Cat's Eyewitness (Mrs. Murphy Series #13)

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It’s no secret that cats are a mystery writer’s best friend. Just ask the bestselling team of Rita Mae Brown and her furry partner, Sneaky Pie Brown, back on the prowl with another unforgettable whodunit. This time a controversial miracle in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains sparks religious fervor– and a suspicious death. Now the indefatigable felines Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, along with the dogged corgi Tee Tucker, must trust their animal instincts to sniff out the worst of human ...
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Cat's Eyewitness (Mrs. Murphy Series #13)

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Overview

It’s no secret that cats are a mystery writer’s best friend. Just ask the bestselling team of Rita Mae Brown and her furry partner, Sneaky Pie Brown, back on the prowl with another unforgettable whodunit. This time a controversial miracle in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains sparks religious fervor– and a suspicious death. Now the indefatigable felines Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, along with the dogged corgi Tee Tucker, must trust their animal instincts to sniff out the worst of human nature....

With the holidays approaching, Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen and her best friend, Susan Tucker, take a much-needed time-out at the mountain monastery of Mount Carmel. There, under the benevolent gaze of the statue of the Virgin Mary, their worldly worries are soon overshadowed. For in front of their very eyes the statue begins to cry tears of blood.

Legend has it that Mary’s crimson tears are harbingers of crises. And though skeptical, the ever-practical Harry can already see one on the horizon. If leaked, news of the so-called miracle could turn the monastery and the town of Crozet into a circus. What Harry doesn’t foresee is murder...

When Susan’s great-uncle Thomas, a resident monk, is found frozen to death at the base of the statue, foul play is ruled out– at first. But at Harry’s urging, the body is exhumed for an autopsy. There’s just one problem: the coffin is empty. That’s when Mrs. Murphy, Pewter, and Tucker get involved. Then there’s the shocking revelation of a mystery that has perplexed the citizens of Crozet for ages.

With Christmas around the corner and the monasteryoverrun by the faithful, all Harry’s meddling menagerie can do is stay on her trail as she jumps knee-deep into an unofficial investigation– one that becomes more dangerous when another Crozet citizen meets an untimely demise. In this case it will be a miracle if Harry stays alive....

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Feline fanciers and mystery mavens alike will be glad to hear that bestselling author Rita Mae Brown has teamed up with her feline coauthor, Sneaky Pie, for another cunningly plotted, pet-assisted investigation. In this 13th Mrs. Murphy Mystery, miracles and malice are entwined with local legend.

Under a lot of stress this Thanksgiving, Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen desperately needs some time to think. The new no-pets mandate at work has forced her into leaving her beloved job as postmistress. And she can't quite decide what to do about her straying ex-husband's request to forgive him and take him back. She loves the man, and she's promised him an answer by Christmas -- but should she risk her heart again?

Much in need of perspective and the peace of private prayer, she and her animal companions (Mrs. Murphy, Pewter, and Tee Tucke) drive through an escalating winter storm to the Blue Ridge Mountains, site of a famous statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary that overlooks the Shenandoah Valley above a small monastery. Local legend has it that the statue has shed tears to herald great crises -- once in 1914 and again after the attack on Pearl Harbor. So Harry is understandably chilled by more than wind and sleet when she sees tears of blood marking the Blessed Virgin's face!

But those tears are only the first enigma. As the monks strive to keep news of this would-be miracle under wraps, a report leaks out, unleashing speculation, spite, and scandal. And when an elderly monk is found dead at the statue's feet, Harry and Mrs. Murphy are caught up in the most mysterious investigation of their lives. Sue Stone

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781419320606
  • Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
  • Publication date: 1/31/2005
  • Series: Mrs. Murphy Series , #13
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged

Meet the Author

Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of several books. An Emmy-nominated screenwriter and a poet, she 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 fourteen previous Mrs. Murphy mysteries: Sour Puss; Wish You Were Here; Rest in Pieces; Murder at Monticello; Pay Dirt; Murder, She Meowed; Murder on the Prowl; Cat on the Scent; Pawing Through the Past; Claws and Effect; Catch as Cat Can; The Tail of the Tip-Off; Whisker of Evil; and Cat’s Eyewitness, in addition to Sneaky Pie’s Cookbook for Mystery Lovers.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

A thin trickle of water zigzagged over the Virgin Mary's cold face. She gazed westward from her home on top of the Blue Ridge Mountains, between Afton Gap and Humpback Mountain. Her elevation approached two thousand two hundred feet. The fertile expanse of the Shenandoah Valley spread below, rolling westward to the Allegheny Mountains. The Valley, made immortal by the military genius of Stonewall Jackson, had been beloved of the Native Americans long before the European immigrants, refugees, and mountebanks ever beheld its calming beauty.

Had the Blessed Virgin Mother been able to turn her head and look east, undulating hills traversed with ravines and ridges stopping at the Southwest Range would have delighted her eyes. The last spur of the Appalachian Mountain chain, the Southwest Range gives way on its eastern slopes to land with a gentle roll. These rich fields and forests drop until the Fall Line, the true geographic boundary between low country and up-country, between sandy soils, red clay, and loam mixtures. This line also divided the Iroquois-speaking peoples from the Sioux-speaking peoples. Neither side liked the other much, warfare and raids occurring with savage regularity. Into this political hot zone trooped the English, the first surviving colony founded in 1607. Those that lived, learned.

The conclusion of the Revolutionary War in 1781, one hundred and seventy-four years after Jamestown was founded, unleashed an exuberance of trade, exploration, birthrate, and optimism. Even the fierce Monocan tribe and their allies, who had kept the whites from building safe communities ever westward of the Fall Line, couldn't hold them back.

The land on which Mary stood was settled in 1794 by Catholics more comfortable on the crest of the mountains than walking among their hustling Protestant neighbors in Richmond or the Tidewater. They built a log chapel. The land and altitude were good for apples. Orchards flourished. After the Constitutional Convention, the new Constitution made crystal clear the separation between church and state. Many of the apple-growing Catholics moved down the mountain into Nelson and Albemarle Counties on the eastern slopes, Augusta County on the western slopes. Nestled in the valleys, the temperature warmer, the winds less fierce than on the mountaintop, the former religious refugees prospered.

The hard-core mountain people, many of them distillers of clear liquor--the mountain streams being wonderful for such endeavors--stayed in the hollows. They didn't want to live on a mountaintop.

Finally in 1866 a war-weary Confederate captain founded a monastic order based on the Carmelites. He called it Mt. Carmel after the original in Palestine. Carmelite orders were being founded in the north after the War Between the States. Captain Ainsly was defiant and remained independent of the international monastic order even though he followed their rules. Instead of being known as Whitefriars, the monks on Afton Mountain were called Greyfriars because of their gray wool robes, an echo of their uniform color.

The monastery itself was not open to the public. The dairy, the chandler's building, the food building with honey and jams, and the ironmonger's forge were open, though, as were the exquisite gardens. The products were made by the monks themselves. Applejack was their biggest seller. Made on the grounds from apples grown in the old orchards, the brothers took special care with their distillery. Folks said Greyfriars' applejack could kick one harder than a mule.

The Virgin Mary stood on the highest point of land, the spring gardens nestled below her. She was carved from native soapstone by another Confederate veteran sick of war and worldly corruption. The Blessed Virgin Mother radiated a sorrow, a forgiveness that touched many who looked upon her. The stones leading to her, worn concave from many feet, bore testimony to her grace and power.

On this day, November 24, Thanksgiving, snow settled in the folds of her raiment. It covered the earth down to a thousand feet above sea level. Below that, freezing rain pelted farm and forest.

Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen had driven up before the rain reached the eastern meadows. But as she squinted upward into a leaden sky, she knew getting down Afton Mountain would take a steady hand and a steady foot, no jamming on the brakes.

Her three dearest companions--Mrs. Murphy, a tiger cat, Pewter, a gray cat, and Tee Tucker, a brave corgi--had smelled the shift in the weather before their human friend knew it was coming. Confident in her driving ability, Harry wouldn't have turned back even if she had foreseen the change. She was determined to spend an hour on the mountain, alone and in thought, before plunging into Thanksgiving cheer. She'd quit her job as postmistress after sixteen years because the U.S. Postal Service was building a large, modern post office in Crozet by the railroad track. In this fit of improvement, the bigwigs decided that Mrs. Murphy, Pewter, and Tucker could no longer "work" with her. How could she live without the cats and dog? How could millions of Americans sit in windowless cubicles without even a bird to keep them connected to real life? Harry couldn't live like that. Not yet forty, she felt a disquieting alienation from so-called modern life. What seemed vital to others, like wading through their e-mail, seemed fake to her. Harry was at a crossroads, not sure which way to jump.

The dear older woman she worked with, Miranda Hogendobber, walked out when she did. But Miranda had her deceased husband's retirement to draw upon; she'd been frugal and was in good shape.

Harry wasn't in good shape financially. Taxes crept upward like kudzu threatening to choke her small farm profits, in particular, and ultimately free enterprise, in general. Services became ever more expensive and gas prices bounced up and down like a basketball in an NBA game.

On top of those worries was her ex-husband, Fair Haristeen, who still loved her and had made significant amends for what Harry saw as bad behavior. Fair had grown up and wanted her back, wanted a mature bond. He was handsome. Harry had a weak spot for a handsome man. Fair qualified at six five, blond hair, all muscle. An equine veterinarian, he specialized in reproduction. They both shared a profound love of horses.

Harry, at last, had made peace with the bombshell Fair had dallied with four years back when their marriage blew up. Olivia "BoomBoom" Craycroft slew men the way longhaired Samson slew his enemies. BoomBoom had enjoyed Fair's impressive physique and his Virginia gentleman ways, but she bored easily, soon dismissing him. "Think of this as recess from class," were her exact words. For all of BoomBoom's heartlessness with men where romance was concerned, she loved animals, was a good athlete, and demonstrated great community spirit. In a word, she was fabulous, until you slept with her or if you were the woman left in the dust by your boyfriend or husband.

As Harry stared up at the unearthly face of the Virgin, she shivered. Tucker, at her feet, shook off the thickening snow.

"She's beautiful," the corgi said.

Harry bent down, patting the glossy head. "Bet you think I'm crazy standing out here. Probably am."

Tucker lifted her nose, breathed deeply. "Susan." The little dog took off toward the enticing scent, skidding to a halt about forty yards away where a curved stone bench overlooked The Valley. The bench, situated on a winding path below the statue, was hidden from view if one was standing in front of the Virgin Mary.

The Valley was usually colder than the eastern slopes. Snow was falling there, a patchwork quilt of white, beige, and corn stubble two thousand feet below.

"Tucker," Susan said, surprised. "Where's Mom?"

Harry, pursuing her dog, slipped along the walkway between tall magnificent English boxwoods, only to be equally surprised when she saw her best friend. "Susan, what are you doing here?"

"I could ask you the same thing," Susan replied, smiling.

Harry brushed off the snow to sit next to Susan. Tucker wedged between them. "I'm here because I, well, I need help. I know the Blessed Virgin Mother has always been reputed to have powers--the statue, I mean. Miranda says whenever times get tough she comes up here and talks with Mary."

"Girl talk." Susan smiled, her auburn hair peeking out from underneath her lad's cap.

"Wish she could talk. I'd like to hear that Jesus wasn't perfect." Harry sighed. "It's too hard having perfect Gods--you know, God the Father, God the Son, and I have no idea who or what the Holy Ghost is. I mean it," she said as Susan laughed. "You went to Bible school in the summers, same as I did; we suffered through two years of catechism together. We only made Confirmation because Reverend Jones took pity on us. I can recite the Nicene Creed but I still can't tell you why I'm supposed to care about it. What is the Holy Ghost?" She threw up her hands, red gloves bright against the gloom. "But I understand Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mother. She's one of us; oh, better, but still, she's one of us."

"Yes." Susan reached for her friend's hand, her tan glove twining with the red. "I talk to her, too.
Questions. Life. Big questions. Little questions." Susan shrugged.

"The questions get bigger as we get older, don't you think?"

"I do."

Harry took a deep breath, the air scouring her lungs. "I'm here because I don't know what I'm doing. I feel dumb and maybe I really am dumb. And Fair asked me to marry him again."

"Ah." Susan smiled.

"That means you think it's a good idea."

"I'm glad he loves you. You're worth loving." She squeezed Harry's hand.

"Susan." Tears filled Harry's eyes, for kindness and praise affected her more deeply than criticism or meanness. She could stand up to that.

"You are, dear heart. You're my best friend and you know you can tell me anything."

"Tell you? Susan, all I've done for the last three months is bitch and moan."

"Oh, you have not. Anyone in your position is bound to be anxious. No money is coming in and you have to be careful. At least the farm is free and clear and so is the equipment."

"There's the dually payment." Harry mentioned the big one-ton Ford truck with the double wheels that she bought at a great price from Art Bushey, Jr., the Ford dealer and a good friend. His sense of humor was as twisted as hers, so of course they adored each other.

"Four hundred something a month."

"Yes. The feed bill, the gas and electric. I mean, I'm okay, but I've got to do something here pretty soon."

"You're still investigating growing grapes, aren't you? Sounds like a good idea." Susan was encouraging.

"I need to bring money in while I study that. I can't afford to get started anytime soon, since the capital outlay is outrageous. Patricia Kluge said she'd sit down with me. Her vineyards are a booming success. Felicia Rogan, who really revived the whole wine industry in Virginia, said she'd talk to me, too. Still, I need to do something, just get some money coming in. Fair said I could work with him as a vet tech. I know the drill but it's not a great idea. I mean, not until I come to a decision, and I've dragged it out far too long. I'm such a chicken." She brightened a moment. "What I understand, know like the back of my hand, is hay. I'm thinking I could become a hay dealer, not just grow it but buy it from the Midwest, Pennsylvania, and Canada, then sell it. As I do that I could keep learning about grape stuff and see if I could add another string to my bow."

"Sounds like a good plan to me."

"Except I need a paycheck now."

"Pug would take you back in the post office." Susan mentioned the federal employee in charge of postal services for the area.

"No."

"Pride goeth before a fall."

"It's not pride. I'm not working without my babies."

"Where are Mrs. Murphy and Pewter?"

"In the truck, steaming up the windows." Harry leaned toward Susan. "Why are you here?"

Susan quietly looked over the Shenandoah Valley. "It's really coming down. Let's hope by the time we drive down Route 250 it's snowing on our side."

"Susan." Harry knew her friend inside and out.

"Ned and I are drifting apart."

Harry's face registered shock. "How? You seem close to me."

"He's distant. He doesn't much want sex anymore. He's all wrapped up in being our newly elected senator to Richmond. He's spending more time in the apartment he just rented there than at home."

"Mmm, the sex part is disturbing."

"Tell me."

"He's got a lot to learn about the job." Harry hoped this would help Susan push upsetting thoughts about Ned aside.

"Brooks graduates from high school this year. Danny loves Cornell. The house will soon be empty. He's starting a whole new life. I feel like my life, or at least my usefulness, is vanishing, ending."

Harry leaned into Tucker as Susan did, too. "All of this is a big change for both of you. He's handling it differently than you, that's all."

"I hope so." Tears now ran down Susan's face. "You know I'm not cut out to be a political wife. I'm no good at it." She wiped away a tear. "Ned is handsome. I've heard all those stories about politicians and pretty interns."

Harry wrapped an arm around Susan's shoulders. "Oh, honey, don't cry."

"I remember when it happened to you."

"Fair and Ned are different kinds of men. I knew, like a little seismic rumble underneath, that Fair thought he was missing something marrying his high-school sweetheart. He"--she paused--"well, he just jumped out of the paddock."

Susan cried harder. "I feel so awful. I know now how you felt."

"You were good to me." Harry hugged her.

"But I didn't really know how you felt. I do now."

Harry hugged her again, then straightened up. "Know who can help us?" Susan shook her head, so Harry continued, "BoomBoom. She's got the best radar for men of any of us. If he's up to no good, she'll figure it out. And really, Susan, I don't think he is."

Susan considered this as she again wiped away her tears, the soft leather of the glove cool against her colder skin. "Think she would?"

"Help? Sure."

"Well--"

"Let's call her on my cell in the truck. If she's free we can go down the mountain and meet her. It will ease your mind."

"I can't right this minute," Susan replied. "I came here to think but also to pick up Great-Uncle Thomas for Thanksgiving dinner. He's eighty-two now. Hard to believe. Anyway," she paused, "it's quite strange, really. He said to me, 'Susan, my time is near. I'd like to spend Thanksgiving with you.' He's healthy as a horse. I told him he was a long way from death's door."

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First Chapter

1

A thin trickle of water zigzagged over the Virgin Mary's cold face. She gazed westward from her home on top of the Blue Ridge Mountains, between Afton Gap and Humpback Mountain. Her elevation approached two thousand two hundred feet. The fertile expanse of the Shenandoah Valley spread below, rolling westward to the Allegheny Mountains. The Valley, made immortal by the military genius of Stonewall Jackson, had been beloved of the Native Americans long before the European immigrants, refugees, and mountebanks ever beheld its calming beauty.

Had the Blessed Virgin Mother been able to turn her head and look east, undulating hills traversed with ravines and ridges stopping at the Southwest Range would have delighted her eyes. The last spur of the Appalachian Mountain chain, the Southwest Range gives way on its eastern slopes to land with a gentle roll. These rich fields and forests drop until the Fall Line, the true geographic boundary between low country and up-country, between sandy soils, red clay, and loam mixtures. This line also divided the Iroquois-speaking peoples from the Sioux-speaking peoples. Neither side liked the other much, warfare and raids occurring with savage regularity. Into this political hot zone trooped the English, the first surviving colony founded in 1607. Those that lived, learned.

The conclusion of the Revolutionary War in 1781, one hundred and seventy-four years after Jamestown was founded, unleashed an exuberance of trade, exploration, birthrate, and optimism. Even the fierce Monocan tribe and their allies, who had kept the whites from building safe communities ever westward of the Fall Line, couldn't hold them back.

The land onwhich Mary stood was settled in 1794 by Catholics more comfortable on the crest of the mountains than walking among their hustling Protestant neighbors in Richmond or the Tidewater. They built a log chapel. The land and altitude were good for apples. Orchards flourished. After the Constitutional Convention, the new Constitution made crystal clear the separation between church and state. Many of the apple-growing Catholics moved down the mountain into Nelson and Albemarle Counties on the eastern slopes, Augusta County on the western slopes. Nestled in the valleys, the temperature warmer, the winds less fierce than on the mountaintop, the former religious refugees prospered.

The hard-core mountain people, many of them distillers of clear liquor--the mountain streams being wonderful for such endeavors--stayed in the hollows. They didn't want to live on a mountaintop.

Finally in 1866 a war-weary Confederate captain founded a monastic order based on the Carmelites. He called it Mt. Carmel after the original in Palestine. Carmelite orders were being founded in the north after the War Between the States. Captain Ainsly was defiant and remained independent of the international monastic order even though he followed their rules. Instead of being known as Whitefriars, the monks on Afton Mountain were called Greyfriars because of their gray wool robes, an echo of their uniform color.

The monastery itself was not open to the public. The dairy, the chandler's building, the food building with honey and jams, and the ironmonger's forge were open, though, as were the exquisite gardens. The products were made by the monks themselves. Applejack was their biggest seller. Made on the grounds from apples grown in the old orchards, the brothers took special care with their distillery. Folks said Greyfriars' applejack could kick one harder than a mule.

The Virgin Mary stood on the highest point of land, the spring gardens nestled below her. She was carved from native soapstone by another Confederate veteran sick of war and worldly corruption. The Blessed Virgin Mother radiated a sorrow, a forgiveness that touched many who looked upon her. The stones leading to her, worn concave from many feet, bore testimony to her grace and power.

On this day, November 24, Thanksgiving, snow settled in the folds of her raiment. It covered the earth down to a thousand feet above sea level. Below that, freezing rain pelted farm and forest.

Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen had driven up before the rain reached the eastern meadows. But as she squinted upward into a leaden sky, she knew getting down Afton Mountain would take a steady hand and a steady foot, no jamming on the brakes.

Her three dearest companions--Mrs. Murphy, a tiger cat, Pewter, a gray cat, and Tee Tucker, a brave corgi--had smelled the shift in the weather before their human friend knew it was coming. Confident in her driving ability, Harry wouldn't have turned back even if she had foreseen the change. She was determined to spend an hour on the mountain, alone and in thought, before plunging into Thanksgiving cheer. She'd quit her job as postmistress after sixteen years because the U.S. Postal Service was building a large, modern post office in Crozet by the railroad track. In this fit of improvement, the bigwigs decided that Mrs. Murphy, Pewter, and Tucker could no longer "work" with her. How could she live without the cats and dog? How could millions of Americans sit in windowless cubicles without even a bird to keep them connected to real life? Harry couldn't live like that. Not yet forty, she felt a disquieting alienation from so-called modern life. What seemed vital to others, like wading through their e-mail, seemed fake to her. Harry was at a crossroads, not sure which way to jump.

The dear older woman she worked with, Miranda Hogendobber, walked out when she did. But Miranda had her deceased husband's retirement to draw upon; she'd been frugal and was in good shape.

Harry wasn't in good shape financially. Taxes crept upward like kudzu threatening to choke her small farm profits, in particular, and ultimately free enterprise, in general. Services became ever more expensive and gas prices bounced up and down like a basketball in an NBA game.

On top of those worries was her ex-husband, Fair Haristeen, who still loved her and had made significant amends for what Harry saw as bad behavior. Fair had grown up and wanted her back, wanted a mature bond. He was handsome. Harry had a weak spot for a handsome man. Fair qualified at six five, blond hair, all muscle. An equine veterinarian, he specialized in reproduction. They both shared a profound love of horses.

Harry, at last, had made peace with the bombshell Fair had dallied with four years back when their marriage blew up. Olivia "BoomBoom" Craycroft slew men the way longhaired Samson slew his enemies. BoomBoom had enjoyed Fair's impressive physique and his Virginia gentleman ways, but she bored easily, soon dismissing him. "Think of this as recess from class," were her exact words. For all of BoomBoom's heartlessness with men where romance was concerned, she loved animals, was a good athlete, and demonstrated great community spirit. In a word, she was fabulous, until you slept with her or if you were the woman left in the dust by your boyfriend or husband.

As Harry stared up at the unearthly face of the Virgin, she shivered. Tucker, at her feet, shook off the thickening snow.

"She's beautiful," the corgi said.

Harry bent down, patting the glossy head. "Bet you think I'm crazy standing out here. Probably am."

Tucker lifted her nose, breathed deeply. "Susan." The little dog took off toward the enticing scent, skidding to a halt about forty yards away where a curved stone bench overlooked The Valley. The bench, situated on a winding path below the statue, was hidden from view if one was standing in front of the Virgin Mary.

The Valley was usually colder than the eastern slopes. Snow was falling there, a patchwork quilt of white, beige, and corn stubble two thousand feet below.

"Tucker," Susan said, surprised. "Where's Mom?"

Harry, pursuing her dog, slipped along the walkway between tall magnificent English boxwoods, only to be equally surprised when she saw her best friend. "Susan, what are you doing here?"

"I could ask you the same thing," Susan replied, smiling.

Harry brushed off the snow to sit next to Susan. Tucker wedged between them. "I'm here because I, well, I need help. I know the Blessed Virgin Mother has always been reputed to have powers--the statue, I mean. Miranda says whenever times get tough she comes up here and talks with Mary."

"Girl talk." Susan smiled, her auburn hair peeking out from underneath her lad's cap.

"Wish she could talk. I'd like to hear that Jesus wasn't perfect." Harry sighed. "It's too hard having perfect Gods--you know, God the Father, God the Son, and I have no idea who or what the Holy Ghost is. I mean it," she said as Susan laughed. "You went to Bible school in the summers, same as I did; we suffered through two years of catechism together. We only made Confirmation because Reverend Jones took pity on us. I can recite the Nicene Creed but I still can't tell you why I'm supposed to care about it. What is the Holy Ghost?" She threw up her hands, red gloves bright against the gloom. "But I understand Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mother. She's one of us; oh, better, but still, she's one of us."

"Yes." Susan reached for her friend's hand, her tan glove twining with the red. "I talk to her, too.
Questions. Life. Big questions. Little questions." Susan shrugged.

"The questions get bigger as we get older, don't you think?"

"I do."

Harry took a deep breath, the air scouring her lungs. "I'm here because I don't know what I'm doing. I feel dumb and maybe I really am dumb. And Fair asked me to marry him again."

"Ah." Susan smiled.

"That means you think it's a good idea."

"I'm glad he loves you. You're worth loving." She squeezed Harry's hand.

"Susan." Tears filled Harry's eyes, for kindness and praise affected her more deeply than criticism or meanness. She could stand up to that.

"You are, dear heart. You're my best friend and you know you can tell me anything."

"Tell you? Susan, all I've done for the last three months is bitch and moan."

"Oh, you have not. Anyone in your position is bound to be anxious. No money is coming in and you have to be careful. At least the farm is free and clear and so is the equipment."

"There's the dually payment." Harry mentioned the big one-ton Ford truck with the double wheels that she bought at a great price from Art Bushey, Jr., the Ford dealer and a good friend. His sense of humor was as twisted as hers, so of course they adored each other.

"Four hundred something a month."

"Yes. The feed bill, the gas and electric. I mean, I'm okay, but I've got to do something here pretty soon."

"You're still investigating growing grapes, aren't you? Sounds like a good idea." Susan was encouraging.

"I need to bring money in while I study that. I can't afford to get started anytime soon, since the capital outlay is outrageous. Patricia Kluge said she'd sit down with me. Her vineyards are a booming success. Felicia Rogan, who really revived the whole wine industry in Virginia, said she'd talk to me, too. Still, I need to do something, just get some money coming in. Fair said I could work with him as a vet tech. I know the drill but it's not a great idea. I mean, not until I come to a decision, and I've dragged it out far too long. I'm such a chicken." She brightened a moment. "What I understand, know like the back of my hand, is hay. I'm thinking I could become a hay dealer, not just grow it but buy it from the Midwest, Pennsylvania, and Canada, then sell it. As I do that I could keep learning about grape stuff and see if I could add another string to my bow."

"Sounds like a good plan to me."

"Except I need a paycheck now."

"Pug would take you back in the post office." Susan mentioned the federal employee in charge of postal services for the area.

"No."

"Pride goeth before a fall."

"It's not pride. I'm not working without my babies."

"Where are Mrs. Murphy and Pewter?"

"In the truck, steaming up the windows." Harry leaned toward Susan. "Why are you here?"

Susan quietly looked over the Shenandoah Valley. "It's really coming down. Let's hope by the time we drive down Route 250 it's snowing on our side."

"Susan." Harry knew her friend inside and out.

"Ned and I are drifting apart."

Harry's face registered shock. "How? You seem close to me."

"He's distant. He doesn't much want sex anymore. He's all wrapped up in being our newly elected senator to Richmond. He's spending more time in the apartment he just rented there than at home."

"Mmm, the sex part is disturbing."

"Tell me."

"He's got a lot to learn about the job." Harry hoped this would help Susan push upsetting thoughts about Ned aside.

"Brooks graduates from high school this year. Danny loves Cornell. The house will soon be empty. He's starting a whole new life. I feel like my life, or at least my usefulness, is vanishing, ending."

Harry leaned into Tucker as Susan did, too. "All of this is a big change for both of you. He's handling it differently than you, that's all."

"I hope so." Tears now ran down Susan's face. "You know I'm not cut out to be a political wife. I'm no good at it." She wiped away a tear. "Ned is handsome. I've heard all those stories about politicians and pretty interns."

Harry wrapped an arm around Susan's shoulders. "Oh, honey, don't cry."

"I remember when it happened to you."

"Fair and Ned are different kinds of men. I knew, like a little seismic rumble underneath, that Fair thought he was missing something marrying his high-school sweetheart. He"--she paused--"well, he just jumped out of the paddock."

Susan cried harder. "I feel so awful. I know now how you felt."

"You were good to me." Harry hugged her.

"But I didn't really know how you felt. I do now."

Harry hugged her again, then straightened up. "Know who can help us?" Susan shook her head, so Harry continued, "BoomBoom. She's got the best radar for men of any of us. If he's up to no good, she'll figure it out. And really, Susan, I don't think he is."

Susan considered this as she again wiped away her tears, the soft leather of the glove cool against her colder skin. "Think she would?"

"Help? Sure."

"Well--"

"Let's call her on my cell in the truck. If she's free we can go down the mountain and meet her. It will ease your mind."

"I can't right this minute," Susan replied. "I came here to think but also to pick up Great-Uncle Thomas for Thanksgiving dinner. He's eighty-two now. Hard to believe. Anyway," she paused, "it's quite strange, really. He said to me, 'Susan, my time is near. I'd like to spend Thanksgiving with you.' He's healthy as a horse. I told him he was a long way from death's door."
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 26 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    fantastic feline mystery

    In a small hamlet in Virginia, animals talk to each other across species lines and the only ones unable to understand is the dumbest species: humans. Mary Minor ¿Harry ¿ Haristeen loves her two cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter and her corgi Tee Tucker; they reciprocate her feelings, going so far as to help her when she becomes too deeply involved in a murder investigation and puts her life in danger.--- The Greyfiars Monastery¿s has a Virgin Mary statue on their property that starts weeping bloody tears. Many people including some of the monks think it is a miracle. Monk Thomas is found frozen to death in a kneeling position besides the statue. Harry¿s intuition screams murder and her four legged protectors know a cardinal witnessed the homicide. The journalist covering this phenomenon is killed when someone sticks a pen in his eye. Harry thinks the killings and the tears are linked; she investigates but it is only because of her animal friends that she doesn¿t become the third murder victim.--- It is always a pleasure to read a book starring Harry and Mrs. Murphy but the CAT¿S EYEWITNESS is particularly good as several changes in Harry¿s life has occurred. The heroine¿s ex-husband gives Harry a marriage proposal ultimatum or he will look elsewhere for love. Harry no longer works in the post office because she cannot bring her animals into the new facility. Susan, Harry¿s best friend, reveals a secret she kept for over two decades, and the sexpot Boom Boom finds a surprising new lover. Readers will find it impossible to figure out who the perpetrator is among the even tempered monks. Rita Mae Brown delights her fans with this fantastic feline mystery.--- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 5, 2013

    Kept you wanting to find out what was going to happen next.

    Of course, Mrs. Murphy was superb and very right on with her thinking. All the animals were looking out for the "human". The story line was interesting and led you to the right answers.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2013

    To all of pure evils clan

    This result isnt our territory. ~scar

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2012

    A grey twoleg road

    A huge grey twoleg road leads to the last result...

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2012

    Dapplesong

    Dapplewong hunted. She caught two fat rabbits and two thrushes. She buried
    it to get more

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 29, 2008

    things change even for Harry

    Another great book in the series. Ms. Brown has done an excellent job of giving the reader insight into new aspects of her family of characters - yet maintaining a good mystry and fun read. Keeps the series fresh & interesting.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2007

    A reviewer

    I'm glad I read the other reviews, which echoed exactly what I thought. The lesbian theme, and the preachy philosophy did not make for fun reading. I loved the earlier books, but over time noticed a big increase in profanity (there was little in her earlier books)and the philosophy and preachy stuff (including racial remarks), made it no longer a 'fun' read. I don't think I will buy any more of her books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2007

    A reviewer

    Too preachy. Too much personal philosophy and not enough crime-solving. Plus, a principal supporting character's sudden conversion to lesbianism comes out of nowhere. I've loved Brown's books up until now, but this one was a major disappointment.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2005

    Terrible

    I was disappointed by the lack of deep plot as I was used to from the past books. Gay characters and preachy statements about race is a way to annoy your fans.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2005

    Insulted & Disappointed

    'Neither of us was born rich but we weren't poor, we received excellent educations, we're white--which is still an advantage in this world' Page 209 - Cat's Eyewitness, Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown. As a black woman I find this statement extremely disheartening, and insulting. It's sad to even imagine that in 2005 there are still people who believe that the color of your skin gives you special rights. I will no longer buy, read or recommend the series or author. I also didn't see the point of lesbianism in the story.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2005

    Needs more Tucker, Mrs. Murphy and Pewter

    While I have loved the series in the past, I fear Cat's Eyewitness continues a downward trend. The plot itself is a good one, but suffers dearly from an overload of preachiness and lesbianism. Trim the fat; keep the main plotline.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2005

    A disappointing series 'end'?

    An avid fan of the Mrs. Murphy Mysteries, I was very disappointed in this book. This seemed to be a hastily and poorly written series finale. The mystery plot was uninspired and the writing was lackluster. The previously well written and thought provolking dialogue between the animals was missing, replaced instead with a heavy handed philosophical drone. The human dialogue and descriptive narrative were stilted and tedious. The revelation of Boom Boom's lesbianism seemed awkward and forced. Should this book NOT be the series finale, I'm not certain I would read a sequel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2005

    So disappointed

    I thought this was preachy and badly plotted. I enjoyed all the other Sneaky Pie books but found this one tedious.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2005

    Not enough of Mrs. Murphy, Tucker and Pewter in this book!

    I have read the entire series with Mrs. Murphy, Tucker and Pewter and have found the last 2 in the series to be lacking. There is too much writing about religion and lesbianism. I want to read about the interaction of the animals with each other and with humans and the solving of a mystery.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2005

    Harry, Murph and the gang are back

    Loved book 13 as i have the previous 12 books in this charming series. But its bittersweet as it almost seems like the author(s) are tying up loose ends..for a possible series finale...Love the closeknit family interaction between the humans and also the animals..a good book to curl up with a cat or 2 with a cup of Starbucks.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2005

    An enjoyable read!

    This book has made the series all the better. Instead of such a heavy focus on the animal characters, Ms. Brown focuses on the heroine Harry. Harry has undergone some big life changes which like the rest of us, have gone through. Didn't take alot of time, the plot was well done and savor each page.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews

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