Murder She Wrote: A Date with Murder: Jon Land
In a world where everyone wants to feel loved and needed there are times when we risk what we have in order to seek pleasure in the wrong places. Hal Wirth was hosting his annual Labor Day party when things take on a sour turn. Hal’s wife Barbara/aka/Babs finds her husband flat on the floor and dead. The ME thinks it’s a heart attack but Jessica’s perceives it as MURDER! With Seth Hazlitt present and the Sheriff in attendance an ambulance is called and the final fate is revealed. Babs appears upset and Jessica offers to help her handle the arrangements and anything else needed. But, something about his death bothers Jessica as she goes to Mara’s the local diner, meets with the Sheriff and some other locals and is approached by a man claiming to be the lawyer for Hal’s affairs. Threats are made to stop her from looking into anything and the next thing you know this man is dead. Just who was he? A note was written that Jessica only had a glimpse of stating that someone was giving Hal a chance to pay off what he owes this person and a big debt but when the person’s identity is revealed and the note is read in its entirety we learn that this man was Hal’s former partner and not the real lawyer who does show up and is the bearer of some surprising news.
Things spiral out of control when Jessica learns more about Hal and Bab’s marital problems and his financial situation. Did he really invest unwisely? Who was behind it all? Jessica keeps looking into the online dating service, his former partner’s death and then using the library’s resources uncovers something that will create a pattern of deaths in many different states. With Chad using his hacking skills and his ability to create fake profiles on the net, hack into government websites and financial information, Chad helps Jessica follow the trail that makes her the next target of a dangerous killer. With the Sheriff concerned about her safety, Jessica run over by a car and chased down she had better find a way to catch this person before Murder She Wrote will be a story about her next.
Using the video provided by the realtor they see a shadow of a male shape wearing a black and white uniform labeled Cabot Cove Catering. This person appears to have been part of the staff at the Labor Day party and the camera twists to another direction but is settled in the area of the French doors but what she sees makes her call the sheriff’s station and brings him in on what she thinks she found.
Eugene Labine was his former business partner and nothing important was found in his hotel room but the purpose of his visit was related to confront Hal with his financial malfeasance. Labine might have brought proof in the form of documents to uphold his viewpoint but there were no documents to be found in his room.
Hal registered on a dating service site, his profile made to disappear after one date. Then that date occurs, he opens several lines of credit for ten million collars or more that remained unaccounted for. He hides the transactions and money from his wife and ex-business partner and is murdered at his own party. His partner arrives in town and gets a bullet to the head instead of the syringe jabbed into him like Hal. The money was owed but to whom? What had he gotten into that warranted his death and what did it had to do with LOVE IS YOURS? Going to the library the next day Jessica needed to find out who Porcelain man was in the video. Chad had printed out the times and dates and places that this person was in and now it was up to her to create his trail. In the search box she entered: Recent Financial Scandal or Issues, Divorced or Widowed, Dating Service? Stricken in a public place? She found four possibilities in Denver and she read the obits listings but the real estate entrepreneur checked the most boxes and she Googled him to find out more: Headline: Real Estate Scion Accused of Fraud. WHO?
Houston Chronicle next and found on it’s obit pages a name jumped out at her because that person had boxes checked and was a recently divorced lawyer that had a heart attack at a basketball game. Headline about his person: Lawyer arrested on client charges he bilked them out of millions. Far from done Jessica found more in Miami but this profile was a single woman who the obit said died suddenly and unexpectedly but from what? Printing out what she found she was going to head over to talk to Mort. She need that Eugene accused Hal of misappropriation of funds and then she hoped to share it would him but then something happens that alerts her to the fact that she is not alone in the library when the lights go out and the library is dark. The Deputy arrives, Doris Ann the library was taken to the hospital and Mort knew she was holding back information. Finding their way to the dating service, learning the real name of who Booker was and then finding herself the object of a police interview with Booker who refused to talk to anyone but her. Someone spooked him and shut him down and made the agency disappear as author Jon Land takes Jessica Fletcher to a whole new level as not only a sleuth but part of an active police investigation allowed to question suspects. Deals this man hoped she would make. Telling her that the site worked on algorithms. Micro-bits of random data assembled in a cyber profile. The software we learn extrapolates out the best fit or match for two people whose algorithms come closest to match.
The software app tracks the members. It knows your every step and where you go what you watch on television, ate for lunch and your whole life is now an open slate to these people. Two people are put together and pay a monthly fee. Cyber trail: Jessica knew that her role was to follow that trail and see who was at the end.
With the help of Chad much to Bab’s displeasure they learned that all four victims suffered financial disaster of various degrees before their demise. They were all rich entrepreneurs and they managed their own money. Her job with Chad was to create a potential victim, namely Jessica. With Alyssa stating she wanted to help and that her father’s death needed to be avenged wait until you see how creative, intricate and ingenious this profile and solution would be as Jessica and Chad take on this person but not before she enlists the help of Harry McGraw. Here is where it get interesting as she actually goes on several dates, meets some men and the end result Eileen Vogel is born. Each date arrives, she talks about her life as Eileen but will anyone of them realize who she is and would they have read her books?
The characters are unique to Cabot Cove but the technology that the author brings, the differences in the way Jessica handles the investigation and the fact that she has an I Phone and not a flip phone plus a computer using the internet allows readers to meet a different Jessica Fletcher in some respects but still going to poke her nose into the police business that will never change. Harry is supposed to protect her as she explains the situation and what Chad had created. It works like you won’t believe and this book is a warning to anyone that wants to sign with an online agency for any reason as we learned that her account numbers, passwords, personal information and everything is out there. The rest is classified until you read pages 260-263 and learn how dangerous your cell phone can be as two phones can pull signals from the same cell tower and the author explains how smartphones are like minicomputers full of date, e-mails and other personal information and how easy it is for anyone to obtain it or steal it without you knowing it.
What happens when Mort, Jessica, Alyssa and Babs are face to face and he claims that they were going to get Hal’s money back? Can he keep this promise? What information does Jessica get on a slip of tissue paper that she holds back until someone relates what the message means and things get dangerous. Finding herself confined to a police car, the Sheriff angry at what she has done and the end result you know that Jessica won’t stop or listen to anyone until she does what she does best and faces off with the killer, puts the pieces together but will she be able to do that before the killer gets to her first? Online dating can be dangerous if you do not check out the agency and read the reviews/complaints and are not careful about what financial information you bring. Perhaps using a Visa gift card for payment might help and not a monthly card on file as author Jon Land once again delivers a novel filled with mystery, suspense, murder, computer technology to a higher level, and one Jessica Fletcher who knows that this time A Date with Murder is the MURDER SHE WROTE! Can’t wait to see what is next!
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine