Pawing through the Past (Mrs. Murphy Series #8)

( 20 )


"You'll never get old."

Each member of the class of 1980 has received the letter. Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen, who is on the organizing committee for Crozet High's twentieth reunion, decides to take it as a compliment. Others think it's a joke.

But Mrs. Murphy senses trouble. And the sly tiger cat is soon proven right ... when the class womanizer turns up dead with a ...
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Pawing through the Past (Mrs. Murphy Series #8)

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"You'll never get old."

Each member of the class of 1980 has received the letter. Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen, who is on the organizing committee for Crozet High's twentieth reunion, decides to take it as a compliment. Others think it's a joke.

But Mrs. Murphy senses trouble. And the sly tiger cat is soon proven right ... when the class womanizer turns up dead with a bullet between his eyes. Then another note followed by another murder makes it clear that someone has waited twenty years to take revenge.

While Harry tries to piece together the puzzle, it's up to Mrs. Murphy and her animal pals to sniff out the truth. And there isn't much time. Mrs. Murphy is the first to realize that Harry has been chosen Most Likely to Die, and if she doesn't hurry, Crozet High's twentieth reunion could be Harry's last.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
A Tail of Murder

That felicitous and furry feline author, Sneaky Pie Brown, has teamed up once again with her human counterpart, Rita Mae Brown, to bring another fun and fascinating mystery to light. If you've experienced the whimsical high jinks of Brown's four-footed sleuths before, it's easy to see why this delightful series is so popular. If you haven't, then Pawing through the Past is the purr-fect way to get acquainted.

In the deceptively sleepy town of Crozet, Virginia, people have a way of turning up dead. So when the past comes back to haunt the alumni of Crozet High's class of 1980, it has a very lethal effect. Fortunately, America's favorite feline sleuth -- Mary Hairsteen's top cat, Mrs. Murphy -- is on the case and tracking the killer. But even Mrs. Murphy and her furry, able-bodied assistants are puzzled by this one, for the killer is a masterful planner with a devious mind.

In addition to her duties as postmistress, Mary Hairsteen, or Harry as everyone in Crozet knows her, is helping to plan her 20th class reunion. Things get off to a shaky start when several class members get a mysterious mailing, an anonymous letter that says simply, "You'll never get old." Although some see the curious letter as a compliment, and others think it's merely a joke, Harry and her cadre of pets find it discomfiting. When one of Harry's fellow classmates -- a notorious lothario with a long list of enemies -- turns up murdered, the words in the letter take on a whole new and far more sinister meaning. Especially when a second letter arrives, this one making it clear that the first murder won't be the last.

Harry's on the case in record time, and she quickly turns up an ugly incident from the past, one that led to another classmate's suicide years ago. Would those involved be so intent upon keeping their secret that they'd kill to do so? As the body count climbs, Harry starts to think so. But the list of potential killers is quickly whittled down as those on it start turning up dead. Harry's inquiries eventually lead her to the truth, but they also add her to the killer's hit list.

Mrs. Murphy, along with Tee Tucker, the Welsh corgi, and a gray cat named Pewter, are working right alongside Harry, trying to solve the case and keep their mistress safe. Their humorous and puzzled observations of human nature provide an entertaining contrast to their own instinctive knowledge and abilities. Their dogged efforts do pay off, but by the time they ferret out the truth and discover the startling identity of this weaselly killer, they are forced to employ some rather desperate measures in hopes of keeping Harry alive. Before it's all over, plenty of fur is flying.

In the hands of a writer less talented than Ms. Brown, a mystery series that includes the points of view of a menagerie of pets might seem trite and forced. But these critters blend into the story without a hitch, and their wry observations of their human counterparts along with their own characteristic behaviors only add to the fun. And the plot is tight enough to keep even the most sophisticated mystery fans guessing right up until the final denouement.

—Beth Amos

Toby Bromberg
Pawning Through The Past is a delightful cozy mystery, all the more so because of the active role the pets take in solving the crime. There’s a bit of romance as well and the puzzling mystery will shock and delight you.
Romantic Times
Barnes & Noble Guide to New Fiction
America's favorite feline sleuth finds herself paw-deep in a "fun" case of old ties, old sins, and all-too-present danger as she investigates a mystery surrounding the twentieth reunion of the Crozet High Class of 1980. Utterly "transporting." "Norman Rockwell scenes come to life - the best feline-human duo's whodunit yet!"
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen and her intrepid trio of animal sleuths are back for an eighth--and winsome--adventure (following Cat on the Scent). Harry, postmistress of seemingly bucolic Crozet, Va., and her classmates are excited about their upcoming 20th high school reunion. They share bittersweet memories of that time when everything seemed possible, as preparations proceed to welcome back far-flung classmates. But it quickly becomes apparent that one person's memories are only bitter: weeks before the celebration, each classmate receives an anonymous letter reading, "You'll never get old." The class Casanova then gets a bullet between the eyes; more threatening letters follow. While the humans involved argue, dither and try to figure out what's behind the murderous rage turning their reunion into a killing ground, Mrs. Murphy, Pewter and Tee Tucker (Harry's sage tiger cat, plump gray cat and Welsh corgi, respectively) conduct their own investigation. Brown's appealing sense of humor, well-constructed setting and competent plotting carry the day. Her talking, thinking animals are funny and, for those who like this sort of thing, even adorable. Illus. by Itoko Maeno. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
Another visit to Crozet, Virginia (Cat on the Scent, 1999, etc.), and the farm where postmistress Mary Minor ("Harry") Haristeen lives with Welsh Corgi Tee Tucker and cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter. Harry and half the village are agog over preparations for the town's upcoming 20th high-school reunion. Fair Haristeen, Harry's ex, will be there, along with her best friends and even newcomer to town Chris Sharpton. In addition, there's a smaller 40th reunion that's drawn retired army officer Tracy Raz from Florida to rent rooms from Harry and renew an old friendship with Miranda Hogendobber, now Harry's assistant at the post office. Reunion festivities have scarcely begun when the incorrigible womanizer Charlie Ashcroft is found shot to death in the locker room of a nearby country club. Soon after, another alumnus becomes shooting victim number two: Leo Burkey, found in the dumpster behind the Market Shiflet's grocery store. Sheriff Rick Shaw and his deputy Cynthia Cooper have learned that Ashcroft fathered an illegitimate child years ago and that he was HIV positive. But none of their discoveries bring the anonymous notes or the killings to a halt, maybe because they're part of the revenge someone is taking for a savage incident from the past. Only the help of her animal family saves Harry from becoming another victim as the absurd plot winds to its finish. Fun for animal lovers. Sporadically interesting for people more interested in people.
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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402515118
  • Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
  • Publication date: 3/25/2002
  • Series: Mrs. Murphy Series , #8
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Unabridged, 7 cassettes, 585 minutes

Meet the Author

Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of Rubyfruit Jungle, In Her Day, Six of One, Southern Discomfort, Sudden Death, High Hearts, Bingo, Starting from Scratch: A Different Kind of Writers' Manual, Venus Envy, Dolley: A Novel of Dolley Madison in Love and War, Riding Shotgun, Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser, Loose Lips and Outfoxed. 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 six previous Mrs. Murphy mysteries: Wish You Were Here, Rest in Pieces, Murder at Monticello, Pay Dirt, Murder, She Meowed, and Murder on the Prowl, plus Sneaky Pie's Cookbook for Mystery Lovers.

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Read an Excerpt

The huge ceiling fan lazily swirled overhead, vainly attempting to move the soggy August air. Mary Minor Haristeen, Harry to her friends--and everyone was a friend--scribbled ideas on a yellow legal pad. Seated around the kitchen table, high-school yearbooks open, were Susan Tucker, her best friend, Mrs. Miranda Hogendobber, her coworker and good friend, and Chris Sharpton, an attractive woman new to the area.

"We could have had this meeting at the post office," Susan remarked as she wiped the sweat from her forehead.

"Government property," Miranda said.

"Right, government property paid for with my taxes," Susan laughed.

Harry, the postmistress in tiny Crozet, Virginia, said, "Okay, it is air-conditioned but think how many hours Miranda and I spend in that place. I have no desire to hang out there in my free time."

"You've got air-conditioning at your house." Miranda stared at Susan.

"I know but the kids are having a pool party and--"

"You left the house with a party in progress? There won't be a drop of liquor left," Harry interrupted.

"My kids know when to stop."

"Congratulations," Harry taunted her. "That doesn't mean anyone else's kids know when to stop. I hope you locked the bar."

"Ned is there." Susan returned to the opened yearbook, the conversation clearly over. Her husband could handle any crisis.

"You could have said that in the first place." Harry opened her yearbook to the same page.

"Why? It's more fun to listen to you tell me what to do."

"Oh." Harry sheepishly bent over the yearbook photo of one of her senior superlatives, Most Likely to Succeed. "I can't believe I looked likethat."

"You look exactly the same. Exactly." Miranda pulled Harry's yearbook to her.

"Don't compliment her, it will go to her head." Susan turned to Chris. "Are you sorry you volunteered to help us?"

"No, but I don't see as I'm doing much good." The newcomer smiled, her hand on her own high-school yearbook.

"All right. Down to business." Harry straightened her shoulders. "I'm in charge of special categories for our twentieth high-school reunion. BoomBoom Craycroft, our fearless leader"--Harry said this with a tinge of sarcasm about the head of the reunion--"is going to reshoot photographs of our senior superlatives with us as we are today. My job is to come up with other things to do with people who weren't senior superlatives.

"That's only fair. I mean, there are only twelve senior superlatives, one male, one female. That's twenty people out of one hundred and thirty-two, give or take a few, since some of us were voted more than one superlative." Harry paused for a breath. "How many were in your class, Miranda?"

"Fifty-six. Forty-two are still alive, although some of us might be on respirators. My task for my reunion is easier." Miranda giggled, her hand resting on the worn cover of her 1950 yearbook.

"You all were so lucky to go to small high schools. Mine was a consolidated. Huge," Chris remarked, and indeed her yearbook bore witness to the fact, being three times fatter than that of Harry and Susan or Mrs. Hogendobber.

Susan agreed. "I guess we were lucky but we didn't know it at the time."

"Does anyone?" Harry tapped her yellow wooden pencil against the back of her left wrist.

"Probably not. Not when you're young. What fun we had." Miranda, a widow, nodded her head, jammed with happy memories.

"Okay, here's what I've got. Ready?" They nodded in assent so Harry began reading, "These are categories to try and include others: Most Distance Traveled. Most Children. Most Wives--"

"You're not going to do that." Miranda chuckled.

"Why not? That one is followed by Most Husbands. Too bad we can't have one for Most Affairs." Harry lifted her eyebrows.

"Malicious," Susan said dryly.

"Rhymes with delicious." Harry's eyes brightened. "Okay, what else have I got here? Most Changed. Obviously that has to be in some good way. Can't pick out someone who has porked on an extra hundred pounds. And--uh--I couldn't think of anything else."

"Harry, you're usually so imaginative." Miranda seemed surprised.

"She's not at all imaginative but she is ruthlessly logical. I'll give her that."

Harry ignored Susan's assessment of her, speaking to Chris, "When you're new to a place it takes a long time to ferret out people's relationships to one another. Suffice it to say that Susan, my best friend since birth, feels compelled to point out my shortcomings."

"Harry, being logical isn't a shortcoming. It's a virtue," Susan protested. "But we are light on categories here."

Chris opened her dark green yearbook to a club photo. "My twentieth reunion was last year. One of the things we did was go through the club photos to see if we could find anyone who became a professional at something they were known for in high school. You know, like did anyone in Latin club become a Latin teacher. It's kind of hokey but you do get desperate after a time."

Harry pulled the book toward her, the youthful faces of the Pep Club staring back at her. "Which one are you?"

Chris pointed to a tall girl in the back row. "I wasn't blonde then."

"I can see that." Harry read the names below the photo, finding Chris Sharpton. She slid the book back to the owner.

"What we also did which took a bit of quick thinking on the spot was, we had cards made up with classmates' names written on them in italics. They were pretty. Anyway, if the individual hadn't fit into some earlier category we did things like Tom Cruise Double--anything to make them feel special."

"That's clever," Miranda complimented her.

"The other thing we did was make calls. As you know people disperse after high school. Each of us on the committee called everyone we were still in contact with from our class. We asked who they were in contact with and what they knew about the people. This way we gathered information for things like Most Community Service. After a time it's a stretch but it's important that everyone be included in some way. At the last minute we even wrote a card up, Still The Same."

"Chris, these are good ideas." Harry was grateful. "You're wonderful to come help us. I mean, this isn't even your reunion."

"I'm not as generous as you think," Chris laughed. "Susan bet me she'd beat me by three strokes on the Keswick golf course. The bet was I'd help you all if I lost."

"What would you have gotten if you'd won?"

"Two English boxwoods planted by my front walkway."

Since moving to Crozet four months ago, Chris had thrown herself into decorating and landscaping her house in the Deep Valley subdivision, a magnet for under-forty newcomers to Albemarle County.

An outgoing person, Chris had made friends with her neighbors but most especially Marcy Wiggins and Bitsy Valenzuela, two women married to men that were classmates of Harry's.

"Good bet," Harry whistled.
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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 20 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 20 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2001

    Kudos To The Browns!

    This entry into the Sneaky Pie series is a little different than the others. That is not a bad thing. Ms. Brown just out did herself in writing this one. I didn¿t see the end coming at all. Great going to the Browns, you did a wonderful job in hiding the killer and the why in this plot. I wished I could give this installment 6 stars, it is better than the previous books and they were very fun and entertaining. As with all of the author¿s installments in this series, the writing is tight and flows smoothly. The characters and dialog were very well developed. One thing too that I like about this series is that the author stays true to her characters. Ms. Brown understands the psychology of the inhabits of Crozet. She never lets them do anything that they shouldn¿t just to move the plot. This installment also introduces a new character, Tracy Raz. In my book, he is a welcomed addition to the Crozet clan. A nice father figure to Harry and companion to Miranda. I hope that he never moves away. Miranda needs some one to take care of and to love again. With the reunions, we get to see a different side to Harry. Harry does some mellowing and is starting to understand herself better. I do sense some changes in the air for her and the Crozet clan. I¿m sure that The Browns will make these changes for the better. Because I¿m sure that Rita Mae and Sneaky Pie love these characters as much as I do.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Enjoyable feline mystery

    In Virginia, there is a special place that some might consider magical. Crozet is a small charming hamlet where Southern gentility sways and everybody knows one another. However, the magic resides with the animals who are at as intelligent as the humans, communicate between species as they understand one another, and comprehend what the humans say even if Homo Sapiens fails to reciprocate. <P>A gray cat Mrs. Murphy, a Welsh Congi Tee Tucker, and a gray tiger cat Peculiar own human Mary Minor ¿Harry¿ Hairsteen. Harry and friends are planning the high school¿s twentieth reunion when a strange anonymous note arrives. Mrs. Murphy thinks that there is something weird about the note and her fears prove right when someone kills the local lothario. A second note arrives followed by a second murder. Harry begins sleuthing with her animals planning to stealthily assists her to keep her safe. <P>Talented author Rita Mae Brown beguiles her audience with a special tale that taps into the fantasy believer in all of us. PAWING THROUGH THE PAST makes readers accept animals talking with one another and understanding human speech, and caring about their ¿pets¿ so as to insure their safety. The mystery is cleverly crafted so that it captures and uses the ambiance of small town Southern living to propel the story line forward. Fans of the Mrs. Murphy series will want to immediately read this novel while newcomers will search for the previous books. <P>Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2014

    To seaclan

    Read my post in highlog, then rename this clan.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2014

    VP SP SC

    Vixenpaw dded up to her mentor. "Hello, Clearstream!" She purred happily. Squirrelpaw awaited her mentor. Swiftcurrent groomed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2014


    So who is deputy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2014

    Leader of BirchClan to Coralstar

    That sounds wonderful!! It's a great idea to have a neighboring clan to help us along! ~Maplestar, leader of BirchClan

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2014


    Walks in. Both of you, battle training with mr. Swiftcurrent, come along. I might have antonginized the other Seaclan so we need to get readym they didnt seem very nice. ( go to 7)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2012

    A mouse

    A mouse scampers around, searching for a seed. An eagle spots it and starts to land, claws outstretched, ready to pluck the puny animal from the ground...

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2012


    Dapplesong slipped through and cauht two mice and a rabbit. She smiled and headed home

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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