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On Sale: March 10, 2010
Pages: 192 | ISBN: 978-0-307-51811-8
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Confess, Fletch

The flight from Rome had been pleasant enough, even if the business he was on wasn’t exactly. His Italian fianc?e’s father had been kidnapped and presumably murdered, and Fletch is on the trail of a stolen art collection that is her only patrimony. But when he arrives in his apartment to find a dead body, things start to get complicated.

Confess, Fletch

Inspector Flynn found him a little glib for someone who seemed to be the only likely suspect in a pretty clear case of homicide. He wasn’t exactly uncooperative, but it wasn’t like he was entirely forthcoming either. And Flynn wasn’t entirely convinced that the nineteenth-century Western artist Edgar Arthur Tharp really occupied most of Fletch’s thoughts.

Confess, Fletch

With the police on his tail and a few other things to do beside prove his own innocence, Fletch makes himself at home in Boston, renting a van, painting it black, and breaking into a private art gallery. That is when he’s not “entertaining” his future mother-in-law
and visiting with the good Inspector Flynn and his family.

Excerpt

I

FLETCH snapped on the light and looked into the den.

Except for the long windows and the area over the desk, the walls were lined with books. There were two red leather wing chairs in the room, a small divan, and a coffee table.

On the little desk was a black telephone.

Fletch dialled "0". "Get me the police, please."

"Is this an emergency?"

"Not at the moment."

The painting over the desk was a Ford Madox Brown--a country couple wrapped against the wind.

"Then please dial '555-7523'."

"Thank you."

He did so.

"Sergeant McAuliffe speaking."

"Sergeant, this is Mister Fletcher, 152 Beacon Street, apartment 6B."

"Yes, sir."

"There's a murdered girl in my living room."

"A what girl?"

"Murdered."

Naked, her breasts and hips full, her stomach lean, she lay on her back between the coffee table and the divan. Her head was on the hardwood floor in the space between the carpet and the fireplace. Her face, whiter than the areas kept from the sun by her bikini, eyes staring, looked as if she were about to complain of some minor discomfort, such as, "Move your arm, will you?" or "Your watchband is scratching me".

"Murdered," Fletch repeated.

There was a raw spot behind the girl's left ear. It had had time to neither swell nor bleed. There was just a gully with slim blood streaks running along it. Her hair streamed away from it as if to escape.

"This is the Police Business phone."

"Isn't murder police business?"

"You're supposed to call Emergency with a murder."

"I think the emergency is over."

"I mean, I don't even have a tape recorder on this phone."

"So talk to your boss. Make a recommendation."

"Is this some kinda joke?"

"No. It isn't."

"No one's ever called Police Business phone to report a murder. Who is this?"

"Look, would you take a message? 152 Beacon Street, apartment 6B, murder, the name is Fletcher. Would you write that down?"

"156 Beacon Street?"

"152 Beacon Street, 6B." Through the den door, Fletch's eyes passed over his empty suitcases standing in the hall. "Apartment is in the name of Connors."

"Your name is Fletcher?"

"With an 'F'. Let Homicide know, will you? They'll be interested."

II

FLETCH looked at his watch. It was twenty-one minutes to ten.

Instinctively he timed the swiftness of the police.

He returned to the living room and mixed himself a Scotch and water at the sideboard. He would not bother with ice. He concentrated on opening the Scotch bottle, making more of a job of it than was necessary. He did not look in the direction of the girl.

She was beautiful, she was dead, and he had seen enough of her.

Sloshing the drink in his glass as he walked, he went back into the den and turned on all the lights.

He stood at the desk, looking closely at the Brown. The cottage behind the country couple was just slightly tilted in its landscape, as if it, too, were being affected by the wind. Fletch had seen similiar Browns, but never even a reproduction of this painting.

The phone made him jump. Some of his drink splashed on to the desk blotter.

He placed his glass on the blotter, and his handkerchief over the stains before answering.

"Mister Fletcher?"

"Yes."

"Ah, good, you did arrive. Welcome to Boston."

"Thank you. Who is this?"

"Ronald Horan. Horan Gallery. I tried to get you earlier."

"I went out to dinner."

"Your letter mentioned you'd be staying in Bart Connor's apartment. We did some restoration work for him a year or two ago."

"It's very good of you to call, Mister Horan."

"Well, I'm very excited by this Picasso you mentioned in your letter. You said it's called 'Vino, Viola, Mademoiselle'?"

"It's been called that. God knows how Picasso thought of it."

"Of course, I'm puzzled why you came all the way from Rome to Boston to engage me as your broker. . . ."

"There's some evidence the painting is in this part of the world. Possibly even in Boston."

"I see. Still, I expect we could have handled it by correspondence."

"As I wrote in my letter, there may be one or two other matters I'd like to consult you about."

"Yes, of course. Anything to be of service. Perhaps I should start by warning you that this painting might not exist."

"It exists."

"I've looked it up, and there is no record of it anywhere that I can find."

"I have a photograph of it."

"Very possibly it does exist. There are a great many Picassos in existence which have never been recorded. On the other hand, the body of Picasso's work very often has been victim to fakes. I'm sure you know his work has been counterfeited more than the work of anyone else in history."

"I do know, yes."

"Well, I wouldn't be giving you professional service if I didn't bring these matters up to you. If such a painting exists, and it's authentic, I'll do everything I can to find it for you and arrange for the purchase."

Rotating blue lights from the roofs of police cars storeys below began to flash against the long, light window curtains. There had been no sound of sirens.

"Are you free to come by tomorrow morning, Mister Fletcher?"

Fletch said, "I'm not sure."

"I was thinking of ten-thirty."

"Ten-thirty will be fine. If I'm free at all."

"Good. You have my address."

"Yes."

"Let's see, you're on Beacon Street across from the Gardens, right?"

"I think so."

Fletch pushed the curtains aside. There were three police cars in the street. Across the street was an iron railing. The darkness beyond had to be a park.

"Then what you do is this: leave your apartment and turn right, that is, east, and go to the end of the Gardens. Then turn left on Arlington Street, that is, away from the river. Newbury Street will be the third block on your right. The gallery is about two and a half blocks down the street."

"Thank you. I've got it."

"I'll send someone down to open the door to you at ten-thirty precisely. We're not a walk-in gallery, you know."

"I wouldn't think so. I'm sorry, Mister Horan, I think there's someone at my door."

"Quite all right. I look forward to seeing you in the morning."

Fletch hung up.

The door buzzer sounded.

It was seven minutes to ten.

III

"MY NAME's Flynn. Inspector Flynn."

The man in the well-cut, three-piece, brown tweed suit filled the den doorway. His chest and shoulders were enormous, his brown hair full and curly. Between these two masses of overblown brown was a face so small it had the cherubic quality of an eight-year-old boy, or a dwarf. Even with the hair, his head was small in proportion to his body, like a tiny, innocent-looking knob in control of a huge, powerful machine. Nothing indoors had the precise colour of his green eyes. It was the bright, sparkling green of sunlight on a wet spring meadow.

Below the break of his right trouser leg were a half-dozen dots of blood.

"Pardon my pants. I'm fresh from an axe murder."

For such a huge chest cavity, for anyone, for that matter, his voice was incredibly soft and gentle.

Fletch said, "You're an Irish cop."

"I am that."

"I'm sorry." Fletch stood up. "I meant nothing derogatory by that."

Flynn said, "Neither did I."

There was no proffer to shake hands.

As Flynn vacated the doorway, a younger and shorter man came in, carrying a notepad and ballpoint pen. He had the grizzled head of someone fried on a Marine Corps drill ground a score of times, like a drill sergeant. The rubbery skin around his eyes and mouth suggested his eagerness to shove his face in yours, tighten his skin, and shout encouraging obscenities up your nose. In repose, the slack skin gave him the appearance of a petulant basset. His suit and shirt were cheap, ill-fitting, but spotless, and his shoes, even this late on a drizzly day, gleamed.

"This is Grover," said Flynn. "The department doesn't trust me to do my own parking."

He settled himself in a red leather chair.

Fletch sat down.

It was twenty-six minutes past ten.

He remained waiting in the den. A young, uniformed policeman waited with him, standing at parade rest, carefully keeping his eyes averted from Fletch. Beyond the den, other police, plainclothesmen, moved around the apartment. Fletch wondered if any reporters had sneaked in with them. Fletch heard the murmur of their voices, but caught nothing of what they said. Occasionally, a streak of light from a camera flashbulb crossed the hall, from either the left, where the bedrooms were, or the right, where the living room was.

An ambulance crew entered, rolling a folded stretcher across the hall, towards the living room.

"Close the door, will you, Grover? Then make yourself comfortable at the wee desk there. We don't want to miss a word of what this boyo in the exquisite English tailoring has to say."

The uniformed policeman went through the door as Grover closed it.

"Has anyone read you your rights?" Flynn asked.

"The first fuzz through the door."

"Fuzz, is it?"

Fletch said, "Fuzz."

"In more human language," Flynn continued, "I ask you if you don't think you'd be wiser to have your lawyer present while we question you.

"I don't think so."

Flynn said, "What did you hit her with?"

Fletch could not prevent mild surprise, mild humour appearing in his face. He said nothing.

"All right, then." Flynn settled more comfortably in his chair. "Your name is Fletcher?"

"Peter Fletcher," Fletcher said.

"And who is Connors?"

"He owns this apartment. I'm borrowing it from him. He's in Italy."

Flynn leaned forward in his chair. "Do I take it you're not going to confess immediately to this crime?"

He used his voice like an instrument--a very soft, woodland instrument.

"I'm not going to confess to this crime at all."

"And why not?"

"Because I didn't do it."

"The man says he didn't do it, Grover. Have you written that down?"

"Sitting here," Fletch said, "I've been rehearsing what I might tell you."

"I'm sure you have." Elbows on chair arms, massive shoulders hunched, Flynn folded his hands in his lap. "All right, Mister Fletcher. Supposing you recite to us your opening prevarication."

The green eyes clamped on Fletch's face as if to absorb with full credulity every word.

"I arrived from Rome this afternoon. Came here to the apartment. Changed my clothes, went out to dinner. Came back and found the body."

"This is a dandy, Grover. Let me see if I've got it in all its pristine wonder. Mister Fletcher, you say you fly into a strange city, go to an apartment you're borrowing, and first night there you find a gorgeous naked girl you've never seen before in your life murdered on the living room rug. Is that your story, in short form?"

"Yes."

"Well, now. If that doesn't beat the belly of a fish. I trust you're got every word, Grover, however few of them there were."

Fletch said, "I thought it might help us all get to bed earlier."

"'Get to bed', he says. Now, Grover, here's a man who's had a full day. Would you mind terribly if I led the conversation for a while now?"

"Go ahead," Fletch said.

Looking at his watch, Flynn said, "It's been a near regular custom I've had with my wife since we were married sixteen years ago to get me home by two o'clock feeding. So we have that much time." He glanced at the glass of Scotch and water Grover had moved to the edge of the desk blotter. "First I must ask you how much you've had to drink tonight."

"I've had whatever's gone from that glass, Inspector. An ounce of whisky? Less?" Fletch asked, "You really have inspectors in Boston, uh?"

"There is one: me."

"Good grief."

"I'd say that's a most precise definition. I'm greatly taken with it, myself, and I'm sure Grover is--an Inspector of Boston Police as being 'good grief'. The man has his humour, Grover. However, we were speaking of the man's drinking. How much did you have to drink at dinner?"

"A split. A half bottle of wine."

"He'll even define 'split' for us, Grover. A remarkably definitive man. You had nothing to drink before dinner?"

"Nothing. I was eating alone."

"And you're going to tell me you had nothing to drink on the airplane all the way across the Mediterranean Sea and then the full girth of the Atlantic Ocean, water, water everywhere. . . ."

"I had coffee after we took off. A soft drink with lunch, or whatever it was they served. Coffee afterwards."

"Were you travelling first class?"

"Yes."

"The drinks are free in first class, I've heard."

"I had nothing to drink on the airplane, or before boarding the airplane. I had nothing to drink at the airport, nothing here, wine at the restaurant, and this half glass while I've been waiting for you."

"Grover, would you make a note that in my opinion Mister Fletcher is entirely sober?"

"Would you like a drink, Inspector?" Fletch asked.

"Ach, no. I never touch the dirty stuff. The once I had it, the night after being a student in Dublin, it gave me a terrible headache. I woke up the next morning dead. The thing is, this crime of passion would be much easier to understand if you had a bottle or two of the old juice within you."

"You may find that is so," Fletch said. "When you find the murderer."

"Are you a married man yourself, Mister Fletcher?"

"I'm engaged."

"To be married?"

"I expect to be married. Yes."

"And what is the name of this young lady whose luck, at the moment, is very much in question?"

"Andy."

"Now why didn't I guess that myself? Write down 'Andrew', Grover."

"Angela. Angela de Grassi. She's in Italy."

"She's in Italy, too. Grover. Everyone's in Italy except he who has just come from there. Make a social note. She didn't come with you due to her prejudice against the Boston weather?"

"There are some family problems she has to straighten out."

"And what would the nature of such problems be?"

"I attended her father's funeral yesterday, Inspector."

"Ach. Dicey time to leave your true love's side."

"She should be coming over in a few days."

"I see. And what is it you do for a living?"

"I write on art."

"You're an art critic?"

"I don't like the words 'art critic'. I write on the arts."

"You must make a fortune at it, Mister Fletcher. First class air tickets, this lavish, opulent apartment, the clothes you're wearing. . . ."

"I have some money of my own."

"I see. Having money of your own opens up a great many careers which otherwise might be considered marginal. By the way, what is that painting over the desk? You can't see it from where you are."

"It's a Ford Madox Brown."

"It's entirely my style of work."

"Nineteenth-century English."

"Well, that's one thing I'm not, is nineteenth-century English. And who with a touch of humanity in him would be? When did you notice it yourself? The painting, I mean?"

"While I was calling the police."

"You mean to say, while you were calling the police to report a murder, you were looking at a painting?"

"I guess so."
Gregory Mcdonald|Author Q&A

About Gregory Mcdonald

Gregory Mcdonald - Confess, Fletch

Photo © Michael J. Balzano (illustration)

Gregory Mcdonald was born on February 15, 1937, in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. He attended Harvard University, having been accepted at the age of sixteen, but insists his real education came through the international yacht troubleshooting business he created and ran to support himself at Harvard. Described by critics as the inventor of the sunlight mystery, Mcdonald has published twenty-six books – fifteen of which are mysteries. Mcdonald’s first book, Running Scared (1964) was hugely controversial when it first came out, because of its argument for rational suicide and its critique of the Ivy League and its complementary institutions for their role in creating a cold, dehumanized, and self-destructive society. The reaction so shocked Mcdonald that it took him ten years to publish his next book. Seven of those ten years, from 1966 to 1973, were spent working at the Boston Globe as a columnist, critic, and contributor to the paper’s Sunday magazine. While at the Globe, Mcdonald became the first member of the major media to write against the Vietnam War. Mcdonald was also among the first American journalists to write in support of civil rights, women’s rights, and gay rights. For these efforts, he has received humanitarian and people’s rights awards. In 1974, Mcdonald introduced the character I. M. Fletcher, who would become an iconic figure in American popular culture, in his book Fletch. This work won the 1975 Edgar Allan Poe award from the Mystery Writers of America. In 1976, Mcdonald published its sequel, Confess, Fletch, which won the Edgar in 1977, marking the only time the award has gone to a novel and its sequel. Mcdonald’s books are comprised mostly of dialogue. A self-described post-cinematic writer, he believes that readers have been exposed to so many images through movies that long, descriptive passages are unnecessary to set scenes. This is only one of many aspects of Mcdonald’s writing that make his books unique and groundbreaking.

With his signature character Fletch, Gregory Mcdonald created one of the best-known figures in crime fiction. Sexy, smart (some might say too smart for his own good), witty, and resourceful, Fletch finds himself in and out of predicaments that your average guy would avoid like the plague. The nine Fletch novels, originally published between 1974 and 1986, have been one of the most successful mystery series of all time, selling 100 million copies worldwide. They were also the basis of two successful films starring Chevy Chase. In addition to the Fletch series, Gregory Mcdonald is the author of numerous other mystery novels, including two Son of Fletch novels and three featuring Inspector F. X. Flynn. He died in 2008.

Author Q&A

Q: Where did the idea for Fletch come from?

A: I was a journalist for the Boston Globe for seven years. I’d be sitting around in the City Room at three o’clock in the morning and we’d tell these crazy stories about this reporter who always, of course, worked for some other newspaper, who would do crazy things. One example was that he would call the city desk and tell them about a murder, identify the murderer, and then ask the city desk not to send photographers out to the house until the widow got home and discovered the body. Over the years this idea grew that there was a witty character here that might be fun for people to read, and the idea of Fletch just grew in my head for a long time before I ever put pen to paper. And when it won the Edgar Allan Poe award, I got letters, lots and lots of letters from people asking for more Fletch.

Q: Did you have any idea of another Fletch book, when you wrote the first one?

A: Absolutely not. If I had, I wouldn’t have left the son-of-a-gun in Rio de Janeiro with three million bucks in his jeans. I had a terrible puzzle as to how to continue the story, with this major thing that happened to Fletch. I couldn’t afford to go to Rio, with a wife and two kids and all that. So I spent the summer discussing this matter with my dog, and I finally—I think in September—I came to the realization that made it all possible. If Fletch didn’t care about money when he didn’t have any, then he shouldn’t care about money when he does have some. And it shouldn’t have changed his personality much, and it didn’t, in fact.

I’d set that book in Boston, because that was where I happened to be at the time and the only place I could afford to go, as it was only a one-toll road.

Some authors write the same book over and over and over again, and I was determined I wasn’t going to do that. I figured if I bored the reader that would be a big sin. So I was even more pleased when the second book, Confess, Fletch also won the Edgar. It was the first, and the last, situation in which a book and its sequel had each won the Edgar.

Q: How do you write?

A: When I get an idea I try to forget it. If it keeps coming back, fuller and fuller over two or three years, and I get to the point of being so focused on it that I can’t tie my shoes, then I start working on it. I figure anything I forget in this process is not worth remembering. I write three days, wear myself out, do something else the next day, then spend another three days writing. The seven-day week has never worked out for me.

Q: What did you think about the Fletch film starring Chevy Chase?

A: The film “Fletch” was made ten years after the first novel appeared and the Fletch novels were international bestsellers. Chevy Chase and director Michael Ritchie and all hands made a classic film out of it.

Q: And now Kevin Smith is slated as writer/director of the next Fletch movie. Have you been personally in touch with him? Will you work with him?

A: Yes. Kevin made an extremely courteous call to me. I enjoyed it. He sounded energetic, informed. I assured him that I am, of course, interested in his creative input in making a Fletch movie, but that I shall never impose upon him. If he has questions as to why I did this or that, or simply wants a touchstone I shall be available to him.

Q: What question do you get asked again and again?

A: These books have been enormously important to people, and I am always asked, “What do they mean?” When you write a book, you only know what you’re intending to do, you don’t know what you’ve done until two or three years later, when people have told you what you’ve done, what it means to them. I’ve had a lot of these kinds of experiences with the Fletch books, amazing experiences. I’ve heard how much these books have meant in the old USSR, as it was collapsing. For example, the great nine million person circulation Pravda, during its last days, was continuing to publish Fletch when they didn’t have the ink to publish the news, and they were publishing Fletch in the daily newspaper with blank pages for the rest of the paper. You know, of the awards that I have won, the one that has meant the most to me came in 1991, when the Moscow Review of Literature elected me “Best Foreign Author, Not Dead.”

Anyway, what does Fletch say? I understand what he says is, “A victim do not be.” Don’t be a victim. If you have a situation or a problem, work your way around it with wit, grace, intelligence, and maybe have some fun with it.

Q: Over the course of the last five years you have gradually forced all of the Fletch books out of print. Why did you want this to happen?

A: Because I had never planned on such a big thing happening in my life, or to have these books be successful here and everywhere, I began, purposely, with the help of my manager, driving them out of print. Which didn’t make me very popular. They were still selling well and doing well. People still wanted them, but they were here or there and everywhere, and no publisher wanted to buy them all together. And I can’t tell you, now that I went through these years of purposely getting the rights back, how happy I am to have them at Vintage, where they are being treated as a collective whole, an entity.

Q: Why has it taken so long for the fourth Flynn book to come out?

A: Everywhere I have gone for the last how many years, always the second or third question is, “When is a new Flynn book coming?” And there hasn’t been one. The reason there wasn’t a fourth Flynn book for so long was because the third Flynn book, Flynn’s In, was declared an instant classic before it was even published, and frankly that sort of intimidated me. And I thought I should maybe stand pat and leave that the way it was. It took me some years, actually, to get over the intimidation and to hear again from people how much they loved Flynn and Jennifer Flynn—the world is crazy about Jenny Flynn and her relationship with her father and of course her twin brothers. Finally I did come to work out, happily and joyously, a new Flynn book which has never been published, but will be published for the first time with Vintage next spring . . .

Q: When you were a kid professionally skippering sailing ships off the coasts of the United States, Europe, Latin America, ever, in your wildest dreams, did you expect to become an internationally famous author?

A: I expected to write. I never felt I had a choice. To me, writing is not a job, occupation, profession. It’s a response to life. My response to life. “Internationally famous?” No. No way. I was determined not to play the insider’s game, you know, New York, Los Angeles, nothing in between but United Airlines. I love to work, hate celebrity.

Q: You wrote for the Boston Globe for seven years. In those seven years you were nominated for the Pulitzer five times.

A: All that says is I didn’t win the Pulitzer five times.

Q: In 1985 Warner Books published a collection of your journalism. You were the first in the major media to write openly against the War in Vietnam. You also wrote on behalf of women’s rights, gay rights, and of course black American and Hispanic rights. You were beat up in the parking lot of the Boston Globe for your stand against the war. How did that make you feel?

A: I never wrote for or against anything. My daddy was a journalist and I am a journalist. However much I would like to have the comfort, I do not belong to a political party, church congregation, shul, or mosque. Such would give people a false prism through which to view and judge my works. The Boston Globe hired me to get the story from the streets, and I did. The people on the streets were against the war, in favor of women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights. They were angry at the press for not getting it. I just wrote down what the street people said and the Boston Globe published it.

Q: What is your purpose in writing?

A: To respond to people’s needs. Maybe to get people to stop hitting each other over the heads. To entertain. Sometimes to make you laugh.

Q: You now live on an antebellum farm in Southern Middle Tennessee?

A: Yes, a real farm with cattle and horses. Each has four legs sticking out. Each morning, we count the legs, divide by four to see how many we’ve got.

Q: Do you work this farm yourself?

A: Well, less than I used to. I still have enough kid in me that I like to go out and get hot, sweaty, muddy once in a while, you know, accomplish something real, physical, visible by the end of the day. Sometimes, you know, it’s as much as thirty years before I know if something I’ve written means anything.

Q: Sailor, Harvard grad, critic, author, farmer. How do you put all this together?

A: What’s the line? I’m not afraid of death, I’m afraid of not having lived.

Praise

Praise

“Has all the zest, humor and spare lean prose of its forerunner: it has a beautifully complex plot which leaves you squirming at the final sentence and a set of slippery characters who never turn out to be just exactly what they seem. Confess, Fletch is as stimulent slipped into your nightcap that will have you up to dawn no matter what you think you have to do tomorrow.” --Joe Gores
Reader's Guide|About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions|Suggestions

About the Book

"Has all the zest, humor and spare lean prose of its forerunner . . . a stimulant slipped into your nightcap that will have you up to dawn no matter what you think you have to do tomorrow." —Joe Gores

The introduction, questions for discussion, author biography, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your reading of the second novel in Gregory Mcdonald's acclaimed Fletch series, Confess, Fletch. We hope they will provide you with new ways of thinking and talking about this novel both as an innovation in the mystery genre and as an example of great fiction in its own right.

About the Guide

With Confess, Fletch, the second novel to appear in the Fletch series, Gregory Mcdonald puts his relentlessly inquisitive hero smack-dab in the middle of a multimillion-dollar art heist and the murder of a beautiful young woman. Just a few hours after Fletch arrives in Boston from Italy, where he has been living with his fiancZ?e Angela de Grassi, he discovers a naked woman lying dead on his floor. Fletch informs the police, who immediately assume him to be the chief suspect. He is the only one known to have been in the apartment--for which he has temporarily swapped his villa in Italy--and his fingerprints are on the whiskey bottle used as a murder weapon. Fletch has come to Boston to track down the stolen art collection of his would-be father-in-law, Count Clementi Arbogastes de Grassi, himself the apparent victim of a kidnapping in Italy. But now he must not only find the works by Picasso, Degas, Modigliani, and others, but also prove himself innocent of murder.

Dodging the tail canny Inspector Flynn has put on him, Fletch inquires through the highly reputable art dealer Ronald Horan about one of the missing Picassos, hoping Horan will lead him to all the stolen paintings. Meanwhile, he tries desperately to find the young woman's killer. Could it be Bart Connors, the Boston lawyer who traded apartments with Fletch and who was seen with a woman matching the victim's description on the night of the murder? Could it be Joan Winslow, the jealous lush who lives across the hall and is nursing a heart broken by Bart Connors? Could it be Lucy Connors, Bart's ex-wife who left him for another woman and who is herself prone to violence and rough sex? As Inspector Flynn says, "Anything is possible under the sun." But, to the Inspector, it is Fletch's fingerprints on the bottle that speak loudest about who might have committed the crime. And when the Countess Sylvia de Grassi and Fletch's fiancée both show up at his apartment, each eager to find the paintings before the other, Fletch's already complicated life gets pushed to the breaking point.

Written with Mcdonald's trademark dialogue and ironic undercutting, Confess, Fletch takes readers on a fascinating search for truth that is as surprising, suspenseful, and hard to unravel as anything in the crime genre.

About the Author

Harvard graduate, two-time winner of the Edgar Allan Poe award (the only time both a book and its sequel have won), past president of the Mystery Writers of America, Gregory Mcdonald has been described by critics as the inventor of the sunlight mystery and "The Master of the Pointed Story." Mcdonald has published 26 volumes (15 of which are mysteries) including the Fletch, Flynn, Son of Fletch, and Skylar series. In France, his novel The Brave (Rafael, derniers jours) was elected Trophees 813 Best Foreign Novel 1997.

For seven years Mcdonald worked for The Boston Globe as a writer for the Sunday Magazine, critic, Arts & Humanities Editor, critic-at-large columnist, and member of the Editorial Board.

Discussion Guides

1. In order to keep the stolen paintings, the art dealer Ronald Horan frames Fletch for Ruth Fryer's murder. What are the similarities between this kind of frame and a painting's frame? How does Horan's framing of Fletch create a picture that determines how others will view the reporter?

2. After Inspector Flynn discovers Horan's guilt, he says, "I suspect a more experienced policeman never would have suspected Mister Horan" [p. 182-3]. Why would inexperience give Flynn an advantage? What is Mcdonald suggesting about the ways in which conventional expectations distort reality?

3. How does Mcdonald keep the reader guessing about the identity of the real killer? How convincing are Fletch's descriptions [p. 158-165] of the possible motives and methods of the other suspects--Bart Connors, Joan Winslow, and Lucy Connors?

4. When Fletch, pretending to be a reporter for Trey Magazine, interviews Lucy Connors about her lesbianism, she asks him if he would be offended if she were his sister. Fletch replies, "Everybody should be what he or she is" [p 129]. How does a novel like Confess, Fletch depend upon people not being who they really are? Which characters are not who they appear to be? How does Fletch himself use false identities?

5. What kind of man is Inspector Flynn? What makes him such a brilliant detective? How has his childhood in Nazi Germany helped sharpen his investigative instincts? Why is he able to outsmart Fletch in finding the killer?

6. What kinds of female characters inhabit Confess, Fletch? What role do they play in advancing the plot? How does Fletch regard the women he encounters?

7. Gregory Mcdonald has observed, "Writing mysteries lets me get away with murder. I think 'the mystery' may be the greatest form for social criticism, simply because it is pedestrian" (From Gregory Mcdonald's official Website: www.gregoryMcdonald.com/mysteries1.html). In what sense can Confess, Fletch be read as social criticism? What social ills are exposed in the novel? Why would its "pedestrian" status help make the mystery a potent form of social criticism?

For discussion of FLETCH, CONFESS, FLETCH, and FLETCH'S FORTUNE:

1. In what ways does Fletch's character evolve over the course of these three novels? How is he different in Fletch's Fortune than he is in Fletch? What traits remain constant in his character?

2. What methods of reasoning and investigation does Fletch employ in these novels to solve each crime? How does Mcdonald manage to keep the reader from knowing more than Fletch does? How surprising is the revelation at the end of each book?

3. Mcdonald has written, "The magic I attempt is to point the finger, as concisely as possible set the scene, then pull back my hand, disappear as the author, leave the reader alone with the characters" (From Gregory Mcdonald's official Website: www.gregoryMcdonald.com/mysteries1.html). What is the effect of this kind of writing? Why is it especially useful in the mystery genre? Does this technique require more from the reader than other types of writing?

4. In addition to the narrative pull provided by the suspenseful investigation of a crime, Mcdonald's novels employ a narrative technique common to all great fiction: conflict. With whom or what is Fletch most often in conflict? How do these conflicts affect the reader's relationship both to Fletch and to the novels as a whole?

5. If you have read any of the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett, how does Fletch compare with other heroes such as Sherlock Holmes, Philip Marlowe, and Sam Spade? In what ways is he both like and unlike his predecessors? How has Mcdonald extended or put his own personal stamp on the mystery genre with the Fletch novels?

Suggested Readings

Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye and The Big Sleep; Wilke Collins, The Moonstone; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; Sue Grafton, P is for Peril; Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon and Red Harvest; Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley; Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress; Edgar Allan Poe, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Purloined Letter," and "The Tell-Tale Heart"; Jim Thompson, The Grifters and The Killer Inside Me; Carl Hiaasen, Skin Tight and Stormy Weather.

  • Confess, Fletch by Gregory Mcdonald
  • March 12, 2002
  • Fiction - Mystery & Detective
  • Vintage
  • $14.00
  • 9780375713484

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