Cat of the Century (Mrs. Murphy Series #18)

Cat of the Century (Mrs. Murphy Series #18)

3.7 76
by Rita Mae Brown

View All Available Formats & Editions

BONUS: This edition contains excerpts from Rita Mae Brown's Hiss of Death and A Nose for Justice.

Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen’s beloved, tart-tongued neighbor Aunt Tally is about to turn the big 1-0-0, and the alumnae association of Tally’s alma mater is throwing a big fund-raising bash in her honor. The plan is toSee more details below


BONUS: This edition contains excerpts from Rita Mae Brown's Hiss of Death and A Nose for Justice.

Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen’s beloved, tart-tongued neighbor Aunt Tally is about to turn the big 1-0-0, and the alumnae association of Tally’s alma mater is throwing a big fund-raising bash in her honor. The plan is to celebrate Tally’s centennial and recoup some much-needed school revenue lost in the cratered economy, but when a killer blizzard bears down and a board member goes missing, it falls to Harry and her menagerie of mystery solvers to track down the truth behind what is rapidly becoming a perfect storm of embezzlement, political corruption, and the kind of long-smoldering enmity that can explode into murder. Does the key lie in a forty-year-old unsolved death? If so, Harry and her four-legged friends better find it or—even at a hundred years old—Aunt Tally may outlive them all.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Shady money dealings fuel Brown's solid 18th mystery featuring Mary Minor Haristeen and her cat pal, Sneaky Pie (after 2008's Santa Clawed). Aunt Talley Urquhart is looking forward to celebrating her 100th birthday at her Fulton, Mo., alma mater, real-life William Woods University, but all is not well at WWU. Stockbroker Flo Langston, class of '74, is sure her hated classmate, Mariah D'Angelo, who heads the WWU Alumnae Association, has mishandled university funds. Mariah misses Aunt Talley's party and vanishes. Then someone shoots Flo dead at home in St. Louis after Flo reveals that Mariah has been selling fake high-end watches. Taunting messages (e.g., “Catch me if you can”) begin arriving in computer in-boxes of various WWU alumnae, including Inez Carpenter, Aunt Talley's 98-year-old best friend. Faithful fans already familiar with the characters will enjoy the cozy antics, but others may struggle to pay attention until people start dying. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
Aunt Tally's centennial provides more excitement than anyone bargained for when alumni-association members get up to no good. Fresh from yet another local murder (The Purrfect Murder, 2008, etc.), Mary "Harry" Minor Haristeen, small-town postmistress turned farmer, eagerly anticipates getting out of town to celebrate Aunt Tally's 100th year at the old gal's alma mater, William Woods University. Harry thinks she's leaving trouble behind but finds that the bickering among the alumni association members is the least of her concerns when Mariah D'Angelo, head of Kansas City's WWU Alumni Association, goes missing. Whatever Mariah's problems, she doesn't have to worry about her nemesis Flo Langston, head of the warring St. Louis WWU Alumni Association, because Flo has met with violent death. Soon Aunt Tally and friends receive e-mails from Mariah in a catch-me-if-you-can vein. Harry wants to look into the murder without becoming too involved, but her troupe of pets, including the ever-present cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, have different ideas. While they're sure this murder plot is more complicated than their humans could imagine, all they can do is hint at the clues and feign patience. In the meantime, Harry's amateur sleuthing suggests that money may be the bottom line of the mystery, a possibility that may appeal to more readers than Brown's sometimes politically charged topics. While many of the human characters seem interchangeable in their combination of down-home folksiness and tribal-elder gravitas, her animals are witty as ever.
From the Publisher
“As feline collaborators go, you couldn’t ask for better than Sneaky Pie Brown.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Reading a Mrs. Murphy mystery is like eating a potato chip. You always go back for more. . . . A deserving bestselling series.”—The Midwest Book Review
“[Rita Mae Brown’s] animals are as witty as ever.”—Kirkus Reviews

Read More

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Mrs. Murphy Series , #18
Sold by:
Random House
Sales rank:
File size:
4 MB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Alone figure walked along a shoveled- off bricklaid path. The dormant gardens glimmered with frost. The skies seemed low enough to touch. 

Aunt Tally, two weeks away from her one- hundredth birthday, called her Gordon setter, Doodles. 

 As the young dog joyfully returned to his master, Aunt Tally leaned on her silver- headed cane, the head being in the graceful shape of a hound. Apart from having to use that cane—thanks to the usual involuntary dismounts all horsewomen take—she betrayed few signs of her advanced years. Had you seen her peering at the ground as she walked along, you would have pegged her at eighty, perhaps. 

 “More snow coming.” She squinted at the sky this March 11, Wednesday. 

Doodles, who had sharper senses, replied, “Before sundown.” Aunt Tally stroked the dog’s head upon hearing the little yodel. Tightening her cashmere scarf, she continued on. 

A deep rumble alerted Doodles, who recognized the motor’s signature sound as well as the sound of the tires. Identifying a vehicle by its tire sound and motor is easy for dogs. Humans can’t do it. Doodles wagged her tail as she bounded up to the front of the house, where Marilyn “Big Mim” Sanburne, Tally’s niece, had parked her brand-new Dodge half- ton. 

The two walked to the back of the house to join Tally. 

Big Mim, teasingly called “The Queen of Crozet,” was a formidable woman. However, even Big Mim could be backed off by the small, lean Tally. 

“What are you doing out here? It’s 24°F.” 

“Checking for my crocus. A shoot here and a shoot there and I get to thinking about the redbuds.” 

Big Mim put one gloved hand on her hip. “Redbuds aren’t going to be in full flower until about April fifteenth. You know that.” 

“Of course I do. That doesn’t mean I can’t check them.” She tapped her cane on the old brick. “I’m longing for spring. By this time of the year I’ve had enough.” 

“You really will have enough if you don’t come in out of the cold. You’ll catch your death.” 

“It’s not a baseball,” the old woman replied. 

“You know what I mean,” Big Mim said, sounding tolerant. “Are you ready to go, or do you need anything from the house?” 

“Just need to put up the dog.” Aunt Tally walked to the back door, opened it, and Doodles scooted in, happy for the warmth. 

“Purse?” Big Mim raised an eyebrow. 

“My wallet’s in my coat pocket. Purses are a pain. Even if I find one that slings just right over my shoulder, sooner or later it drops down. Hard to carry a purse with a cane.” 

“Guess it is.” Big Mim walked to the passenger side of her blue truck and opened the door for Tally, who climbed in unassisted. Once out on the road, the two chattered as only two people who have known each other all their lives can. Aunt Tally had been pushing thirty when Big Mim was born. It was a day of celebration. Aunt Tally, thanks to a disastrous love affair when young, shied away from marriage but not affairs. She treated Big Mim as her own daughter, which had occasioned some arguments with Tally’s late, loved sister. A brother to Big Mim followed later, but he died on the hideous Bataan Death March. Apart from rage and grief, the result was that no Urquhart of any succeeding generation would buy a Japanese car or any product if they could help it. As with all old Virginia families, regard less of generations of marriages on both the male and female sides, they generally referred to themselves by the surname of the first European to settle on Virginia soil. In this case, the Urquharts. 


Aunt Tally, staring straight ahead, raised her voice a bit. “Oh, Mimsy, I make notes. I read them. I throw them out. I can’t bear the thought of standing up there spouting bromides and sentimental mush. I haven’t found what I want to say.” 

“That’s a first.” 

Aunt Tally ignored this, instead concentrating on an upcoming T-cross. Her farm, Rose Hill, reposed about four miles west of Harry Haristeen’s farm. They’d passed Harry’s place on the way to Crozet, reaching the intersection of a dirt road and the two- lane paved highway on which they traveled. 

“Can never drive over this without thinking about Ralston Peavey.” Aunt Tally repositioned her cane to her left side. “Never found his murderer.” 

“Someone really wanted him out of this world.” Big Mim remembered it, as well. “Fall, wasn’t it?” 

Aunt Tally nodded in affirmation. “A light frost, patchy fog.” 

“1964. The year sticks in my head because that was the first year Jim was elected mayor.” 

Jim Sanburne, her husband, remained mayor, and their daughter, Little Mim, was now vice mayor. The joke was, father and daughter came from two different political parties. Being a small town, Crozet never bothered with term limits. Jim, a good mayor, would most likely retain his office until such day as he died. 

“Jim picked up the call from Dinny Myers; wish we had him back. There was a sheriff with sense,” Aunt Tally mumbled. 

“Oh, the one we have now has sense. You just think everything was better when you were younger.” 

“ ’Twas.” Aunt Tally raised her voice. “This country is going to hell in a handbasket. Well, I’m not going off on that; it’ll ruin my day. But even you have to admit that Ralston Peavey was the best blacksmith you ever saw.” 

“He was. He was.” 

Pleased with her little victory, Aunt Tally recalled the details as they rolled over the spot. “Found Ralston right here, spread- eagled in the middle of the road, facedown. Run over one way and then backed over. To make sure he was dead, I reckon.” 

“Jim saw him before Dinny removed the corpse. Said the tire tracks were clear. They hoped to find the killer from the tire treads. Never happened, of course.” 

“Dinny and the department really did check every set of tires in the area. He couldn’t do all of Albemarle County, but he did check Crozet. Nothing. Not one thing. Some folks thought whoever did it was not from these parts. Not me. I think it was one of us.” 

Big Mim slowed for a curve. “Well, Ralston could drink. He was pretty loaded.” 

“He didn’t lie down in the middle of the road because he was drunk.” 

“His truck was by the side of the road.” Big Mim, who enjoyed driving her new truck, picked up speed. “I still think he’d been fooling around, and the husband found out and killed him.” 

“Maybe, but we all knew who was weak that way. He’d never done it before. Two kids—what, eight and ten—and he seemed to get along with them. I wonder if it wasn’t something else. Couldn’t be drugs. That hadn’t taken off yet.” 

“Can’t imagine Ralston a dealer. Although, being a blacksmith, he had the perfect job for distributing.” 

“No.” Aunt Tally shook her head. “Something else.” 

Big Mim paused. “Let’s just say not a stone was left unturned.” 

“One was, or we’d have the killer.” Tally frowned. 

“After all this time, maybe he’s dead himself.” 

“Mimsy, I’ve seen a lot. One of these days, might be 2050, the truth will wriggle out. Always does.” 

“Talk to Inez?” Big Mim mentioned Aunt Tally’s best friend, who had graduated from William Woods University—then known as William Woods College—two years behind Aunt Tally. The lovely school, located in Fulton, Missouri, had provided Aunt Tally with her first taste of life outside Virginia. 

“She’s flying in two days before, because of the alumnae board meeting.” 

 “Good. Harry’s driving.” 

Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen was not a William Woods graduate. She had graduated from Smith College. Age forty, best described as an attractive tomboy, she now put all her attentions to farming, her true love, as she’d quit her job at the post office two years earlier. Harry would be going to the celebration at Aunt Tally’s alma mater because she loved the old lady and knew the event was not to be missed, especi ally since the salty woman would give a speech. “Be good for Harry to get away,” Aunt Tally said. 

At that moment, Harry had her hands full with a William Woods alumna, no less. 

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >