Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996)
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Murder in a Minor Key 

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Jessica tells the story of her new novel about a composer accused of killing the professor who plagiarized his music.


Nick Havinga


Peter S. Fischer (created by), Richard Levinson (created by) | 6 more credits »


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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Angela Lansbury ... Jessica Fletcher
Rene Auberjonois ... Prof. Harry Papasian
Shaun Cassidy ... Chad Singer
Paul Clemens ... Michael 'Mike' Prentice
Herb Edelman ... Max Hellinger
Karen Grassle ... Christine Stoneham
George Grizzard ... Prof. Tyler Stoneham
Tom Hallick ... Vice Chancellor Simon
Jennifer Holmes Jennifer Holmes ... Reagan Miller
Scott Jacoby ... Danny Young
Dinah Manoff ... Jenny Coopersmith
Alex Henteloff Alex Henteloff ... Raymond Parnell
Brenda Thompson Brenda Thompson ... Pianist (as Brenda Thomson)
Paris Vaughan ... Pauline
William Hubbard Knight William Hubbard Knight ... Lt. Perkins


College music student Michael 'Mike' Prentice discovers that his professor, Tyler Stoneham, published a song based on one of his assignments as his own composition, under the alias Alden Gilbert, but can't prove the plagiarist theft. The professor's wife, Christine Stoneham, also suspects him of adultery. Professor Harry Papasian, Stoneham's assistant, is furious not to be mentioned as co-author on their new music dictionary. Stoneham is found stabbed to death in his office where Mike was looking for the original songs, enough for an arrest. His friend, law student Chad Singer, starts sleuthing, helped by a fellow music student who helps plagiarized song to Broadway. Christine actually has a secret affair herself with Vice Chancellor Simon. Musical producer Max Hellinger promises Papazian $5,000 to help find some Gilbert songs and Chad finds out. After the lyrics writer is traced, Chad stages an elaborate reconstruction to trick the killer. Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Mystery


TV-PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

8 February 1987 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Television See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The first of fourteen bookend episodes, mostly seen during later seasons. Jessica tells us about her book and is only the narrator. You can see her at the beginning and at the end of the show, and a couple of times in between. See more »


[first lines]
Jessica Fletcher: Hello. I was just changing into something more comfortable. I've got a long night of reading ahead of me. Galleys on my new book. I don't know why they send me these things, because I am absolutely the world's worst proofreader.
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Murder She Wrote Theme
Written by John Addison
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User Reviews

Out of Tune with Suspects, Forks and Pianos
18 January 2010 | by WeatherVioletSee all my reviews

Thirteen of the foureen "Murder, She Wrote" episodes which Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) introduces and summarizes (commonly known as "Bookend Episodes"), but does not participate in the action, occur during Seasons Six and Seven, but now in Season Three, we're up to the first of these, as Jessica narrates this enactment of her latest J.B. Fletcher Mystery, "Murder in a Minor Key."

Set upon a southern California campus, this centers around three graduate students, Chad Singer (Shaun Cassidy), Jenny Coopersmith (Dinah Manoff) and Michael 'Mike' Prentice (Paul Clemens), who become entangled in a web of faculty corruption and adultery, as well as murder.

This begins in an off-campus piano lounge, as Pianist (Brenda Thompson) performs instrumental selections, including a composition which Mike Prentice immediately recognizes as his creation from a Music course assignment. Mike approaches the piano bench to prove by the Pianist's witness that he knows the score by heart. (This plot device is coincidently used in one of Jessica's "real life" future "MSW" episodes, without her reflecting upon having incorporated it into a storyline from one of her books.)

Mike subsequently grabs the sheet music and storms across campus to confront Music Professor Tyler Stoneham (George Grizzard) amid one of his instructional sessions, an intrusion to which the professor adamantly objects, thus demanding to reprimand Mike in his office after the class dismisses.

Afterwards, Mike charges Tyler with stealing his property, to publish for his own profit, without consent from its author, a charge which Tyler refuses to acknowledge. So, Mike plans to sneak into the office after hours, to obtain his rightful property.

While biding his time in a storage room, Mike awaits Tyler's exit, while Professor Harry Papasian (Rene Auberjonois) enters the office which they share, to confront Tyler amid a disagreement. Music Publisher Max Hellinger (Herb Edelman) also enters to search for a folder containing sheet music which he deems rightfully his.

Vice Chancellor Simon (Tom Hallick), meanwhile, walks through the quad with campus newspaper editor Danny Young (Scott Jacoby), amid a student protest, which can be heard from the floors of the Music Department.

After Mike believes that the way is clear for him to sneak into the faculty office, he carries a flashlight to search for his folder in a cabinet, when a Security Guard Hargrove (Alexander Folk) appears at the door to catch Mike with the goods, and right beside a body, which has been stabbed by a tuning fork.

And so, it is up to Chad Singer and Jenny Coopersmith prove Mike's innocence, by enlisting the assistance of Danny Young to investigate the murder.

Chad visits Christine Stoneham (Karen Grassle) under the suspicion that she has been carrying on with Vice Chancellor Simon, a notion which she denies to the point of aiming a pistol at Chad, while Jenny traces Reagan Miller (Jennifer Holmes) in San Diego, who is believed to have been involved with Tyler as he often disappeared on Christine and left town to publish students' compositions under his name.

As Lieutenant Perkins (William Hubbard Knight) investigates, Chad then manages to gather suspects, one and all, to orchestrate a re-enactment of the night of the "Murder in a Minor Key."

The cast is rounded out by Hope Haves as Young Woman, Paris Vaughan as Pauline, Alex Henteloff as Raymond Parnell, and Stephen Swofford as Templeton.

This episode marks the most recent television acting credit to date for Hope Haves, as well as the only acting credit to date for Producer and Production Manager Stephen Swofford This also represents the first of two "MSW" guest roles each for Karen Grassle, Jennifer Holmes, and Rene Auberjonois, the first of three for Tom Hallick, the second of three for George Grizzard, and the third of ten "MSW's" for Herb Edelman, including his upcoming seven episodes in the role of NYPD Lieutenant Artie Gelber.

George Grizzard, acting on television and in film since 1955, and Herb Edelman, acting since 1964, have unfortunately since passed.

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