sending scripts around for us to preview and make a suggestion or two. Alan is pushing to have rehearsals start in a jiffy." Emma paused for a breath.

"Oh, Emma, this all sounds very exciting. Do you think you will have time to stop by Cabot Cove so we could have a short visit on your way to or from Canada?" I asked.

"I have a much better plan, Jessica. Since Maine is so close to Canada, why don't you come to Edmonton toward the end of rehearsals and stay through opening night? Bring a friend or two if you like. I've been told a local hotel has a block of rooms for the cast and our guests. The Hugheses are far too miserly to pay for your rooms, but I promise you will get the best rate possible."

"The Hugheses? You mentioned Alan, the director, and . . . ?"

"And his wife, Rosalie, who, as the major investor in the show, wears the title of producer like a crown. What do you say, Jessica? Do you want to slip over the border to Edmonton, and we can have a proper visit with a bit of fun thrown in?"

"It does sound delightful, but from here on Maine's Atlantic coast, 'slipping over the border' is likely to be a three-hundred-mile car ride to Quebec. Edmonton is so far west that traveling there would add a couple of thousand miles to the trip, which would have to be by airplane." I sounded hesitant even to my own ears.

"Jessica, once I am in Edmonton, I'll be closer to you than I am right now, and we'll be on the same continent. It would be a shame not to take advantage. And I will be there for a good while, so if the days I suggest don't work for you, we can choose some others." Emma's enthusiasm was fast becoming contagious. "Besides, you did say you are nearly done writing your latest mystery."

Well, she had me there. "When did you say you would be arriving in Edmonton?"

She mentioned a date and said, "If you could come about two weeks later, I would make sure to have some free time, and you could enjoy the glamour of attending Derek Braverman's final opening night. And I wouldn't mind if you asked your doctor friend, Seth Hazlitt, to join us. I haven't seen him in ever so long. In fact, invite whoever you like. 'The more the merrier' has always been my motto."

I laughed. "Emma, you make this get-together sound utterly doable. Give me a day or so to check with my editor and my publicist to make sure my schedule is clear. And I will definitely talk to Seth."

"As soon as I ring off this call, I will email you all the details. Do try. It's been ages and ages since we had a good laugh about old times."

"You mean like the time you crept into Uncle Gerard's bedroom and put a frog under his pillow?" I laughed at the memory of our fastidious uncle standing in the upstairs hallway, bellowing, "Whichever child put this slimy toad in my room will be made to cook it and eat it. Come stand here, all of you, until the guilty one confesses."

"Poor old Gerard. Always such an easy target. Now, you go finish whatever it is you are working on so that we can have our chats in person ever so soon," Emma said, and disconnected the call.

I was so looking forward to the possibility of a vacation that would involve spending time with dear Emma and seeing her on the stage once again that the following morning the first thing I did was email my agent and the appropriate personnel at my publisher’s to verify that my professional schedule would be clear for a nice leisurely trip to western Canada.

It was a lovely crisp morning, which seemed to promise a cloudless day ahead, so I took my bicycle out of the shed and pedaled over to the wharf, where I planned to meet Seth for breakfast at Mara's Luncheonette. I couldn't wait to tell him that we'd received an invitation to visit with my cousin Emma and see Edmonton, a place I'd never visited although I'd long heard it was a vibrant, entertaining city.

I slid my bicycle into the nearly full bike rack. At this hour, I knew that meant Mara's would be crowded with locals enjoying coffee and conversation. Sure enough, when I opened the door, the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee and the crackle of sizzling bacon was nearly overshadowed by lively conversations bouncing off all four corners of the dining room.

Mara, who was at the register making change for a couple of fishermen, gave me a brief wave and pointed toward the middle of the room, where I saw my friends were chatting away while feasting on Mara's award-winning blueberry pancakes. Cabot Cove's favorite doctor and my longtime friend, Seth Hazlitt, was sharing a table with two of my other good friends, our town sheriff, Mort Metzger, and Dan Andrews, the editor of the Cabot Cove Gazette. There was an empty chair waiting for me.


4 stars!

A family reunion turns sour when there’s a murder backstage.
Murder, She Wrote: Murder Backstage is the 58th book in the popular Murder, She Wrote cozy mystery series based on the long-running television series of the same name. When Jessica and her Cabot Cove friends, Dr. Seth Hazlitt, Sheriff Mort Metzger, and his wife, Maureen, travel to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, to meet up with Jessica’s cousin, actress Emma Macgill, they are anticipating a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet the men’s childhood film idol, Derek Braverman, whom Emma is preparing to co-star with in his final musical revue before retiring. However, instead of a warm family reunion and a special visit with the star, they have a close encounter with death when a member of the company is found murdered backstage.
As on the television show, Jessica can’t escape murder, even while on vacation and with family and friends. She, Emma, and her Cabot Cove friends are pulled into the investigation, especially when they witness suspicious behavior by some of the theatre folk. Jessica, in her usual manner, is blunt and persistent in her pursuit of answers and uncovers secrets in places the police never thought to look, while Seth and Mort realize that it’s often best never to meet your idols. I was stumped on the who and why until the final reveal, but there were plenty of red herrings to keep me guessing one possible suspect and another.
I recommend MURDER, SHE WROTE: MURDER BACKSTAGE to cozy mystery readers, especially fans of the book and television series.


Along with Jessica Fletcher, Terrie Farley Moran co-writes the Murder She Wrote mystery series including Murder, She Wrote: Murder Backstage. She is the author of the Read ‘Em and Eat cozy mystery series and also co-writes the Scrapbooking Mysteries with Laura Childs. Recipient of both the Agatha and the Derringer Awards, Moran has published numerous mystery short stories. The only thing Terrie enjoys more than wrangling mystery plots into submission is hanging out with any or all of her seven grandchildren.


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Terrie Farley Moran said...

thanks for a great review and you are so right about Jessica's personality traits--her middle name should be "Persistent" instead of Beatrice!

Rita Wray said...

I liked the excerpt, thank you.

Grandma Cootie said...

Can't wait to read this one. I love Jessica!