The episode opens with Jessica Fletcher in San Francisco signing autographs for her newest book “Yours Truly, Damian Sinclair”, which appears to be loosely based on Dennis Stanton’s life. Dennis himself comes by to interrupt her book signing and take her out in order to tell her about his latest adventures—in which he was tasked with investigating the theft of a newly discovered (and contested) Mark Twain manuscript ‘The Wild and Wicked Wench’.
Just the facts:
Click on the text below to reveal spoilers.
Click to reveal the victimIt was Constantin Stavros, a man that Dennis asked to authenticate the Twain manuscript! Lawrence Erlich, a gallery owner and former con-man, also later died by falling out the window.
Click to reveal the killerIt was Professor Chandler Fitzpatrick, the Mark Twain expert!
Click to reveal the weaponIt was a gun!
Click to reveal the locationIt was in Constantin Stavros’ study!
Click to reveal the motiveHe wanted to prevent him from finding out that the Twain manuscript was a fake and that he was involved in an insurance fraud scheme!
Cast of characters:
As this is a season 7 bookend episode, we get Dennis Stanton and his usual sidekicks:
- Keith Michell plays Dennis Stanton. This is his fifth of nine total appearances on MSW. He first appeared in “A Little Night Work“.
- Hallie Todd plays Rhoda Markowitz, his secretary. This is Todd’s fourth of seven total appearances on MSW. She initially played a different character (in “Class Act“), but has been playing the character of Rhoda since “Always a Thief“.
- James Sloyan plays Robert Butler, his boss. This is Sloyan’s fourth of seven total appearances on MSW. He initially played different characters (such as in “The Body Politic“). His first appearance as Robert Butler was in “Always a Thief“.
- Ken Swofford plays Lt. Catalano, his frequent police contact. This is Swofford’s seventh of eleven total appearances on the show. He initially played different characters (such as in “Steal Me a Story” and “Truck Stop“. His first appearance as Lt. Catalano was in “Always a Thief“.
The episode revolves around a manuscript, purportedly written by Mark Twain, and its owners:
- Diane Baker plays Anna Louise Barlow, the owner of the Twain manuscript. This is Baker’s second of three total appearances on MSW. She previously appeared in “Simon Says, Color Me Dead“.
- Holly Gagnier plays Lindsey Barlow, Anna Louise Barlow’s daughter.
- David Birney plays Lawrence Erlich, a gallery owner (and former forger and con-man) who has been promoting the manuscript. This is Birney’s second of four total appearances on MSW. He previously appeared in “Prediction: Murder“.
During the course of the episode, several experts are consulted to authenticate the manuscript:
- Roy Dotrice plays Professor Chandler Fitzpatrick, a Mark Twain expert and authenticator for the gallery. This is Dotrice’s first of three total appearances on MSW.
- Russ Marin plays an authenticator hired by the insurance company. This is Marin’s second and final appearance on MSW. He previously appeared in “The Days Dwindle Down“.
- Nehemiah Persoff plays Constantin Stavros, an authenticator and acquaintance of Dennis Stanton.
There is also an additional mystery character in this episode:
This actor plays a character who introduces himself as Detective Ishimini. He is Lt. Catalano’s sidekick and plays a pivotal role in the episode. However, the actor is not credited. After a bit of digging, I’ve been able to identify him as Yuji Okumoto, who later appears on MSW as a different character in Season 11’s “Murder a la Mode”.
Additional cast members include:
- Jan Hoag as a book lover (who was getting Jessica Fletcher’s autograph at the beginning of the episode).
- Stephen Prutting as Sergeant Oliver (who was investigating an arson at the gallery).
- Lewis Dauber as the Duke of Nonesuch. (This a character that is credited at the end of the episode, but as far as I’ve been able to notice there is no such character that appears in the episode.)
- Daniel Namath as a Maitre D’.
- Freddie Dawson as a reporter.
- Delana Michaels as another reporter.
- Susan Ware as a newscaster.
This was an interesting episode as far as the “Bookend” episodes go. While we only get a short glimpse of Jessica Fletcher, we do learn that Dennis Stanton’s life has inspired at least one of her books. And in that respect, I think it helps draw the viewer in and appreciate the Bookend episodes more. Even though we know that Jessica Fletcher won’t have an active role in the story, we can at least imagine that what we are watching either is or might become an inspiration for one of her novels. I also personally appreciate the glimpse it gives into Dennis Stanton’s past life as he still narrates his days to a picture of his dead wife Elisabeth. The similarities between his heartbreak and that of Jessica’s heartbreak over Frank’s death are hard to miss.