Call for chapters: Edited collection - ‘Something very sinister is going on here’: The cultural value and afterlife of Murder, She Wrote

deadline for submissions: 
December 15, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Dr. Eva Burke and Associate Professor Jennifer Schnabel

Call for critical essays to be included in a collection on Murder, She Wrote, which we are proposing for inclusion in Routledge’s Advances in Popular Culture series.


Running for twelve seasons between 1984 and 1996, award-winning television series Murder, She Wrote has continued to maintain a cultural presence in the years since it initially aired. The show’s focus on the crime-solving adventures of widowed mystery writer Jessica Fletcher, in the tradition of the ‘amateur lady detective’, appealed (and continues to appeal) to a wide audience. At the peak of its popularity, Murder, She Wrote regularly drew millions of viewers - a considerable feat for a series centring on the exploits of a decidedly single middle-aged female character. Since its original run on American TV, the show has been syndicated across the world, and continues to air internationally. 


Fans and critics have offered some theories in regard to the series’ enduring popularity - in many ways, it typifies what is known as ‘cosy crime’; cosy crime narratives are narratives which build on the tropes of Golden Age detective fiction to provide readers and viewers with stories largely devoid of sex and extreme violence. The aim is less to unsettle or disturb than to reassure that, once the process of detection has run its course and the crime ‘solved’, order can and will be restored to the world. In the midst of the covid-19 pandemic, a reported rise in what is known as ‘comfort watching’ took place - in lockdown, viewers were attracted to the familiar and the predictable. At a time when many contemporary crime narratives work to foreground issues surrounding police corruption, sexual violence, and racial injustice, the gentle, formulaic world of Cabot Cove seems to offer a different, more reassuring perspective on the idea of wrongdoing and the potential for individuals to ‘fix’ the world around them. Even when Jessica solves crimes while on a book tour, visits family and friends, or temporarily relocates to New York City, she always returns to the comfort and predictability of her Maine village.      

This edited collection will offer a critical overview of the series and its cultural impact, including perspectives on paratextual elements which have grown around the TV show, including board games, video games, podcasts, fan conventions, collectible figures, and a series of ghostwritten novels ‘authored’ by fictional series star Jessica Fletcher. The collection will also explore the series’ position within the crime genre, particularly as it relates to and engages with earlier iterations of the ‘lady detective’.  



Scholars are invited to submit a short abstract (approx. 400 words) for critical essays to be included in the collection. Contributions may focus on (but are not limited to):


  • Representations of gender within the series

  • Interrogations of ageism via the character of Jessica Fletcher

  • The role of ‘invisible’ women in popular culture and narratives of detection

  • Jessica Fletcher as a ‘lady detective’ in the tradition of Mrs Paschal and Loveday Brooke

  • The fan culture surrounding the show

  • Contemporary successors to Jessica Fletcher

  • The function and role of ‘cosy crime’ fiction

  • Murder, She Wrote contextualized withinAmerican detective television shows

  • The relationship between Jessica Fletcher and law enforcement in Cabot Cove and elsewhere

  • The private and public faces of mystery writer Jessica Fletcher/JB Fletcher