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''Murder, She Wrote'' is a popular, [[LongRunners long-running]] television mystery series created by Peter S. Fischer and the team of LevinsonAndLink, starring Creator/AngelaLansbury as mystery writer and amateur detective Jessica Fletcher, who lives in the fictional Cabot Cove, Maine. The series aired for 12 seasons, from 1984 to 1996.

[[StrictlyFormula Ruthlessly formulaic]], most of its episodes follow a standard format: a murder is discovered, Jessica [[AmateurSleuth starts snooping around]], the police tell her to let professionals handle things, [[PoliceAreUseless she ignores them]], deduces the murderer's identity in a EurekaMoment, and then [[EngineeredPublicConfession engineers a public confession]], frequently by tricking the murderer into a JustBetweenYouAndMe. And then [[EverybodyLaughsEnding everybody laughs]]. Later seasons did mess with the formula a bit, changing the mysteries from [[Creator/AgathaChristie Christie-style]] whodunnits to [[Series/{{Columbo}} Columbo-style]] [[ReverseWhodunnit howcatchums]]. All three of the show's creators were tied to ''Columbo''.

The series was followed by a series of four made-for-TV films, aired from 1997 to 2003, and also led to a short-lived SpinOff, ''The Law and Harry [=McGraw=]''. Angela Lansbury has said she'd like to take one more swing at Jessica Fletcher, but no one else has shown interest. Additionally, rumors began in late 2013 that a possible reboot was in the works, with Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer as a "hospital administrator and amateur sleuth who self-publishes her first mystery novel." After a lukewarm reception from fans and Lansbury herself, the idea was shelved.

An [[EpilepticTrees amusing interpretation]], [[LampshadeHanging lampshaded in the show, no less]], is that there is no better explanation for [[MysteryMagnet the sheer number of murders the lead character encounters]] throughout the long run of the series than [[TheKillerInMe her involvement in all of them]]. Indeed, if Cabot Cove alone were really to have suffered that many murders, it would top the FBI national crime statistics by several orders of magnitude. Not only does it see more homicides in a season than the entire state of Maine sees all year in real life, but the town has an estimated murder rate '''eighty-six times''' that of the most murderous city in the real world, Caracas, Venezuela. Also, if you're Jessica Fletcher's friend in any capacity but not [[PlotArmor an episode regular]], you're pretty much [[DoomMagnet doomed either to kill someone or be killed, or be wrongly arrested for being a killer]].

-> [[LampshadeHanging “What is this, the death capital of Maine!? On a per capita basis this place makes the South Bronx look like Sunnybrook Farm!”]] — [[OnlySaneMan new Sheriff Mort Metzger on Cabot Cove]].

In an interesting cross-media spin-off, Donald Bain wrote several mystery novels inspired by the series, all of which credited Lansbury's character Jessica Fletcher as a co-writer.

Now has a [[Characters/MurderSheWrote character sheet]]. Feel free to contribute.
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!!This series provides examples of:

* TenMinuteRetirement: Sheriff Tupper attempts this in one episode, but reclaims his job after his successor Harry Pierce (played by John Astin) proves to be utterly incompetent. [[spoiler: The fact that Pierce turns out to be the Killer of the Week didn't help.]]
* AllJustADream: [[spoiler: "The Petrified Florist"]]
* AlwaysMurder: Enforced by the show's format, with a few notable exceptions:
** "Just Another Fish Story": Self-defense.
** "To The Last Will I Grapple With Thee": Suicide made to look like murder to implicate someone else.
** "The Christmas Mystery": Attempted murder; the victim survives.
** "Test of Wills": The victim attempted to take a gun off someone who was attempting suicide and was accidentally shot.
** Inverted in one episode where the victim's death is thought to be the result of medical malpractice and her doctor is about to be either sued for this or arrested for manslaughter/negligent homicide. Further investigation, however, determines that she was poisoned, meaning it ''is'' a murder after all.
** "Jessica Behind Bars" subverts this and then plays it straight. [[spoiler: The first victim was a GuiltRiddenAccomplice who actually committed suicide, but the second victim was in fact killed because she was a loose thread that may have led to the reveal behind why the first victim took her life.]]
* AmateurSleuth: Jessica has no formal law enforcement or investigation training, and never acquires any throughout the series; her skills are chiefly based on her career as an English teacher who has a deep understanding of the mystery genre, and applies her understanding of it to RealLife. Once, though, when a witness is unwilling to be questioned with Jessica present, the sheriff says he'll deputize her if necessary.
* AmoralAttorney:
** In "Trials and Tribulations", an AmbulanceChaser attempts to sue Jessica in a wrongful death suit, figuring that her insurance company will settle out-of-court rather than face the hassle of a trial. At the end of the episode, he is disbarred after it is revealed that he bribed a witness to change his testimony.
** The VictimOfTheWeek in "See You in Court, Baby" is a ruthless divorce lawyer who persuades a woman into pursuing a divorce she doesn't actually want.
* AntiVillain:
** One murder victim turns out to have been blackmailing the more prominent men of her small town, but then it's implied she was using the money to anonymously support charities for orphans and widows.
** The killer in the first episode is being blackmailed over a crime for which he was framed originally, and he kills his blackmailer.
* AssholeVictim: The vast majority of the murder victims, with a few exceptions. Rarely is the murderer some brutal and heartless killer; he or she is almost always someone who the victim has wronged in some way, even if the killer themselves turns out to be a jerk. At least one noteworthy exception is an episode about a woman being poisoned to death by her husband, who wants to collect her insurance money and run off with his mistress. At no time is she ever made out to be someone who got what was coming to her, nor is he made out to be sympathetic.
** Played with, then averted: special mention probably goes out to Marge in 'Who Killed JB Fletcher?' The initial scenes portray her as a bumbling burglar and identity thief (and who causes some major grief for poor Jessica). She quickly turns out to be an aspiring AmateurSleuth herself who's taking her Jessica Fletcher fandom a trifle too seriously (and her son's a politician, who doesn't need headlines about his criminal mom!). [[spoiler: She thinks she's getting proof of a major (by small-town Texas) scandal; instead, she accidentally catches a pair of killers in the middle of disposing of the body. Instantly HeKnowsTooMuch.]]
** Actually subverted at least once. The assumption for much of 'Dead Letter' is that Bud, the victim and also a neglectful, if not abusive, husband, was killed in self defense by his wife's lover when he attacked them out of jealousy and then the building he was in set on fire to cover it up. As it turns out [[spoiler: he was really murdered because he witnessed the arsonist burning the building. He, an off-duty volunteer fireman, had broken in to put out the flames and make sure there was no one trapped inside, and in the process stumbled on his killer.]]
* AutopsySnackTime: In "Smooth Operators", a coroner offers Jessica and her FriendOnTheForce a plate of danishes lying on a table in the morgue, then eats a hardboiled egg, which he cracks open with one of the medical instruments.
* BadHabits: In "The Sicilian Encounter", MI6 agent Michael Hagerty poses as a monsignor to infiltrate a Mafia wedding.
* BetterManhandleTheMurderWeapon: In "The Fixer-Upper", Jessica's niece Victoria finds herself alone in a house with a dead body. Hearing someone coming, she picks up a fireplace poker to defend herself. Unfortunately, the poker turns out to be the murder weapon and she is holding it when the police arrive.
* BluffingTheMurderer: Jessica typically finds some way to bluff the murderer into seeking her out, thinking her to be alone and thus defenseless.
* BookSafe: In "The Great Twain Robbery", the VictimOfTheWeek hides the stolen page from a manuscript within the pages of another book.
* TheBoxingEpisode: "Death Takes a Dive" in which Jessica's old friend Harry [=McGraw=] is implicated in the death of a boxing manager, and manages to talk Jessica into taking over the role while she investigates.
* BurnTheWitch: The killing of a woman for witchcraft in the 17th century sets up some of the plot in "Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble," as Seth sees her "ghost." In the present day, there's a WitchHunter priest who of course is the first suspect when one of the witch's descendants, Irene Terhume, ends up dead. [[RedHerring He didn't do it]].
* BusmansHoliday: Jessica takes a lot of vacations, and death always follows her. It's entirely possible they started having her travel because Cabot Cove would have eventually run out of people.
* ByTheBookCop:
** Cabot Cove's first sheriff is Amos Tupper, an honest cop and a close friend of Jessica. He retires after the fourth season.
** Tupper is replaced by Sheriff Mort Metzger, a former NYPD detective who takes the job in the mistaken belief that the town is a peaceful place.
* CacophonyCoverUp: In "Murder: According to Maggie", the killer uses the gunshots on screen during the screening of TV show to drown out the sound of their actual gunshots.
* CaliforniaDoubling: The exterior shots of Cabot Cove were filmed in the town of Mendocino (about halfway between UsefulNotes/SanFrancisco and the Oregon border).
** "Witness for the Defense" is supposedly set in [[UsefulNotes/{{Quebec}} Quebec]], but some interior scenes are shown to have ''green''-lettered exit signs (the norm in California). Virtually all Canadian exit signs in that style are red.
* CatchPhrase: Jessica has one just prior to getting neck deep in the current investigation:
---> '''Jessica:''' [to current investigating officer] I know it's none of my business, but... [Insert recommendation of next investigative move].
** She also has a variation of her OncePerEpisode disagreement when the current officer in charge makes the first accusation:
---> '''Jessica:''' ''*shakes head*'' I'm not so sure, [officer name]...
** Also upon having her EurekaMoment she has a variation of the same basic quote:
---> '''Jessica:''' [EurekaMoment] I believe I know what happened. Excuse me... [cut to catching the culprit and getting a confession]
* CatScare: A cat jumps out of a closet to startle Jessica and her cousin in "Shear Madness".
* CaughtOnTape: The murderer in "The Return of Preston Giles" accidentally records their confession on tape.
* TheCharmer: Michael Hagarty, Jessica's friend in MI6, often invokes this as part of his undercover operations or other crime-fighting activities. Jessica is more often seen to be exasperated by it than anything, since he frequently uses it on ''her'' to hide his true motives for doing something.
* ChekhovsGun: Inevitably, at some point in an episode, the camera focuses just a little longer than necessary on something utterly random and mundane that turns out to be significant regarding the identity of the killer. Occasionally, this happens even before the actual murder does.
* ChromosomeCasting: The second season episode "Jessica Behind Bars" took place in a prison on lockdown, and everybody from the prisoners to the staff to the warden, even the lieutenant governor they speak to on the phone, were all played by women.
* ChuckCunninghamSyndrome: Ethan Cragg (Claude Akins), who appears often enough in the first season to be considered a recurring character, disappears without explanation at the start of season two. His role as Cabot Cove's resident lovable curmudgeon is filled by Dr. Seth Hazlitt for the rest of the series.
* CircusEpisode: The two-parter "Death Stalks the Big Top", where Jessica's search for her missing brother-in-law leads her to a circus that is going under, accidents are happening left and right, and the resident circus bully, Hank Sutter, turns up dead.
* ClearMyName: Naturally, this happens in a lot of episodes, where an innocent man is the prime suspect of the murder (although it's usually not an intentional FrameUp on the real killer's part) making Jessica's task twice as hard.
* ColdCash: In "Always a Thief", a thief hides a BriefcaseFullOfMoney in the deep freeze of the restaurant where the murder occurred. When Dennis Stanton catches him retrieving it, he makes the obligatory 'frozen assets' joke.
* ContrivedCoincidence: One episode revolved around Jessica getting sued when the plot of her latest novel is staggeringly similar to a real life murder case. Jessica is shocked when she reads the reports from the actual case and realizes it ''is'' similar, even though she's never heard of it. In fact, the book is so similar that the guy who is suing her [[spoiler: uses it to discover who actually murdered his wife and subsequently gets killed by the same culprit: his former secretary/second wife.]]
* CreatorBreakdown: Reversed, in-universe. The reason Jessica started writing her mysteries in the first place was to give herself an outlet to work through her grief over her husband's death. In a later episode, Seth expresses concern that she's investing too much of her time in her books and missing out on life.
* {{Crossover}}: With ''Series/MagnumPI''. The crossover episode is a two-parter, with the first part on ''Magnum, P.I.'' and the second part on the subsequent episode of ''Murder, She Wrote.'' Luckily, the appropriate crossover episodes are included on the corresponding season [=DVDs=].
** It should be noted, however, that this series' season three DVD set has the ''syndicated'' version of the ''Magnum'' episode rather than the original network version that continued in "Magnum on Ice".
* CryCute: [[HurtingHero Jessica.]]
* DarkerAndEdgier: "Death Stalks the Big Top". Subject matter dealt with in the episode includes abusive males, savage beatdowns, backstage circus problems and [[WomanScorned pissed off ladies.]]
* DeadManHonking: Happens when a van crashes during an attempted prison breakout at the start of "Trials and Tribulations".
* DeadManWriting: "Truck Stop"
* DeadpanSnarker: A couple, although regularly occurring ones in Cabot Cove are Seth Hazlett and, later in the series, Sheriff Metzger.
* DeathByFallingOver: The VictimOfTheWeek in "Hannigan's Wake" is killed when she is shoved backwards into a glass fronted cabinet during a struggle with her killer.
* DeathInTheClouds: "The Corpse Flew First Class"
* DefrostingIceKing: Harry [=McGraw=] was incredibly cold towards Jessica when they first met. Ever since his first episode, he's more willing to help her whenever she needs it.
* DirtyCop: A few episodes have them as the culprit.
* DisguisedInDrag: In "The Great Twain Robbery", the murderer sneaks up on what would be his next victim, only to discover it is a male police officer disguised in drag.
* DivorceIsTemporary: "See You in Court, Baby" opens with an ex-husband stealing his beloved Ferrari off his ex-wife and deliberately wrecking it. The episode ends with the ex-wife coming to pick him up when he is released from jail with a new Ferrari with a bow on its bonnet.
* DolledUpInstallment: "The Grand Old Lady" was revised from an unproduced ''Series/ElleryQueen'' script, with Ellery replaced by {{expy}} Christy [=McGinn=].
* DoomMagnet: Is Jessica Fletcher visiting your town or home? One of three things is going to happen. You'll either be killed, accused of killing, or be revealed as a killer. Being accused is your best bet, as Jessica will invariably prove you innocent when she reveals the real killer.
** Lampshaded more than once.
* DrivenToSuicide: [[spoiler:Salvatore]] in the episode "A Very Good Year For Murder". [[spoiler: He's terminally ill and, knowing his granddaughter's boyfriend was a hitman, wants the guy to end his pain so he could relinquish his company to his grandchildren. However, when one of his grandsons almost gets killed in a trap meant for ''him'', he goes PapaWolf and [[TamperingWithFoodAndDrink poisons the hitman's wine]]. He later tries a more direct form of this when he poisons himself with the same wine after confessing to the murder.]] Fortunately, he is saved from death offscreen.
* DudeMagnet: Jessica gets a lot of attention from older gentlemen, and in one episode a college-age CakeEater flat-out propositions her.
** This was at least partly because of a direct request by Lansbury. She felt very strongly that Jessica should be a realistic middle-aged woman, rather than a 'dried-up old biddy' stereotype. (But she still never hooked up with anyone! This was possibly due to a mix of ExecutiveMeddling and fan opinions, who never liked any of Jessica's potential love interests... at least, those who made it to the end of their introductory episode without being killed or revealed as the killer.)
* DyingClue: In "The Great Twain Robbery", after being shot the VictimOfTheWeek crawls across the floor to pull a copy of ''Literature/TheScarletLetter'' off the bottom shelf of his bookcase.
* EagleEyeDetection: Jessica's ability to pay attention to minute details is usually what reveals the killer. In one example, Jessica notices that one character has been hiding his hand in his pocket since the murder because [[spoiler: a dog bit him after he committed it]].
* ElectrifiedBathtub: "Sticks and Stones" and "Unauthorized Obituary".
* EngineeredPublicConfession: [[OnceAnEpisode The standard format]] has Jessica BluffingTheMurderer into confessing in the mistaken belief that it is JustBetweenYouAndMe, when she's arranged for a police officer or other responsible person to be in the next room.
* EurekaMoment: OncePerEpisode with some minor detail that ties all the other evidence together, and leads into the confession scene. Seth and Mort [[LampshadeHanging lampshade]] it in later seasons with exasperation as they see her staring off into space, realizing she's figured it all out. Subverted in one episode when she does this... and then announces she's worked out the ending to her latest book.
* EverybodyLaughsEnding: The show rolls the end credits on Jessica's laugh in roughly 99% of the episodes. The few which ''don't'' end with her laughing (such as the pilot) end instead with a freeze shot of her astonished face as she realizes something important or is taken by surprise in some way.
* EvilAllAlong: [[spoiler:Harry Pierce, a real estate agent, is a recurring character for the first half of season two, until his third appearance where he murders a woman to get his hands on her property. Lest you think he's new to villainy, he also burned a building down a year prior.]]
* FairPlayWhodunnit: Had quite a few, given that the killers usually revealed themselves by [[INeverSaidItWasPoison saying something only the killer would know or assume]].
* FakeStatic: At the start of "The Error of Her Ways", a cop gets out of a conversation with the dispatcher by repeatedly thumbing the send button on his radio to make it seem like the signal is breaking up.
* FakingTheDead: In "Test of Wills", the patriarch of a wealthy family fakes his own murder to see how his heirs react to his death. However, his charade ends up resulting in an actual murder.
%% Zero Context Example: * FashionDissonance: Especially in earlier seasons. It ''was'' TheEighties, after all.
* FictionalDocument: Jessica's novels; several of the titles are named in the series, such as her first book, ''The Corpse Danced at Midnight''. Some of the actual crimes are also solved with these providing key evidence.
* FiveManBand: From season five onward, following [[spoiler:Amos's retirement.]]
** TheLeader: Jessica
** TheLancer: Grady
** TheSmartGuy: Seth
** TheBigGuy: Mort
** TheChick: Donna
** SixthRanger: Floyd
* FootprintsOfMuck: In "Shear Madness", Jessica thinks she is alone in a rambling house during a storm. Hearing a noise, she heads upstairs and finds muddy footprints leading into one of the bedrooms.
* FriendOnTheForce: Jessica acquires a large number of friendly detectives as the seasons go on, not to mention her friendships with the Cabot Cove sheriffs.
* FriendsRentControl: On a retired teacher's pension, her husband's life insurance, and her book sales, Jessica is able to afford to not only maintain her Cabot Cove two-bedroom home, but also a Manhattan apartment, and routine trips to exotic ports of call. Some of this is probably covered by her publisher, since she does go on book signing tours and such, but not all of it.
* FrivolousLawsuit: Jessica is subjected to a $50 million wrongful death in "Trials and Tribulations", with the AmoralAttorney expecting her insurance company will settle out-of-court for $1 million. He doesn't figure on Jessica's stubbornness.
* FryingPanOfDoom: The VictimOfTheWeek is killed by a blow to the head with a skillet in "The Sins of Castle Cove".
* FullyAbsorbedFinale: The "bookend episode" ''The Grand Old Lady'' was actually an unfilmed series finale script from a previously-produced and cut short ''Ellery Queen'' series, albeit with the characters [[SerialNumbersFiledOff slightly changed]] to dance around rights issues. Both series were produced by Levinson and Link, and they apparently [[http://legendsrevealed.com/entertainment/2013/05/23/was-the-last-episode-of-ellery-queen-aired-as-an-episode-of-murder-she-wrote-instead/ decided]] not to let a good script go to waste.
* GardeningVarietyWeapon: In "Always a Thief", the first VictimOfTheWeek is stabbed to death with a gardening fork.
* GenderFlip: ElleryQueen as a middle-aged female.
* GenreBlindness: There's no other possible explanation for why people continue to want to be Jessica's friends and neighbors.
* GolfClubbing: The VictimOfTheWeek in "How To Make A killing Without Really Trying" is a stockbroker who gets brained with his own putter.
* HappilyAdopted: Grady, Frank and Jessica's nephew, was orphaned young and raised by his loving childless aunt and uncle. Grady is absolutely devoted to Jessica.
* HeadlessHorseman: Relocated to a prep school, and tied it in with the required murder.
* HeroOfAnotherStory: Several episodes follow someone other than Jessica solving murders their own way, but still keeping in with the show's formula. They range from characters seen in previous episodes to [[AndNowForSomeoneCompletelyDifferent someone totally different who's never been seen before.]] Sometimes they're even the characters from Jessica's books.
* HeWhoMustNotBeSeen[=/=]DeadToBeginWith: Frank Fletcher, Jessica's late husband, who passed away prior to the series. Throughout the series, Jessica interacts with her multiple nieces and nephews, some which belong to Frank's side of the family. At one point, she even reunites with her brother-in-law and other relatives connected to the family. The only thing the viewers have as far as a description on Frank is that he and his brother looked alike and they brought in an actor to provide his voice.
** Frank Fletcher does appear as young man on a newsreel in "The Last Flight of The Dixie Damsel".
* HiddenWire: Jessica does this several times as part of her {{Engineered Public Confession}}s.
* [[IdenticalGrandson Identical Cousin]]: Jessica has a British cousin named Emma, also played by Angela Lansbury. In the episode "Runs in the Family," only Emma is featured, with Jessica not appearing at all, and Emma proves to be a rather good sleuth herself.
** in the telemovie ''The Last Free Man,'' she also had an IdenticalAncestor with similar talents - a Southern Matron in Civil War times with modern views on emancipation for slaves.
* ImpaledWithExtremePrejudice: In "Always a Thief", a gardener is impaled with his own fork.
* ImprobableAntidote: In "Night of the Tarantula", a victim of rat poison is saved because his new wife had earlier served him a herbal tea to help with migraine that just happened to contain the natural antidote to the poison, so his body started fighting the toxin immediately.
* INeverSaidItWasPoison: Frequently used by Jessica and other characters.
* InstrumentOfMurder: "Death to a Jazz Beat" offered an inversion; a jazz clarinetist, who was planning on firing his back-up band before signing a huge recording contract was murdered by a poisoned clarinet reed. In another episode, a ballerina was murdered by touching a poisoned prop.
* InsuranceFraud: The episodes featuring Dennis Stanton usually start as a case of insurance fraud that then escalate to murder.
* IsThisThingStillOn: In "The Return of Preston Giles", the murderer makes a confession to their second victim just before they kill them, not realising that the victim had a tape recorder running on their as they had been recording comments on a manuscript when the killer entered the office. This results in the murderer's confession being CaughtOnTape.
* ItsPersonal: In one episode, Metzger found the man who was responsible for the deaths of his old partner and his wife. For years, he's wanted to put his partner's murderer behind bars and he manages to find him. Unfortunately, since he has a very good reason for "killing" the victim, he's a primary suspect in the murder case.
* ItWorksBetterWithBullets: Dennis Stanton pulls this trick in "Suspicion of Murder". He comes up with a theory of how the murder could have been committed, but it hinges on proving the suspect could have fired a gun. Stanton pulls a BluffingTheMurderer moment by pretending to have more information than he has, and attempts to blackmail him. When the murderer pulls a gun and fires it, Stanton then reveals that he broke in the night before a switched the shells for blanks.
* JustBetweenYouAndMe: Some of the not-so-nice killers always confess to Jessica or someone else in the belief that they are alone, just before trying to kill them.
* KnightTemplarParent: A couple of murderers kill their victims because their victim had something to do with their child's death.
* LawOfInverseFertility: Jessica and her husband Frank were childless; in a first-season episode, when speaking to a new acquaintance [[spoiler:(who later turns out to be the murder victim)]], she explains that they "were never blessed that way," suggesting that they wanted children but couldn't have them for whatever reason.
** There is one episode which has Jessica helping a young man whose mother [[spoiler:claims that Frank was the father of her son. In the end she confesses that she lied in order to get Jessica's help.]]
* LeaningOnTheFourthWall: in the seventh season finale, "The Skinny According to Nick Culhane," the final line is by Jerry Orbach as Harry [=McGraw=], who says, "That's all she wrote." Cue Harry, Sheriff Metzger, and Jessica all looking directly into the camera and smiling/smirking for the final shot. In the seventh season box set extra 'The Price of Success', this was explained as a deliberate choice. Lansbury's contract was up, and she was seriously considering not renewing it, because of the grueling schedule (also the reason for the PoorlyDisguisedPilot; it was the only way of giving her a break). At the time of shooting, there was a good chance this would be the series finale as well, so the writers wanted something a little special. Luckily for the network, in the end Lansbury loved Jessica too much to quit.
* LighterAndSofter: "If It's Thursday, It Must be Beverly." Despite the slightly dark ending, [[YourCheatingHeart it's just a hilarious tale of a granny chaser sleeping with a different woman every day!]]
-->'''Amos''': [[DisappointedInYou Even The Lord]] [[YourCheatingHeart rested on the]] [[{{Facepalm}} seventh day.]]
* LightsOffSomebodyDies: Seemingly happens in "Test of Wills". When the lights go out during a storm, everyone scatters and then a shot rings out. When the return to the den, they find the patriarch of the family sprawled on his desk, seemingly having been shot through the head. However, this turns out to be a case of FakingTheDead.
* LittleOldLadyInvestigates: If Agatha Christie's Literature/MissMarple is the most famous example of this trope, Jessica Fletcher is arguably the second most famous, as well as the most famous TV variation.
* TheLivingDead: "Deadly Lady" invokes it when the girls are identifying the body. It's ''extremely'' obvious that [[spoiler:Ralph's]] actor's eyes are twitching - he's forcing them closed as a corpse. There's even some subtle breathing!
* LotsaPeopleTryToDunIt: In "The Error of her Ways", the first VictimOfTheWeek was shot by his wife who then fainted. The murderer - having witnessed the shooting - came in to steal a BriefcaseFullOfMoney. Realising the husband was still alive, the killer smothered him with a VorpalPillow. When the wife awoke, she discovered her husband dead and - assuming she had killed him - attempted to cover up the crime by making it look like a robbery gone wrong. The real murderer later killed the wife to make it look like she had committed suicide out of guilt.
* LoveMakesYouCrazy: Many of the murders are done for loved ones, but there are a few where the affections made the culprit quite loopy.
* MagazineDecay: InUniverse example: a publishing magnate buys up a literary magazine called ''Literary Lines'' and adds ''Maxim''-esque pictorials of bikini-clad ladies. This doesn't sit well with Jessica, who is under contract to have her first short story published in the magazine.
* MakeItLookLikeAnAccident: A good chunk of the murders are played out like this. They either make it look like a tragic accident or suicide even.
* MindYourStep: A squeaky board on the stairs (that the killer does not know about) provides a vital clue in "Shear Madness".
* MockMillionaire: In "Test of Wills", the VictimOfTheWeek is a ConMan pretending to be a member of a wealthy Boston family in order to marry a wealthy heiress. He is killed just after his real identity is exposed.
* MurderByMistake: The BodyOfTheWeek in "A Body to Die For" turns out to be a case of this. Once Jessica realises that the killer fired through an open window into a darkened room, she realises that they were firing at someone they expected to be there; not knowing that their appointment had been cancelled.
* MurderByRemoteControlVehicle: In "Hit, Run and Homicide," the murderer uses a remote controlled station wagon to run over a pedestrian. While bicycling about a wooded area, Jessica discovers the murder weapon and decides to take a closer look at the station wagon's inner workings. Once inside, however, she becomes trapped when someone in a van operates the remote control device to lock her inside, to activate the automobile's engine, and to steer her away at a dangerous speed, en route to an overhang above the rocky seacoast.
* MyOwnPrivateIDo: In "The Sicilian Encounter", Michael Hagerty performs a private wedding ceremony for a couple so they can escape the attentions of an overly protective Mafia family. Of course, [[BadHabits Hagerty is only posing as a priest...]]
* MysteryMagnet: People drop dead around Jessica everywhere she goes. Everywhere. It's creepy.
** It's been calculated that Cabot Cove has a murder rate of 86 per 1000; by comparison, the most murderous city in the world, Caracas, has a murder rate of 1.1 per 1000. That's not counting the murders that happen outside Cabot Cove...
** Lampshaded in one episode when another character tells Jessica, "If murder were a disease, you'd be contagious."
** Lampshaded again by Sheriff Metzger, a former New York cop who, after a year as the sheriff of Cabot Cove, asks Jessica, "Just what the hell's wrong with this town?"
* MysteryWriterDetective: Jessica Fletcher, of course.
* {{Nephewism}}: Jessica had no children, but many nieces and nephews. Grady Fletcher was the main repeater among them. As noted above, it's explained in a few episodes that Grady was orphaned as a little boy and was [[HappilyAdopted raised by Jessica and Frank]]; as their surrogate son, he had good reason to be a repeater.
** Jessica's other repeating relatives were a niece and nephew-in-law, played by Genie Francis and Jeff Conaway, who had a continuing thread about him wanting to be in the entertainment business.
* NewNeighboursAsThePlotDemands: Complete with one of the new characters dying in the episode they are introduced. Seems like Cabot Cove is the murder capital of the east coast.
** They poked at the edges of the trope; there were a number of recurring Cabot Covers beyond Jess, Doc Hazlitt and the sheriff, and even two episodes where one of these recurring characters was the murderer, which the GenreSavvy know isn't supposed to happen.
* ObfuscatingDisability: In "When Thieves Fall Out," one of the suspects is in a wheelchair following a car accident. It turns out he is faking paralysis to scam an insurance payout. Jessica becomes suspicious when she a footprint of a man's shoe in his size outside his home, and tricks him into revealing himself.
* ObfuscatingStupidity: Jessica doesn't hesitate to play up her "little old lady" image to get information out of people. In a few instances she even [[PlayingDrunk plays a drunken floozy]] with surprising skill, which may be justified since Jessica has a history of theater in her background.
* OccamsRazor: One case has a nasty version of this [[spoiler: until you realize that the woman who made this 'mistake' is that episode's perp and is shifting blame away from herself. Before TheReveal it's just jarring.]] Basically, Jessica returns home to have her phone ringing but it disconnects before she can answer it. Soon after, she's subpoenaed to appear in front of a federal court over the disappearance of a person she doesn't know. Does the persecutor just accept that Jessica doesn't know who it is and that it's a mis-dialed number [[spoiler: as Jessica finds out while snooping around the victim's office?]] No, she charges Jessica with contempt of court and has her thrown in jail for a night. [[spoiler: Even if she was just trying to frame someone else, if the persecutor had just gone along and admitted that it was a mis-dialed phone number rather than haul Jessica to the witness stand, she would've gotten away with it.]]
* OfficeGolf: The VictimOfTheWeek in "How To Make A Killing Without Really Trying" was a golf-obsessed stockbroker who was practicing his putting in his apartment when his infuriated attacker grabbed his putter [[GolfClubbing and smashed him over the head with it]].
* {{Oireland}}: "The Celtic Riddle," "Nan's Ghost," "A Killing in Cork," "Another Killing in Cork," and "To the Last Will I Grapple With Thee" (set in New York but involving an Irish blood feud)...
* OtherMeAnnoysMe: Referenced in an episode where fictionalized characters closely resemble real people but with negative characterization. Anger ensues.
* PacManFever: Surprisingly averted for a show focused on murders and generally populated by adults who are focused on anything but video games (save one episode where the murder occurred at a virtual reality game developer). In one early episode, Jessica's friend Ethan is playing a ''SpyHunter'' arcade game. When footage of the game is shown it is perfectly accurate, complete with the player's hands making movements and the vehicle on screen matching them.
* ParasolOfPain: GentlemanThief Dennis Stanton has an umbrella that's a SwordCane, and can launch darts out of the tip. Since he prefers to avoid bloodshed, he generally has other uses for it: It also "makes an excellent club", has lockpicks built into the handle, and he frequently used the hook to trip people up.
* ThePasswordIsAlwaysSwordfish: In "How To Make A Killing Without Really Trying", the password of a murdered stockbroker was his licence plate number. His rival, who hacked his account, points out it didn't take a genius to figure it out.
* PlatonicLifePartners: Jessica and Seth have this dynamic. They obviously care about each other, but there's little to no indication of anything romantic between them.
* PlayingDrunk: Jessica, in a few episodes, as noted above.
* PoliceAreUseless: Often, but not always. Generally, if a police officer/federal agent/other law official is willing to listen to Jessica, they're portrayed as sensible and helpful. The useless ones are those who tell her to stay out of their way.
* PoorlyDisguisedPilot: In everything but intent. When Angela Lansbury started to tire of the pace of a weekly network show, a strategy was devised that would allow the network to do a full season without Lansbury having to do a full season. Slightly more than half of the episodes of the season would be full adventures of Jessica Fletcher. The remainder would be Poorly Disguised Pilots, for which Lansbury, as Fletcher, would film bookend sequences, explaining the new character we'd be seeing for the next hour. Sometimes these were Jessica's own fictional characters, but other times they were friends or relations of Jessica's, such as Dennis Stanton. They weren't really intended to spin-off any of the characters - although if any were exceptionally successful, why not?
* PrettyInMink: Some furs show up.
* PunkInTheTrunk: The solution to "The Final Flight of the ''Dixie Damsel''" involves someone having been hidden in the trunk of a Cadillac being shipped back to the States in the ''Dixie Damsel''.
* PutOnABus: Sheriff Amos Tupper retired when Tom Bosley left to star in ''Series/FatherDowlingMysteries''.
* RedemptionEqualsDeath [[spoiler:And Making Up With Jessica]]: [[spoiler:Preston Giles.]]
* RedHerring: Usually OncePerEpisode there will be someone who seems all too obviously the killer. They hated the victim, they are likely angry individuals, they have a shady record, they certainly have means and motive, they made some kind of threat to the victim, and/or they're likely the first one implicated by evidence (which incidentally is almost a guarantee for Jessica to prove their innocence, or have them end up murdered by the true culprit).
** Played with once with [[spoiler:Kate Mulgrew in her third appearance. The killer actually speaks during the murders and sounds like a disguised version of Kate's distinct breathy voice. Kate played the killer in two previous episodes, so it seemed likely that she'd be it again.]]
* ReasonableAuthorityFigure: Most of the sheriffs/chiefs tend to be this. While they can be gruff and impatient with Jessica, they do want to do their job and catch the killer.
* RevealingInjury: In "The Return of Preston Giles", Jessica realises the VictimOfTheWeek is the same man who attacked her in her hotel room because of the scratch marks she left on his hand when he grabbed her.
* RightBehindMe
* {{Retool}}: The eighth season began with Jessica moving to New York City to take up a temporary teaching position at a college. Creator/JMichaelStraczynski had taken over as head writer for the series alongside a new producer so the decision was made to move away from Cabot Cove as a way to refresh the series. Episodes set in Cabot Cove were still produced, but not to the same extent as the first seven seasons.
* ScarecrowSolution: In "Night of the Tarantula", Jessica fakes a murder victim rising as a zombie in order to spook to killer into revealing that he knew the location of a secret passage: something only the killer could have known.
* ScoundrelCode: Dennis Stanton was a GentlemanThief who, after going straight, became a recurring character. During his burgling years, he maintained his own strict code of conduct: never steal anything his victims couldn't afford to lose, never steal anything of sentimental value to the victim, and only steal items insured by a specific insurance company. The last one is for personal revenge, as the company in question refused to pay for a treatment that could have saved his wife's life.
* ScriptSwap: Done in one episode with an aging actor whose memory is so bad he has to rely on the teleprompter. While this looks like an EngineeredPublicConfession, it is actually a ploy on Jessica's part to trick the real killer into exposing themselves.
* SextraCredit: The VictimOfTheWeek in "Alma Murder" is a graduate student who specialises in this. One suspect describes her as "giving tramps a bad name".
* ShearMenace: "Shear Madness" revolves around two murders committed with pruning shears.
* SherlockHolmes: In the pilot, a man dressed as the Great Detective is the murder victim.
* ShoutOut:
** In "Tough Guys Don't Die", the victim is a P.I. named [[Film/TheMalteseFalcon Archie Miles]].
** "Prediction: Murder" has a housekeeper character named [[MurderOnTheOrientExpress Greta Olsson]].
* SouthernFriedPrivate: Sgt. Ray Dressler in "The Final Flight of the ''Dixie Damsel''" - a racist, redneck CigarChomper from Texas who does not appreciate being investigated by an African-American officer (played by Clifton Webb, who specialised in this type of role).
* SpannerInTheWorks: {{Defied|Trope}} in "Murder Through The Looking Glass." Jessica hears the dying words of a professional hitman, which leads her to accidentally butt in on a DSS witness protection operation. Realizing she's not going to let things go, the government lets her in on what's going on specifically to prevent her becoming this.
* StrictlyFormula: Mostly played straight, though it should be noted that this was [[SubvertedTrope subverted]] from time to time. Earlier seasons, strangely enough, played with the formula more than later ones.
* SuicideNotMurder: In [[spoiler:"Trials and Tribulations"]], the VictimOfTheWeek actually committed suicide, but his wife covered it up and attempted to make it look like murder.
* SummationGathering: Seen in a number of episodes where there are multiple suspects; Jessica gathers them all in one room to present her evidence and try to force a confession.
* SwissArmyWeapon: [[HeroOfAnotherStory Dennis Stanton]]'s umbrella. It has, among other things, a dart launcher in the tip, and the handle seems to have both a blade attachment and a lock pick. That's not including Stanton's own expertise with it as a weapon on its own.
* SympatheticMurderer:
** Frequently killing the AssholeVictim. Sometimes it's self-defense or accidental. A few notable examples:
*** In "Murder Takes The Bus," [[spoiler:the victim is a convicted bank robber freshly released from prison. During the robbery he had killed a teenage girl, and when her father confronts him he insults her, driving the father to strangle him to death. Jessica admits she feels bad for the killer, but suggests that he could make a good case for temporary insanity.]]
*** In "A Very Good Year For Murder," [[spoiler:the victim was a professional hitman. Jessica's friend had actually invited the hitman to his house as part of an admittedly foolish ThanatosGambit, but then the hitman's sloppy attempt at murder badly injures the man's son instead, prompting the old man to off the hitman himself, confess everything to Jessica, and then attempt suicide. Especially notable in that Jessica herself said that she was going to refuse to testify about his confession, as she saw no need for him to go to jail.]]
** Occasionally subverted, also, when the murderer loses the audience's sympathy by trying to frame someone else or trying to kill Jessica. A notable example happens in the very first episode, [[spoiler:when the killer murders his blackmailer. Jessica admits she might have felt sympathy for him except that he then kills a second, completely innocent person, just to throw her off his trail]].
* TamperingWithFoodAndDrink: In "A Very Good Year For Murder," the victim, a mob hitman, dies when [[spoiler:Salvatore Gambini]] poisoned his wine.
* TakeThat:
** One of the show's final episodes, "Murder Among Friends," features a murder taking place among the cast and crew of a show, titled ''Buds,'' about six young people trying to make it in the big city. Sound familiar? The show got slotted against ''Series/{{Friends}}'' as part of a plan to kill it off.
** The final episode, "Death by Demographics", similarly knocks on the reason for the show being death-slotted: its lack of appeal to the 18-39 demographic. The episode itself is about a radio station manager who fires every employee over a certain age and changes the station's classical music format to more contemporary hard rock.
* [[TellHimImNotSpeakingToHim Tell Wayne I'm not speaking to him]]: A very tragic, cruel example in "Thicker than Water": Mort, in an unusual example of DisproportionateRetribution, does not acknowledge his brother [[ReformedButRejected Wayne]] ([[MyGreatestFailure a recently paroled, repentant ex-con]] whose only wish is to reform and [[WellDoneSonGuy prove himself]] [[JerkassHasAPoint to Mort and earn forgiveness]]) in any way whatsoever, [[IHaveNoSon pretends he isn't there]], and when he finally has to listen, it's with very forced politeness and professionalism. He's basically being a very cruel jackass. Wayne's weight comes in gold plated diamonds [[HeroicSacrifice when he stops the BigBad of the week]] from killing everyone, taking a bullet to the chest in the process. Thankfully, everyone gets better and the siblings reconcile after [[EarnYourHappyEnding Mort says the most cathartic and satisfying apology viewers have ever heard in the show's history.]]
* ThanatosGambit: Attempted in "A Very Good Year For Murder." A friend of Jessica's wanted to pass on his vineyard to his kids, but none of them cared much about it at all. After learning that a crime syndicate who wanted his land had put out a hit on him, he deliberately invited their contract killer to his house, hoping that if he was murdered it would inspire his kids to work together and protect the vineyard. [[spoiler:The plan didn't go exactly right, and the old man ended up not even dying, but the mere attempt ended up accomplishing his goal anyway.]]
* ThisBearWasFramed: Combined with ScoobyDooHoax in "Night of the Tarantula" where the murderer strangles the victim of the week and tries to make it look like the work of boa constrictor , which was sent to him as part of a voodoo curse.
* TrainingMontage: One occurs in "Death Takes a Dive" as Jessica works to get prize fighter 'Blaster' Boyle back into shape for his fight.
* TransAtlanticEquivalent: More than a few people have mentioned that Jessica Fletcher could be considered an American Miss Marple. This is especially hilarious because Angela Lansbury has played both. In fact, the opening of "The Murder of Sherlock Holmes" is practically a direct lift from the opening of ''The Mirror Crack'd'', the film in which Lansbury played Miss Marple.
* TurnInYourBadge: Sheriff Metzger is ordered to do this by the mayor when he is accused of murder in "Moving Violation".
* UnfortunateImplications: {{Invoked}} by the high rate at which murders happen around Jessica.
* UngratefulBastard: The two part season finale ''Mirror Mirror on the Wall'' focused on Eudora [=McVeigh=], a rival mystery author who tried to be friends with Jessica so she could steal from her latest manuscript, and the murder investigation that springs up around her, her husband, and her stepson. Jessica clears Eudora's name, but she continues to act coldly towards her before leaving Cabot Cove. [[spoiler: Just before the end credits, Eudora shows up at Jessica's doorstep and makes a heartfelt apology over everything that happened and how she treated Jessica. After everything that happened, Eudora has finally decided to divorce her second husband, take a break from her writing, and spend some time with her sister and her children.]]
* VillainousBreakdown: Some of the murderers suffer from this. [[spoiler:Preston]] in "Death Stalks the Big Top" is possibly the most notable example.
* VitriolicBestBuds: Seth Hazlitt and Mort Metzger seem to drive each other absolutely crazy; nevertheless, they've always got each other's backs.
* VorpalPillow: Used to kill the VictimOfTheWeek in "The Error of her Ways" (who had already been shot).
* WhatTheHellHero: All of the NiceGuy characters got moments like this. In particular, Seth inexplicably takes an instant dislike to a new doctor at the hospital for seemingly no other reason than that the guy is much younger than him, frequently and unfairly accusing him of not caring about his patients and holding him responsible for the death of one of ''his'' former patients, who appears to have died due to an error the young doctor made. Jessica, who suspects foul play, gently but firmly tells Seth that he's behaving wrongly, and that if the woman was in fact murdered, the other doctor certainly doesn't deserve to have his career and reputation ruined over someone else's misdeed.
* WhoMurderedTheAsshole: Naturally, as with many MurderMystery stories, the victims in various episodes are quite often universally despised and shown abusing multiple characters before their death, to provide more possibilities for who might have done the deed.
* WhoWouldWantToWatchUs: In one episode, after solving a mystery that occurred at a mystery series production studio, the producer trails after Jessica and suggests making a weekly mystery series written by her, about her exploits. [[BitingTheHandHumor Jessica says it's the worst idea she's ever heard.]]
* WoundedGazelleGambit: In "Moving Violation", a suspect is punched in the face by his father while he is in jail, and then accuses Sheriff Metzger of police brutality.
* WrongGenreSavvy: Sheriff Metzger. He's a perfectly competent lawman from New York who follows the general procedure that the most likely suspect is the one who did it (a process that in real life often holds true). Unfortunately, he's in a murder mystery series where it's always the least likely suspect that committed the crime.
* {{Yandere}}: A few murderers either murder the object of their obsession or people they assume are in the way to their "love".
* YouJustToldMe: Another way Jessica would identify the killer is the fact that they would accidentally let slip some minor detail only the killer would know. For instance, in the second episode, "Deadly Lady," four sisters are accused of murdering their father. [[spoiler: One sister's shoes are found at the scene. After she's cleared, suspicion turns to the others, one of whom says it couldn't be her because the two wore different sizes and she didn't wear pink. Jessica never mentioned that the shoes were pink. The sister actually lampshades where she slips.]]
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