Author: Rita Mae Brown
Copyright: Nov 2008 (Bantam); 288 pgs.
Series: #17 in Mrs. Murphy mysteries
Sensuality: N/A but adult themes
Mystery sub-genre: Cozy
Main Character: Harry Haristeen, former postmistress now farmer with her tiger-stripped cat Mrs. Murphy, gray cat Pewter and Corgi dog Tucker
Setting: Crozet, Virginia – Holiday season
Obtained book through: Library Find
If you love animal cozy mysteries, then the NY Times Best-selling Mrs. Murphy mysteries are a must. The series is dubbed after Mrs. Murphy, Harry’s tiger-stripped cat who runs the house. The books are even touted as being co-written by Sneaky Pie, Rita Mae’s cat so you get the full animal viewpoint during the stories.
Harry has recently married the local equine vet, Fair and is now a full time farmer. This installment is set during the holidays so eloquently portrayed by Miss Brown. Harry and her new hubby go tree shopping at The Brother’s of Love Tree Farm, only to find their perfect tree is already decorated with a dead body of a brother. Harry had gone to High School with the dead monk, Christopher Hewitt. She felt he was really turning his life around after being released from jail, and then his throat was slit and a Greek coin, an obol, placed in his mouth. Harry is rather shaken by the murder and begins investigating, again aided by her three pets. Soon, Brother Christopher is not the only murder victim – all with their throats slit and an obol in their mouths - and the usually bright holidays have a fearful pall fall over the town.
This story is a wonderful read, the characterization is finely done and the town richly brought to life with its myriad delightful characters. Rita Mae’s characteristic animal viewpoints are spot on and often laugh-out-loud funny. You actually start to wonder if Rita Mae doesn’t actually hear her animals for real to be able to write them so convincingly. The story is character driven and yet sports a solid mystery plot with a few surprises along the way. There is not one area I could think of that could be done better. Don’t let the multiple deaths deceive you, this book will still put you in a bright holiday mood. This is one of the best cozy mysteries around and I highly recommend it.
As Harry Haristeen walked across the large quad to the great hall, her two cats and corgi behind her, she wondered if people today could build as securely as our forefathers did. Seemed like things were built to fall apart. Grateful that she lived in an old farmhouse built about the same time as the church, she paused on her way to the work party long enough to make a snowball and throw it up in the air.
Tucker, the corgi, jumped up to catch it. As she did, the snowball chilled her teeth, so she dropped it.
“Dumb!” Pewter, the portly gray cat, laughed.
"I knew it would do that, but if she throws a ball, I have to catch it. That’s my job,” Tucker defended herself.
Harry decided to sprint the last two hundred yards to warm up.
The tiger cat, Mrs. Murphy, shot past her. The shoveled walkway was covered with inches of fresh snow but easily negotiable.
Pewter, hating to be outdone, couldn’t get around Harry so she leapt onto the snow, where she promptly sank.
Tucker, trotting on the path, called out, “Dumb.”…
Upon entering the great hall, Harry inhaled the fragrance of oak burning in the two fireplaces, one at either end. The aroma of a well-tended fire added to winter’s allure. Harry loved all the seasons. Winter’s purity appealed to her. She loved being able to see the spine of the land, loved popping into a friend’s house for hot chocolate or serving the same. Born and raised here, she was buoyed up by close friendships. People might feel alienated in big cities, but she couldn’t imagine that emotion. Tied to the land, the people and animals that inhabited it, Harry knew she was a lucky soul.
I highly recommend this book. It has a good balance and is well written providing suspense, tens
ion, humor and even the holiday spirit in one package. By the end of the book, you will feel as though you have actually spent time in the small town of
Five out of Five Cozy Armchairs!
About the reviewer:
Ms. Heart is a