Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Santa Clawed by Rita Mae Brown - Review

*Editor's Note: Welcome Ariel Heart once again and her review of a fun holiday-themed mystery. I have to say, I have read many of the Mrs. Murphy/Sneaky Pie Brown mysteries, and though I started reading them with some enthusiasm, I have not been able to finish the last couple I've tried, even one I received as a gift from someone who knows I love mysteries and cats! Ariel's review has made me reconsider, and I may try this one as, in addition to loving mysteries and cats, I love holiday themed books! Enjoy!!

Santa Clawed

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 Crozet and have gotten to know some wonderful people.

Five out of Five Cozy Armchairs!

About the reviewer:

A.F. Heart

Ms. Heart is a Colorado gal who does not like snow but loves the low bug population. She has been told she was an odd child for playing Cleopatra with her Barbies and dressing up her poodle. She is taking that active imagination and writing her first novel. She shares her writing progress (and much more) on her blog “Mysteries and My Musings.”


  1. I may try this one though I have not been a fan of talking cats in the past.

  2. I don't mind the talking cats aspect... I think what puts me off Brown's books is a tendancy to moralize, IIRC. And the last one I tried to read, Murder On The Prowl, did have too much of the animlas talking about nonsense.

    I do love Christmas mysteries, though... if I run across this one I'll give it a go.

  3. I've read (or I should say listened) to a couple of her books. I thought the idea of cats and dogs solving the crimes was cute. The books weren't always what I thought they be though.