Murder, She Wrote: By the Time You Read This I’ll Be Gone by Stephanie Kuehn

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If you’re like me and frequently go looking for Murder, She Wrote related news, then you may have already heard that the first book in a new series of Young Adult novels inspired by the TV show was published back in October (October 4th 2022 to be precise). The series, written by Stephanie Kuehn, follows the modern-day adventures of Bea Fletcher, Jessica Fletcher’s grand-niece, who continues in her great-aunt’s footsteps by solving mysteries in Cabot Cove.

I finally got to read the book over Christmas after managing to get my hands on a copy of the book from my local library, and so I thought I would write some of my thoughts about the book here for any other Murder, She Wrote fans that were wondering about it.

I struggled a bit with how to write this post, and eventually settled on simply compiling my comments and point-form notes. My comments basically fall into three major categories: (1) general thoughts about the book; (2) a comparison of Bea and Jessica Fletcher; and (3) continuity with the TV show; so this is how they are presented below.

General thoughts about the book

The first thing to note about the book is that it is not like what fans of the TV show or the adult spin-off novels might be used to. It is written in a true Young Adult style, meaning that it deals with many themes of interest to teenagers — such as growing up, friendships, and mental health. And while we do get to meet Jessica Fletcher a couple of times later on in the book, her role is that of a minimal advisor and the story is 100% about Bea.

With that said, I did enjoy the book for what it was. And it did provide an interesting mystery in the form of a missing person as well as a cold case from 1985. I also enjoyed the mood created by the descriptions of the setting — the book is set in October, leading up to Halloween, and reading it in December made me wish I had read it two months earlier instead.

Comparison of Bea and Jessica Fletcher

Bea Fletcher is meant to be the daughter of Frankie Fletcher — Grady and Donna’s son. (As fans of the show know, Grady is Jessica Fletcher’s nephew by marriage.)

I did find it particularly interesting that the author made sure to incorporate a few similarities between Bea and her great-aunt Jessica. For one, because Bea is only 15, she doesn’t have her driver’s license, and so she rides around town on her bicycle just like Jessica did. Additionally, she’s an aspiring writer — she’s a true crime junkie that writes anonymously for the TrueMaine blog.

Continuity with the TV show

As always, I get a bit obsessed about keeping track of the Murder, She Wrote/Cabot Cove universe, so I have a few comments in this particular section of my post:

First, I wanted to see how the timeline of this book compares to the timeline of the TV show. We know from the show that Frankie Fletcher was likely born some time in 1990 (we see a very pregnant Donna in season 6’s “The Szechuan Dragon“, which aired in 1990). Given that the book is meant to take place in modern day, and given that Bea is said to be 15 years old, that means Bea was likely born some time in 2007. This means that Frankie would have had to have been 17 at the time that Bea was born — which doesn’t really fit the timeline (but then again, that’s a common continuity issue in many series).

Second, I found it interesting that the book touches on how Cabot Cove changed with the times (as is expected). However, there were a few specific locations mentioned in the book that made me wonder if there was an equivalent location that was depicted on the TV show.

For one, the book focuses quite a bit on the Seacrest HOA, which is meant to be a fancy historical enclave in Cabot Cove. The book mentions that the HOA was formed in 1985, and since then has been exerting its power over the town. However, this isn’t something that was ever mentioned on the show.

The other location that features prominently in the book is Broadmoor, a private boarding school on the outskirts of town. This made me think of the private school featured in Season 11’s “School for Murder” — but that school was called St. Crispin’s Academy.

There are also other characters and facts mentioned in the book that got me wondering about how they fit into what I know of the TV series. The one thing that did fit in quite nicely was the mention of the mysterious death of Chrissy Lambert back in May 1985. While this particular mystery was never mentioned on the show, its events would have happened just after the end of Season 1. This timeline fits with other facts mentioned in the book — that Sheriff Tupper was on the case (which fits given that Amos Tupper was mayor from Season 1 through Season 4), and that Chrissy’s father was mayor of Cabot Cove at the time (which is also plausible given that Mayor Sam Booth didn’t make his first appearance until Season 3).

If you’re interested in reading the book, it is available in paperback and on the Kindle on Amazon. Since it is published by Scholastic, I’m sure you can also find it in many of your local bookshops.

A sequel titled “Carry My Secret to Your Grave” has also been announced and is expected to be released in October 2023.

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