Fletch and the Widow Bradley (1980) – Gregory McDonald

Though written after the original Fletch novel, this novel takes place before the events of that story, and finds investigative reporter I.M. Fletcher in sunny California, filing his stories, and romancing (again) a lovely young actress, Moxie.

Fletch has just filed a story for the business section, not his usual beat, but taking an assignment to help a friend. He interviews a vice president for a company, pulls some quotes from some up to date memos and files his report. He promptly gets fired, and turned into a laughing stock.

It seems that some of the quotes he’s cited from the memos couldn’t have been made. Because the person they are accredited to, Mr. Bradley, died a year ago. Fired and angry, but not quite broke, thanks to a passport wallet he found (and attempted to return) that had twenty-five thousand dollars in it, Fletch is determined to find out what is going on at the company.

Suspecting murder, Fletch smells a story that could get him back into the journalism game, and clear his name. Attempting to track down a missing body, and a firm date of demise, Fletch interviews everyone involved, Bradley’s widow, his sister in New York, his children, and travels across the North American continent in search of his answers.

While Moxie preps for a new play, which she thinks Fletch should play the lead in, as he’s currently jobless, Fletch works his way through the clues, trying to find evidence of wrongdoing, even a body. Where the story finally leads is a fun surprise!

In fact without giving any of the twists away, I love how this one plays out, and of course, I love the way McDonald writes his dialogue, Fletch is awful handy with a quip!

Fletch and The Widow Bradley is a delightful mystery, filled with McDonald’s rapid-fire scene setting and dialogue, and Fletch is such a fun character. He may seem a little grey in some of his morals, but he does have a strong ethical code (for the most part) and he knows that in his business, all he really has is his name. Perhaps that’s why he protects it so vehemently.

Moxie is a fun character, and I quite like the way she and Fletch interact, it’s just a joyful banter that puts one in mind of the screwball Howard Hawks comedies of yesteryear. It’s also a quick and fast read, letting you slip into the narrative comfortably, not bogging you down too much with any extraneous exposition. It’s a sleek, laugh-filled mystery that still appeals today.

Honestly, I think the books, the original movie (and its soundtrack) were the cause, at one point, of me wanting to be a reporter…

Next time we check out Fletch’s Moxie!

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