The Barnes & Noble Review
Harry (Mary Minor Haristeen) and her felony-finding felines are at it again (with a bit of canine help). From the six-footed writing team of Rita Mae Brown and her cat, Sneaky Pie Brown, comes another delightful mystery wherein Harry's curiosity is as dangerous as the proverbial cat's. This time out, the action centers around the town's hospital, where a body has been found in the basement. And before long, death is making rounds at the hospital right along with the doctors.
Hank Brevard, the hospital's plant manager, has had his throat slit from ear to ear, a violent and gruesome crime that no one can make sense of at first. His body is found beside the huge boiler in a 150-year-old section of the hospital's basement. Unsure if the crime has anything to do with the hospital, the local cops, with the unsolicited help of Harry, investigate the victim, the building, and the people in it, though the hospital director, Sam Mahanes, is less than helpful. There are plenty of problems at the hospital, not the least of which is an ongoing fiscal battle between Mahanes and one of the facility's key physicians. But none of these skirmishes seem connected to the murder victim. Not until a second murder occurs -- this one of a beloved and respected physician who has been with the hospital for decades -- does anyone become convinced that the crimes and the hospital are somehow connected.
Harry's usual nosiness earns her a knock on the head from an unseen assailant, resulting in a few stitches and an even greater determination. She and local police officer Cynthia Cooper theorize on all kinds of possible motives, everything from a tangled love affair to a black-market organ-procurement ring. But it's Harry's trio of four-footed companions -- her cats, Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and her corgi, Tucker -- who discover the real secret at the hospital, which is connected to the facility's former function as a cornerstone of the Underground Railroad.
Brown's charming depictions of small-town life in rural Virginia give her story a cozy feel, while the often quirky characters help to keep the story lively. And feline lovers will delight in some of the mischievous antics of Mrs. Murphy and Pewter. As always, Brown has crafted a solid story with an intriguing mystery at its heart, but it's those crafty, four-footed compatriots that make this series so uniquely purr-fect. (Beth Amos)
Beth Amos is the author of several novels, including Second Sight, Eyes of Night, and Cold White Fury.
Pet mysteries are always a fan favorite and Claws and effect will appeal to both dog and cat lovers. The animals are adorable and the mystery beguiling, making for fine entertainment. Romantic Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Mrs. Murphy, the incomparable feline sleuth with attitude, returns to captivate readers in her ninth outing (Pawing Through the Past; etc.). Ice and freezing temperatures have given the inhabitants of Crozet, Va., a bad case of the Februaries with little to discuss with postmistress Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen but the weather. However, when the cantankerous Hank Brevard, plant manager of the local hospital, is found murdered in the hospital basement, the focus of attention quickly shifts. Spurred by her natural curiosity and the age-old rumors that the basement had been part of the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, Harry visits the scene only to be attacked herself. When a beloved physician becomes the next victim, Harry is convinced that the crimes are connected and that something is sorely amiss at the hospital. Fearful for her mistress's safety, Mrs. Murphy and her cohorts, fellow cat Pewter and the lovable corgi, Tucker, take matters into their own paws, snooping and sniffing to discover the secret behind the mounting body count. The personal anecdotes and perplexing predicaments of the human and nonhuman characters enhance an intriguing and well-executed mystery. Particularly of note are the descriptions of the fox hunts that are so much a part of life in rural Virginia. Grateful fans will relish this charming addition by a master of the cozy cat genre. (Mar. 6) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-When the plant manager of the Crozet Hospital is found dead, Harry and her three pets start to hunt for clues to the identity of the murderer. Later, when Harry's friend Dr. Johnson is also killed, their search moves into high gear. Of course the animals find answers long before the humans do. Their speech, humorous dialogue, and the expressive illustrations make this series entertaining. Some teens will relate to the pros and cons of living in a small town where the residents think they have a right to know everyone else's secrets.-Claudia Moore, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Never let anyone tell you that all the magic in the world is gone. In Crozet, Virginia, people know their neighbors and actually lend a helping hand (novel idea). Animals from different species communicate with one another and even understand humanese although the opposite is not true.Local postmaster "Harry" Hartisteen has two cats (Mrs. Murphy and Pewter) and a Corgi (Tucker) who watch over her. The human needs special caring because Harry seems to always land in a homicide investigation, something she loves to solve in spite of the danger. Only the skills of her animals have kept her alive, kicking, and sleuthing. When a corpse turns up in the hospital basement, rumored to have been an underground stop, Harry decides to investigate. An unknown assailant bashes her in the head and a local doctor helping the police is shot to death. Though slightly deterred, Harry accompanied by her rescue trio vows to find the answers. Reading a Mrs. Murphy mystery is like eating a potato chip. You always go back for more. These whimsical and enchanting stories beguile the reader with the sorcery of a special place. The who-done-it of Claw And Effect is addicting as the characters we care for hook us once again with their purrfect charm that steals the show of the latest expert tale from a deserving best-selling series.
Mrs. Murphy, the sleuthing cat who solves the murders of Crozet (Virginia) postmistress Harry Haristeen's less endearing acquaintances, pits her ninth life (Pawing Through the Past, 2000, etc.) against the miscreant who sent out fundraising letters for the hospital threatening divine retribution against skinflints who didn't contributeand then, just to make sure the recipients got the point, killed the hospital director. Author tour
From the Publisher
“As feline collaborators go, you couldn’t ask for better than Sneaky Pie Brown.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Mrs. Murphy is [a] cat who detects her way into our hearts.”—San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
Read an Excerpt
"People tell me things. Of course, I have a kind face and I'm a good listener, but the real reason they tell me things is they think I can't repeat their secrets. They couldn't be more wrong."
"People tell me secrets." The corgi looked up at Mrs. Murphy, the tiger cat, reposing on the windowsill at the post office.
"You're delusional. Dogs blab." She nonchalantly flipped the end of her tail.
"You just said people think you can't repeat their secrets but they're wrong. So you blab, too."
"No, I don't. I can tell if I want to, that's all I'm saying."
Tucker sat up, shook her head, and walked closer to the windowsill. "Well, got any secrets?"
"No, it's been a dull stretch." She sighed. "Even Pewter hasn't dug up any dirt."
"I resent that." A little voice piped up from the bottom of a canvas mail cart.
"Wait until Miranda finds out what you've done to her garden. She hasn't a tulip bulb left, Pewter, and all because you thought there was a mole in there last week."
"Her tulips were diseased. I've saved her a great deal of trouble." She paused a moment. "And I was careful enough to pull mulch over the hole. She won't find out for another month or two. Who knows when spring will come?"
"I don't know about spring but here comes Mim the Magnificent." Tucker, on her hind legs, peered out the front window.
Mim Sanburne, the town's leading and richest citizen, closed the door of her Bentley Turbo, stepping gingerly onto the cleared walkway to the post office because ice covered much of central Virginia.
Odd that Mim would own a Bentley for she was a true Virginian, born and bred, plus her family had been in the state since the early 1600s. Driving anything as flashy as a Bentley was beyond the pale. The only thing worse would be to drive a Rolls Royce. And Mim didn't flaunt her wealth. Miranda, who had known Mim all of her life, figured this was a quiet rebellion on her friend's part. As they both cruised into their sixties, not that they were advertising, this was Mim's salvo to youth: Get Out Of My Way.
Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen smiled when Mim pushed open the door. "Good morning."
"Good morning, Harry. Did you have trouble driving in today?"
"Once I rolled down the driveway I was fine. The roads are clear."
"You didn't ask me if I had trouble." Miranda walked up to the counter dividing the post office staff from the public. As she lived immediately behind the post office, with just an alleyway in between, she slipped and slid as she made her way to work on foot.
"You haven't broken anything so I know you're fine." Mim leaned on the counter. "Gray. Gray. Cold. Hateful."
"Four degrees Fahrenheit last night." Miranda, passionate gardener that she was, kept close watch on the weather. "It must have been colder at Dalmally." She mentioned the name of Mim's estate just outside of town. As some of Mim's ancestors fled to America from Scotland they named their farm Dalmally, a remembrance of heather and home.
"Below zero." Mim strolled over to her postbox, took out her key, the brass lock clicking as she turned the key.
Curious, Mrs. Murphy dropped off the windowsill, jumped onto the wooden counter, then nimbly stepped off the counter onto the ledge that ran behind the postboxes, dividing the upper boxes from the larger, lower boxes. She enjoyed peering in the boxes. If a day dragged on she might reach in, shuffle some mail, or even bite the corners.
Today she noticed that Susan Tucker's mailbox had Cracker Jacks stuck on the bottom of it.
Mim's gloved hand, a luscious, soft turquoise suede, reached into her box. Murphy couldn't help herself; she peered down, then took both paws and grabbed Mim's hand, no claws.
"Mrs. Murphy. Let me have my mail." Mim bent down to see two beautiful green eyes staring back at her.
"Give me your glove. I love the smell of the suede."
"Harry, your cat won't let me go."
Harry walked over, slipped her fingers into the mailbox and disengaged Murphy's paws. "Murphy, not everyone in Crozet thinks you're adorable."
"Thank you!" Pewter's voice rose up from the canvas mail cart.
Harry gently placed her tiger on the counter again. A pretty woman, young and fit, she stroked the cat.
Miranda checked the bookshelves for cartons. "Mim, got a package here for you. Looks like your coffee."
Mim belonged to a coffee club, receiving special beans from various world-famous cafes once a month. "Good." She stood at the counter sorting her mail. She removed one exquisite glove and slit open envelopes with her thumbnail, a habit Harry envied, since her own nails were worn down from farm work. The older, elegant woman opened a white envelope, read a few sentences, then tossed the letter and envelope in the trash. "Another chain letter. I just hate them and I wish there'd be a law against them. They're all pyramid schemes. This one wants you to send five dollars to Crozet Hospital's Indigent Patients Fund and then send out twenty copies of the letter. I just want to know who put my name on the list."
Harry flipped up the divider, walked over to the wastebasket, and fished out the offending letter.
"Sister Sophonisba will bring you good fortune." She scanned the rest of it. "There is no list of names. All it says is to pass this on to twenty other people. 'If you wish.'" Harry's voice filled the room. "Send five dollars to Crozet Hospital's Indigent Patients Fund or your microwave will die."
"It doesn't really say that, does it?" Miranda thought Harry was teasing her but then again ...
"Nah." Harry flashed her crooked grin.
"Very funny." Mim reached for her letter again, which Harry handed to her. "Usually there's a list of names and the top one gets money. You know, your name works its way to the top of the list." She re-read the letter, then guffawed, "Here's the part that always kills me about these things." She read aloud. "Mark Lintel sent five dollars and the Good Lord rewarded him with a promotion at work. Jerry Tinsley threw this letter in the trash and had a car wreck three days later." Mim peered over the letter. "I seem to recall Jerry's wreck. And I seem to recall he was liberally pickled in vodka. If he dies he'll come back as a rancid potato."
Harry laughed. "I guess he has to get rid of that old Camry somehow so he decided to wreck it."
From the Hardcover edition.