Cat on the Scent (Mrs. Murphy Series #7)

Cat on the Scent (Mrs. Murphy Series #7)

4.4 17
by Rita Mae Brown
     
 

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It takes a cat to write the purr-fect mystery.

Things have been pretty exciting lately in Crozet, Virginia—a little too exciting if you ask resident feline investigator Mrs. Murphy. Just as the town starts to buzz over its Civil War reenactment, a popular local man disappears. No one's seen Tommy Van Allen's single-engine plane, either—except for

Overview

It takes a cat to write the purr-fect mystery.

Things have been pretty exciting lately in Crozet, Virginia—a little too exciting if you ask resident feline investigator Mrs. Murphy. Just as the town starts to buzz over its Civil War reenactment, a popular local man disappears. No one's seen Tommy Van Allen's single-engine plane, either—except for Mrs. Murphy, who spotted it during a foggy evening's mousing.

Even Mrs. Murphy's favorite human, postmistress Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen, can sense that something is amiss. But things really take an ugly turn when the town reenacts the battle of Oak Ridge—and a participant ends up with three very real bullets in his back. While the clever tiger cat and her friends sift through clues that just don't fit together, more than a few locals fear that the scandal will force well-hidden town secrets into the harsh light of day. And when Mrs. Murphy's relentless tracking places loved ones in danger, it takes more than a canny kitty and her team of animal sleuths to set things right again....


From the Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The latest collaboration (after last year's Murder on the Prowl) between Brown and her feline muse is a charming and keen-eyed take on human misdeeds and animal shenanigans. Mrs. Murphy, the cat sleuth, out for an evening prowl, spots a small plane landing near an abandoned barn. Soon after, at an Albemarle County (Va.) Commission meeting, dissension arises over plans for a new reservoir, and two murders ensue. The owner of the plane, Tommy Van Allen, disappears, only to turn up later, frozen stiff in the refrigerator of a local food plant. Next, during a Civil War battle reenactment, a local landowner, Sir Henry Vane-Tempest, is shot in the back. Mrs. Murphy, ably aided by Tee Tucker the corgi and Pewter the cat, nudges the humans around her into finding evidence to braid all these stray strands. She even orchestrates a daring rescue. Told with spunk and plenty of whimsy, this is another delightful entry in a very popular series.
Kirkus Reviews
Once again, parvenus are tainting the patrician neighborhood of Crozet, Virginia, not because they're running down property values-on the contrary, they're doing everything they can to drive them up-but because they're piling scandal on murderous scandal. Sir H. (for Henry) Vane-Tempest, following multiple cuckoldings and a public argument with his former creature, arch-preservationist county commissioner Archie Ingram, is shot on the battlefield of a Civil War reenactment. Bad-boy flier Tommy Van Allen has already disappeared after walking away from the plane he and a companion set down in Tally Urquhart's airfield and stashed in her barn; subsequent investigations indicate that Tommy didn't walk very far at all. And there are hints of underhanded land deals, drug selling, wholesale adultery, and even a secret crime long buried by history. It looks like a job for postmistress Harry Haristeen's tiger cat, Mrs. Murphy, and her corgi, Tee Tucker. Together with fat gray cat Pewter, on extended loan from shopkeeper Market Shiflett, they lead Harry to Tommy's hidden airplane, recover the bullets Vane-Tempest was shot with, and get to the bottom of the land grab, though not soon enough to prevent still more casualties and an unusually untidy solution. The scattershot mystery aside, human frailty is balanced against animal wisdom with the same puckish humor as in Mrs. Murphy's first six cases (Murder on the Prowl).

From the Publisher
"Leave it to a cat to grasp the essence of the cozy mystery: namely, murder among friends."—The New York Times Book Review

"Told with spunk and plenty of whimsy, this is another delightful entry in a very popular series."—Publishers Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780553898675
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/30/2004
Series:
Mrs. Murphy Series , #7
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
61,251
File size:
907 KB

Read an Excerpt

The intoxicating fragrance of lilacs floated across the meadow grass.  Mrs.  Murphy was night hunting in and around the abandoned dependencies on old Tally Urquhart's farm, Rose Hill.  Once a great estate, the farm's main part continued to be kept in pristine condition.  A combination of old age plus spiraling taxes, and wages forced Thalia "Tally" Urquhart, as well as others like her, to let outlying buildings go.

A huge stone hay barn with a center aisle big enough to house four hay wagons side by side sat in the middle of small one-and-a-half-story stone houses with slate roofs.  The buildings, although pockmarked by broken windows, were so well constructed they would endure despite the birds nesting in their chimneys.

The hay barn, whose supporting beams were constructed from entire tree trunks, would outlast this century and the next one as well.

The paint peeled off the stone buildings, exposing the soft gray underneath with an occasional flash of rose-gray.

The tiger cat sniffed the air; low clouds and fog were moving in fast from the west, sliding down the Blue Ridge Mountains like fudge on a sundae.

Normally Mrs.  Murphy would hunt close to her own farm.  Often she was accompanied by Pewter, who despite her bulk was a ferocious mouser.  This evening she wanted to hunt alone.  It cleared her mind. She liked to wait motionless for mice to scurry in the rotting burlap feed bags, for their tiny claws to tap against the beams in the hayloft.

Since no one paid attention to the Urquhart barns, the mousing was superb.  Kernels of grain and dried corn drew the little marauders in, as did the barn itself, a splendid place in which to raise young mice.

A moldy horse collar, left over from the late 1930s, its brass knobs green, hung on the tack-room wall, forgotten by all, the mules who wore it long gone to the Great Mule Sky.

Mrs.  Murphy left off her mousing to explore the barn, constructed in the early nineteenth century.  How lovely the farm must have once been.  Mrs.  Murphy prided herself on her knowledge of human history, something the two-legged species often overlooked in its rush to be current.  Of course, she reflected, whatever is current today is out of fashion tomorrow.

The tiger cat, like most felines, took the long view.

Her particular human, Mary Minor Haristeen, or Harry, the young, pretty postmistress of Crozet, Virginia, evinced interest in history as well as in animal behavior.  She read voraciously and expanded her understanding of animals by visiting Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and the Marion DuPont Scott Equine Research Center in Leesburg, Virginia.  Harry even studied the labels on crunchy-food bags to make certain kitty nutrition was adequate.  She cared for her two cats, one dog, and three horses with love and knowledge.

The flowers continued to push up around the buildings.  The lilac bushes, enormous, burst forth each spring.  The sadness of the decaying old place was modified by the health of the plant life.

The cat emerged from the barn and glanced at the deepening night clouds, deciding to hurry back home before the fog got thicker. Two creeks and a medium-sized ridge were the biggest obstacles.  She could traverse the four miles in an hour at a trot, faster if she ran.  Mrs.  Murphy could run four miles with ease.  A sound foxhound could run forty miles in a day.  Much as she liked running, she was glad she wasn't a foxhound, or any hound, for that matter.  Mrs.  Murphy liked dogs but considered them a lower species, for the most part, except for the corgi she lived with, Tucker, who was nearly the equal of a cat.  Not that she'd tell Tucker that.  .  .  .  Never.

She trotted away from the magical spot and loped over the long, flat pasture, once an airstrip for Tally Urquhart in her heyday, when she had shocked the residents of central Virginia by flying airplanes.  Her disregard for the formalities of marriage did the rest.

Tally Urquhart was Mim Sanburne's aunt.  Mim had ascended to the rank of undisputed social leader of Crozet once her aunt had relinquished the position twenty years ago.  Mrs.  Murphy would giggle and say to Mim's face, "Ah, welcome to the Queen of Quite a Lot." Since Mim didn't understand cat, the grande dame wasn't insulted.

On the other side of the airfield a rolling expanse of oats just breaking through the earth's surface undulated down to the first creek.

At the creek the cat stopped.  The clouds lowered; the moisture was palpable.  She thought she heard a rumble.  Senses razor sharp, she looked in each direction, including overhead.  Owls were deadly in conditions like this.

The rumble grew closer.  She climbed a tree--just in case.  Out of the clouds overhead two wheels appeared.  Mrs.  Murphy watched as a single-engine plane touched down, bumped, then rolled toward the barn.  It stopped right in front of the massive doors, a quarter of a mile away from Mrs.  Murphy.

A lean figure hopped out of the plane to open the barn doors. The pilot stayed at the controls, and as the doors opened, the plane puttered into the barn.  The motor was cut off.  Mrs.  Murphy saw two figures now, one much taller than the other.  She couldn't make out their features; the collars of their trench coats were turned up and they were half turned away, dueling gusts of wind.  As each human braced behind a door and rolled it shut, the heavens opened in a deluge.

A great fat splat of rain plopped right on Mrs. Murphy's head.  She hated getting wet, but she waited long enough to see the two humans run down the road past the stone houses.  In the far distance she thought she heard a motor turn over.

Irritated that she hadn't gone down the farm road and therefore might have missed something, she climbed down and ran flat out the entire way home.  She could have stayed overnight in the Urquhart barn, but Harry would panic if she woke up and realized Mrs. Murphy wasn't asleep on the bed.

By the time she reached her own back porch forty-five minutes later, she was soaked.  She pushed through the animal door and shook herself twice in the kitchen, spattering the cabinets, before walking into the bedroom.

Tucker snored on the floor at the foot of the bed.  Pewter snuggled next to Harry.  The portly gray cat opened one brilliant green eye as Mrs.  Murphy leapt onto the bed.

"Don't sleep next to me.  You're all wet."

"It was worth it."

Both eyes opened.  "What'd you get?"

"Two field mice and one shrew."

"Liar."

"Why would I make it up?"

Pewter closed both eyes and flicked her tail over her nose. "Because you have to be the best at everything."

The tiger ignored her, crept to the head of the bed, lifted the comforter, and slid under while staying on top of the blanket.  If she'd picked up all the covers and gotten on the sheets, Harry might have rolled over and felt the wet sheets and the wet cat.  Mrs.  Murphy was better off in the middle; and she would dry faster that way, too.

Pewter said nothing but she heard a muffled "Hee-hee," before falling asleep again.

From the Paperback edition.

Meet the Author

Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of the Sneaky Pie Brown series; the Sister Jane series; A Nose for Justice and Murder Unleashed; Rubyfruit Jungle; In Her Day; and Six of One, as well as several other novels. An Emmy-nominated screenwriter and a poet, Brown lives in Afton, Virginia.
 
Sneaky Pie Brown, a tiger cat born somewhere in Albemarle County, Virginia, was discovered by Rita Mae Brown at her local SPCA. They have collaborated on numerous Mrs. Murphy mysteries—in addition to Sneaky Pie’s Cookbook for Mystery Lovers and Sneaky Pie for President.


From the Paperback edition.

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Cat on the Scent (Mrs. Murphy Series #7) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Found this at a book exchange and decided to read it because a cat was one of the characters. I loved it. Looking forward to reading all the Mrs Murphy series.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
It was a good book, but the ending left a lot to be desired. I think they could have done a better job with the ending, because the rest was good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this one very much, very sneaky Rita Mae Brown. I like the way you keep the reader interested and look forward to the next book. I can not believe the ending, it was great. You ought to put Harry and Fair back together. Wouldn't the fur fly then! Thanks for another great book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I got this book at a thrift store for 99 cents,i wanted to get it on my nook so i wouldnt have to lug the hardcover around. If i have the checkout numbeer tat they scan can i get it on my nook for free?
Guest More than 1 year ago
I started reading Sneaky Pie¿s books years ago. I¿ve never been disappointed in any of them. I love how the authors blend everyday life with the extraordinary. Rita Mae Brown shows a wonderful understanding of nature, both human and non-human. I¿m should that if our cat could talk he would be as sassy as these three amigos. They have a sister relationship, I can pick on her but no one else better. Ms. Brown wrote a great scene with the bobcat to show how much love these three have for one another. The author¿s character development does not stop with the animals, the humans are very well developed too. Once again, Ms. Brown shows great insight into the human condition. Friends and family that love and ready care for each other. The author gives the reader a wonderfully pleasant town peopled by a vast and different well-developed cast of characters. Ms. Brown should be commented on her dialog too. It is fresh and witty, true to life. And so funny sometimes that the reader will laugh out loud. Oh, yes there is a murder mystery in there too. I liked the way Ms. Brown ended this particular story. Sometimes the humans don¿t get it. But, she doesn¿t leave the reader hanging, we know what has happened and that is fine with me. Reading this book is fun, who cares about the mystery? I highly recommend this book and series. I would suggest that a new reader start at the beginning. It is fun and quite rewarding to watch the characters and author develop with each book. Plus, you won¿t understand all the ¿little¿ points of the characters. So starting reading and get ready for a wild ¿ride¿ in the town of Crozet, Virginia.