Wish You Were Here (Mrs. Murphy Series #1)

( 52 )

Overview

Curiosity just might be the death of Mrs. Murphy--and her human companion, Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen.  Small towns are like families:  Everyone lives very close together. . .and everyone keeps secrets.  Crozet, Virginia, is a typical small town-until its secrets explode into murder.  Crozet's thirty-something post-mistress, Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen, has a tiger cat (Mrs. Murphy) and a Welsh Corgi (Tucker), a pending divorce, and a bad habit of reading postcards not ...
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Overview

Curiosity just might be the death of Mrs. Murphy--and her human companion, Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen.  Small towns are like families:  Everyone lives very close together. . .and everyone keeps secrets.  Crozet, Virginia, is a typical small town-until its secrets explode into murder.  Crozet's thirty-something post-mistress, Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen, has a tiger cat (Mrs. Murphy) and a Welsh Corgi (Tucker), a pending divorce, and a bad habit of reading postcards not addressed to her.  When Crozet's citizens start turning up murdered, Harry remembers that each received a card with a tombstone on the front and the message "Wish you were here" on the back.  Intent on protecting their human friend, Mrs. Murphy and Tucker begin to scent out clues.  Meanwhile, Harry is conducting her own investigation, unaware her pets are one step ahead of her.  If only Mrs. Murphy could alert her somehow, Harry could uncover the culprit before the murder occurs--and before Harry finds herself on the killer's mailing list.

Postmistress of Crozet, Virginia, Mary "Harry" Haristeen has a bad habit of reading postcards not addressed to her. But as murders are discovered all over Crozet, Harry remembers that every victim received a postcard with a picture of a graveyard on the front and the message "Wish you were here" on the back.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"It should delight cat fancier. . .sassy, silly, and plenty of fun."--The Baltimore Sun
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Crediting her cat Sneaky Pie as coauthor, Brown ( Rubyfruit Jungle ) sets the thoroughly likable heroine of this mystery, Mary Minor Haristeen, in an admirable position to figure out who is murdering, in ghastly fashion, various pillars of her community. Harry, with constant companions Mrs. Murphy, a cat, and Welsh corgi Tucker, is postmistress of Crozet, Va. Postcards are sent to a wealthy contractor shortly before parts of his body are found in a cement mixer and then to a storeowner whose corpse, tied to a railroad track, is cut in three parts by the express. The cards alert Harry and friends to a plot that will take more lives before they discover the treasure that inspires the violence. Brown's lively characterization brings merchants and first-family Virginians alive with affection and verve. Even the snippets of conversation contributed by Crozet's four-legged inhabitants are credible rather than cloying. Harry's in-process divorce of the town vet gives Brown opportunity to wax wise on issues of human relationships, feminism and the pitfalls of greed. A charming adventure, with teeth. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Mary Minor (``Harry'') Haristeen, di vorce in the works, runs the post office in Crozet, Virginia, with a pet cat and dog at her side. After two spectacularly grue some murders rock the community, Har ry attempts to gather helpful clues, while the pets (who converse with each other) do their best to protect her. Despite a few light moments, the ``cute'' antics of the animals wear desperately thin, failing to shore up the flimsy plot construction or bolster the weak characterization. A dis appointment from the author of Rubyfruit Jungle (Daughters, 1973).
School Library Journal
YA-- At last there is a book that truly recognizes the important role animals have in solving crimes. Braun's ``The Cat Who'' series comes close, but it doesn't give the in-depth look at animal conversations and sleuthing from the point of view that this title does. The Browns have written a fast-paced, easy-to-read, attention-grabbing mystery sure to be loved by teens. Tee Tucker (a Corgi) and Mrs. Murphy (a gray tiger cat) utilize their superior detective abilities to determine who sends macabre post cards to the next murder victim. These sleuths must throw clues at the dense humans who try to solve the mystery before becoming the next corpse. The witty dialogue of humans and pets enables readers to know and identify with the unique residents in small-town America, and the attractive line drawings depict the industrious animal detectives. This is the first in a crime series; readers will eagerly await the opportunity to scent out the clues in the second.-- Claudia Moore, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553287530
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/1991
  • Series: Mrs. Murphy Series , #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 275,277
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.90 (h) x 0.87 (d)

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, and Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. An Emmy nominated screenwriter and a poet, she lives in Afton, VA.

Sneaky Pie Brown, a tiger cat born somewhere in Albemarle County, Virginia, was discovered by Rita Mae Brown at her local SPCA. In addition to Sneaky Pie's Cookbook for Mystery Lovers, Rita Mae and Sneaky Pie have collaborated on twelve Mrs. Murphy mysteries: 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, and Whisker of Evil.?

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Read an Excerpt

1

Mary Minor Haristeen, Harry to her friends, trotted along the railroad track. Following at her heels were Mrs. Murphy, her wise and willful tiger cat, and Tee Tucker, her Welsh corgi. Had you asked the cat and the dog they would have told you that Harry belonged to them, not vice versa, but there was no doubt that Harry belonged to the little town of Crozet, Virginia. At thirty-three she was the youngest postmistress Crozet had ever had, but then no one else really wanted the job.

Crozet nestles in the haunches of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The town proper consists of Railroad Avenue, which parallels the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad track, and a street intersecting it called the Whitehall Road. Ten miles to the east reposes the rich and powerful small city of Charlottesville, which, like a golden fungus, is spreading east, west, north, and south. Harry liked Charlottesville just fine. It was the developers she didn't much like, and she prayed nightly they'd continue to think of Crozet and its three thousand inhabitants as a dinky little whistle stop on the route west and ignore it.

A gray clapboard building with white trim, next to the rail depot, housed the post office. Next to that was a tiny grocery store and a butcher shop run by "Market" Shiflett. Everyone appreciated this convenience because you could pick up your milk, mail, and gossip in one central location.

Harry unlocked the door and stepped inside just as the huge railroad clock chimed seven beats for 7:00 a.m. Mrs. Murphy scooted under her feet and Tucker entered at a more leisurely pace.

An empty mail bin invited Mrs. Murphy. She hopped in. Tucker complained that she couldn't jump in.

"Tucker, hush. Mrs. Murphy will be out in a minute--won't you?" Harry leaned over the bin.

Mrs. Murphy stared right back up at her and said, "Fat chance. Let Tucker bitch. She stole my catnip sockie this morning."

All Harry heard was a meow.

The corgi heard every word. "You're a real shit, Mrs. Murphy. You've got a million of those socks."

Mrs. Murphy put her paws on the edge of the bin and peeped over. "So what. I didn't say you could play with any of them."

"Stop that, Tucker." Harry thought the dog was growling for no reason at all.

A horn beeped outside. Rob Collier, driving the huge mail truck, was delivering the morning mail. He'd return at four that afternoon for pickup.

"You're early," Harry called to him.

"Figured I'd cut you a break." Rob smiled. "Because in exactly one hour Mrs. Hogendobber will be standing outside this door huffing and puffing for her mail." He dumped two big duffel bags on the front step and went back to the truck. Harry carried them inside.

"Hey, I'd have done that for you."

"I know," Harry said. "I need the exercise."

Tucker appeared in the doorway.

"Hello, Tucker," Rob greeted the dog. Tucker wagged her tail. "Well, neither rain nor sleet nor snow, et cetera." Rob slid behind the wheel.

"It's seventy-nine degrees at seven, Rob. I wouldn't worry about the sleet if I were you."

He smiled and drove off.

Harry opened the first bag. Mrs. Hogendobber's mail was on the top, neatly bound with a thick rubber band. Rob, if he had the time, put Mrs. Hogendobber's mail in a pile down at the main post office in Charlottesville. Harry slipped the handful of mail into the mail slot. She then began sorting through the rest of the stuff: bills, enough mail-order catalogues to provide clothing for every man, woman, and child in the United States, and of course personal letters and postcards.

Courtney Shiflett, Market's fourteen-year-old daughter, received a postcard from Sally McIntire, away at camp. Kelly Craycroft, the handsome, rich paving contractor, was the recipient of a shiny postcard from Paris. It was a photo of a beautiful angel with wings. Harry flipped it over. It was Oscar Wilde's tombstone in the Piere Lachaise cemetery. On the back was the message "Wish you were here." No signature. The handwriting was computer script, like signatures on letters from your congressperson. Harry sighed and slipped it into Kelly's box. It must be heaven to be in Paris.

Snowcapped Alps majestically covered a postcard addressed to Harry from her lifelong friend Lindsay Astrove.

Dear Harry--

Arrived in Zurich. No gnomes in sight. Good flight. Very tired. Will write some more later.

Best,

lindsay

It must be heaven to be in Zurich.

Bob Berryman, the largest stock trailer dealer in the South, got a registered letter from the IRS. Harry gingerly put it in his box.

Harry's best friend, Susan Tucker, received a large package from James River Traders, probably those discounted cotton sweaters she'd ordered. Susan, prudent, waited for the sales. Susan was the "mother" of Tee Tucker, named Tee because Susan gave her to Harry on the seventh tee at the Farmington Country Club. Mrs. Murphy, two years the dog's senior, was not amused, but she came to accept it.

A Gary Larsen postcard attracted Harry's attention. Harry turned it over. It was addressed to Fair Haristeen, her soon-to-be-ex-husband, but not soon enough. "Hang in there, buddy" was the message from Stafford Sanburne. Harry jammed the postcard in Fair's box.

Crozet was still small enough that people felt compelled to take sides during a divorce. Perhaps even New York City was that small. At any rate, Harry reeled from fury to sorrow on a daily basis as she watched former friends choose sides, and most were choosing Fair.

After all, she had left him, thereby outraging other women in Albemarle County stuck in a miserable marriage but lacking the guts to go. That was a lot of women.

"Thank God they didn't have children," clucked many tongues behind Harry's back and to her face. Harry agreed with them. With children the goddamned divorce would take a year. Without, the limbo lasted only six months and she was two down.

By the time the clock struck eight the two duffel bags were folded over, the boxes filled, the old pine plank floor swept clean.

Mrs. George Hogendobber, an evangelical Protestant, picked up her mail punctually at 8:00 a.m. each morning except Sunday, when she was evangeling and the post office was closed. She fretted a great deal over evolution. She was determined to prove that humans were not descended from apes but, rather, created in God's own image.

Mrs. Murphy fervently hoped that Mrs. Hogendobber would prove her case, because linking man and ape was an insult to the ape. Of course, the good woman would die of shock to discover that God was a cat and therefore humans were off the board entirely.

That large Christian frame was lurching itself up the stairs. She pushed open the door with her characteristic vigor.

"Morning, Harry."

"Morning, Mrs. Hogendobber. Did you have a good weekend?"

"Apart from a splendid service at the Holy Light Church, no." She yanked out her mail. "Josiah DeWitt stopped by as I came home and gave me his sales pitch to part with Mother's Louis XVI bed, canopies and all. And on the Sabbath. The man is a servant of Mammon."

"Yes--but he knows good stuff when he sees it." Harry flattered her.

"H-m-m, Louis this and Louis that. Too many Louis's over there in France. Came to a bad end, too, every one of them. I don't think the French have produced anyone of note since Napoleon."

"What about Claudius Crozet?"

This stopped Mrs. Hogendobber for a moment. "Believe you're right. Created one of the engineering wonders of the nineteenth century. I stand corrected. But that's the only one since Napoleon."

The town of Crozet was named for this same Claudius Crozet, born on December 31, 1789. Trained as an engineer, he fought with the French in Russia and was captured on the hideous retreat from Moscow. So charmed was his Russian captor that he promptly removed Claudius to his huge estate and set him up with books and engineering tools. Claudius performed services for his captor until Frenchmen were allowed to return home. They say the Russian, a prince of the blood, rewarded the young captain with jewels, gold, and silver.

Joining Napoleon's second run at power proved dangerous, and Crozet immigrated to America. If he had a fortune, he carefully concealed it and lived off his salary. His greatest feat was cutting four railroad tunnels through the Blue Ridge Mountains, a task begun in 1850 and completed eight years later.

The first tunnel was west of Crozet: the Greenwood tunnel, 536 feet, and sealed after 1944, when a new tunnel was completed. Over the eastern portal of the Greenwood tunnel, carved in stone, is the legend: c. crozet, chief engineer; e. t. d. myers, resident engineer; john kelly, contractor. a.d. 1852.

The second tunnel, Brooksville, 864 feet, was also sealed after 1944. This was a treacherous tunnel because the rock proved soft and unreliable.

The third tunnel was the Little Rock, 100 feet long and still in use by the C & O.

The fourth was the Blue Ridge, a long 4,723 feet.

Unused tracks ran to the sealed tunnels. They built things to last in the nineteenth century, for none of the rails had ever warped.

Crozet was reputed to have hidden his fortune in one of the tunnels. This story was taken seriously enough by the C & O Railroad that they carefully inspected the discontinued tunnels before sealing them after World War II. No treasure was ever found.

Mrs. Hogendobber left immediately after being corrected. She passed Ned Tucker, Susan's husband, on his way in. They exchanged pleasantries. Tee Tucker, barking merrily, rushed out to greet Ned. Mrs. Murphy climbed out of the mail bin and jumped onto the counter. She liked Ned. Everyone did.

He winked at Harry. "Well, have you been born again?"

"No, and I wasn't born yesterday either." She laughed.

"Mrs. H. was unusually terse this morning." He grabbed a huge handful of mail, most of it for the law office of Sanburne, Tucker, and Anderson.

"Count your blessings," Harry said.

"I do, every day." Ned smiled. Escaping a tirade of salvation on this hot July morning was just one blessing and Ned was a happy enough man to know there'd be many more. He stooped to rub Tucker's ears.

"You can rub mine, too," Mrs. Murphy pleaded.

"He likes me better than you." Tucker relished being the center of attention.

"Don't you love the sounds they make?" Ned kept scratching. "Sometimes I think they're almost human."

"Can you believe that?" Mrs. Murphy licked her front paws. Being human, the very thought! Humans lacked claws, fur, and their senses were dismal. Why, she could hear a doodlebug burrow in the sand. Furthermore, she understood everything humans said in their guttural way. They rarely understood her or other animals, much less one another. To get a reaction out of even Harry, who she confessed she did love, she had to resort to extravagant behavior.

"Yeah, I don't know what I'd do without my kids. Speaking of which, how're yours?"

Ned's eyes darted for a moment. "Harry, I'm beginning to think that sending Brookie to private school was a mistake. She's twelve going on twenty, and a perfect little snob too. Susan wants her to return to St. Elizabeth's in the fall but I say we yank her out of there and pack her back to public middle school with her brother. There she has to learn how to get along with all different kinds of people. Her grades fell and that's when Susan decided she was going to St. Elizabeth's. We went through public school, we learned, and we turned out all right."

"It's a tough call, Ned. They weren't selling drugs in the bathroom when you were in school."

"They were by the time we got to Crozet High. You had the good sense to ignore it."

"No, I didn't have the money to buy the stuff. Had I been one of those rich little subdivision kids--like today--who's to say?" Harry shrugged.

Ned sighed. "I'd hate to be a child now."

"Me too."

Bob Berryman interrupted. "Hey!" Ozzie, his hyper Australian shepherd, tagged at his heels.

"Hey, Berryman," Harry and Ned both called back to him out of politeness. Berryman's personality hovered on simmer and often flamed up to boil.

Mrs. Murphy and Tucker said hello to Ozzie.

"Hotter than the hinges of hell." Berryman sauntered over to his box and withdrew the mail, including the registered letter slip. "Shit, Harry, gimme a pen." She handed him a leaky ballpoint. He signed the slip and glared at the IRS notice. "The world is going to hell in a handbasket and the goddamned IRS controls the nation! I'd kill every one of those sons of bitches given half the chance!"

Ned walked out of the post office waving goodbye.

Berryman gulped some air, forced a smile, and calmed himself by petting Mrs. Murphy, who liked him although most humans found him brusque. "Well, I've got worms to turn and eggs to lay." He pushed off.

Bob's booted feet clomped on the first step as he closed the front door. As she didn't hear a second footfall, Harry glanced up from her stamp pads.

Walking toward Bob was Kelly Craycroft. His chestnut hair, gleaming in the light, looked like burnished bronze. Kelly, an affable man, wasn't smiling.

Wagging his tail, Ozzie stood next to Bob. Bob still didn't move. Kelly arrived at the bottom step. He waited a moment, said something to Bob which Harry couldn't hear, and then moved up to the second step, whereupon Bob pushed him down the steps.

Furious, his face darkening, Kelly scrambled to his feet. "You asshole!"

Harry heard that loud and clear.

Bob, without replying, sauntered down the steps, but Kelly, not a man to be trifled with, grabbed Bob's shoulder.

"You listen to me and you listen good!" Kelly shouted.

Harry wanted to move out from behind the counter. Good manners got the better of her. It would be too obvious. Instead she strained every fiber to hear what was being said. Tucker and Mrs. Murphy, hardly worried about how they'd look to others, bumped into each other as they ran to the door.

This time Bob raised his voice. "Take your hand off my shoulder."

Kelly squeezed harder and Bob balled up his fist, hitting him in the stomach.

Kelly doubled over but caught his breath. Staying low, he lunged, grabbing Bob's legs and throwing him to the pavement.

Ozzie, moving like a streak, sank his teeth into Kelly's left leg. Kelly hollered and let go of Bob, who jumped up.

"No" was all Bob had to say to Ozzie, and the dog immediately obeyed. Kelly stayed on the ground. He pulled up his pants leg. Ozzie's bite had broken the skin. A trickle of blood ran into his sock.

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

1

Mary Minor Haristeen, Harry to her friends, trotted along the railroad track. Following at her heels were Mrs. Murphy, her wise and willful tiger cat, and Tee Tucker, her Welsh corgi. Had you asked the cat and the dog they would have told you that Harry belonged to them, not vice versa, but there was no doubt that Harry belonged to the little town of Crozet, Virginia. At thirty-three she was the youngest postmistress Crozet had ever had, but then no one else really wanted the job.

Crozet nestles in the haunches of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The town proper consists of Railroad Avenue, which parallels the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad track, and a street intersecting it called the Whitehall Road. Ten miles to the east reposes the rich and powerful small city of Charlottesville, which, like a golden fungus, is spreading east, west, north, and south. Harry liked Charlottesville just fine. It was the developers she didn't much like, and she prayed nightly they'd continue to think of Crozet and its three thousand inhabitants as a dinky little whistle stop on the route west and ignore it.

A gray clapboard building with white trim, next to the rail depot, housed the post office. Next to that was a tiny grocery store and a butcher shop run by "Market" Shiflett. Everyone appreciated this convenience because you could pick up your milk, mail, and gossip in one central location.

Harry unlocked the door and stepped inside just as the huge railroad clock chimed seven beats for 7:00 a.m. Mrs. Murphy scooted under her feet and Tucker entered at a more leisurely pace.

An empty mail bin invited Mrs. Murphy. She hopped in. Tucker complained that she couldn't jumpin.

"Tucker, hush. Mrs. Murphy will be out in a minute--won't you?" Harry leaned over the bin.

Mrs. Murphy stared right back up at her and said, "Fat chance. Let Tucker bitch. She stole my catnip sockie this morning."

All Harry heard was a meow.

The corgi heard every word. "You're a real shit, Mrs. Murphy. You've got a million of those socks."

Mrs. Murphy put her paws on the edge of the bin and peeped over. "So what. I didn't say you could play with any of them."

"Stop that, Tucker." Harry thought the dog was growling for no reason at all.

A horn beeped outside. Rob Collier, driving the huge mail truck, was delivering the morning mail. He'd return at four that afternoon for pickup.

"You're early," Harry called to him.

"Figured I'd cut you a break." Rob smiled. "Because in exactly one hour Mrs. Hogendobber will be standing outside this door huffing and puffing for her mail." He dumped two big duffel bags on the front step and went back to the truck. Harry carried them inside.

"Hey, I'd have done that for you."

"I know," Harry said. "I need the exercise."

Tucker appeared in the doorway.

"Hello, Tucker," Rob greeted the dog. Tucker wagged her tail. "Well, neither rain nor sleet nor snow, et cetera." Rob slid behind the wheel.

"It's seventy-nine degrees at seven, Rob. I wouldn't worry about the sleet if I were you."

He smiled and drove off.

Harry opened the first bag. Mrs. Hogendobber's mail was on the top, neatly bound with a thick rubber band. Rob, if he had the time, put Mrs. Hogendobber's mail in a pile down at the main post office in Charlottesville. Harry slipped the handful of mail into the mail slot. She then began sorting through the rest of the stuff: bills, enough mail-order catalogues to provide clothing for every man, woman, and child in the United States, and of course personal letters and postcards.

Courtney Shiflett, Market's fourteen-year-old daughter, received a postcard from Sally McIntire, away at camp. Kelly Craycroft, the handsome, rich paving contractor, was the recipient of a shiny postcard from Paris. It was a photo of a beautiful angel with wings. Harry flipped it over. It was Oscar Wilde's tombstone in the Piere Lachaise cemetery. On the back was the message "Wish you were here." No signature. The handwriting was computer script, like signatures on letters from your congressperson. Harry sighed and slipped it into Kelly's box. It must be heaven to be in Paris.

Snowcapped Alps majestically covered a postcard addressed to Harry from her lifelong friend Lindsay Astrove.



Dear Harry--



Arrived in Zurich. No gnomes in sight. Good flight. Very tired. Will write some more later.

Best,



lindsay



It must be heaven to be in Zurich.

Bob Berryman, the largest stock trailer dealer in the South, got a registered letter from the IRS. Harry gingerly put it in his box.

Harry's best friend, Susan Tucker, received a large package from James River Traders, probably those discounted cotton sweaters she'd ordered. Susan, prudent, waited for the sales. Susan was the "mother" of Tee Tucker, named Tee because Susan gave her to Harry on the seventh tee at the Farmington Country Club. Mrs. Murphy, two years the dog's senior, was not amused, but she came to accept it.

A Gary Larsen postcard attracted Harry's attention. Harry turned it over. It was addressed to Fair Haristeen, her soon-to-be-ex-husband, but not soon enough. "Hang in there, buddy" was the message from Stafford Sanburne. Harry jammed the postcard in Fair's box.

Crozet was still small enough that people felt compelled to take sides during a divorce. Perhaps even New York City was that small. At any rate, Harry reeled from fury to sorrow on a daily basis as she watched former friends choose sides, and most were choosing Fair.

After all, she had left him, thereby outraging other women in Albemarle County stuck in a miserable marriage but lacking the guts to go. That was a lot of women.

"Thank God they didn't have children," clucked many tongues behind Harry's back and to her face. Harry agreed with them. With children the goddamned divorce would take a year. Without, the limbo lasted only six months and she was two down.

By the time the clock struck eight the two duffel bags were folded over, the boxes filled, the old pine plank floor swept clean.

Mrs. George Hogendobber, an evangelical Protestant, picked up her mail punctually at 8:00 a.m. each morning except Sunday, when she was evangeling and the post office was closed. She fretted a great deal over evolution. She was determined to prove that humans were not descended from apes but, rather, created in God's own image.

Mrs. Murphy fervently hoped that Mrs. Hogendobber would prove her case, because linking man and ape was an insult to the ape. Of course, the good woman would die of shock to discover that God was a cat and therefore humans were off the board entirely.

That large Christian frame was lurching itself up the stairs. She pushed open the door with her characteristic vigor.

"Morning, Harry."

"Morning, Mrs. Hogendobber. Did you have a good weekend?"

"Apart from a splendid service at the Holy Light Church, no." She yanked out her mail. "Josiah DeWitt stopped by as I came home and gave me his sales pitch to part with Mother's Louis XVI bed, canopies and all. And on the Sabbath. The man is a servant of Mammon."

"Yes--but he knows good stuff when he sees it." Harry flattered her.

"H-m-m, Louis this and Louis that. Too many Louis's over there in France. Came to a bad end, too, every one of them. I don't think the French have produced anyone of note since Napoleon."

"What about Claudius Crozet?"

This stopped Mrs. Hogendobber for a moment. "Believe you're right. Created one of the engineering wonders of the nineteenth century. I stand corrected. But that's the only one since Napoleon."

The town of Crozet was named for this same Claudius Crozet, born on December 31, 1789. Trained as an engineer, he fought with the French in Russia and was captured on the hideous retreat from Moscow. So charmed was his Russian captor that he promptly removed Claudius to his huge estate and set him up with books and engineering tools. Claudius performed services for his captor until Frenchmen were allowed to return home. They say the Russian, a prince of the blood, rewarded the young captain with jewels, gold, and silver.

Joining Napoleon's second run at power proved dangerous, and Crozet immigrated to America. If he had a fortune, he carefully concealed it and lived off his salary. His greatest feat was cutting four railroad tunnels through the Blue Ridge Mountains, a task begun in 1850 and completed eight years later.

The first tunnel was west of Crozet: the Greenwood tunnel, 536 feet, and sealed after 1944, when a new tunnel was completed. Over the eastern portal of the Greenwood tunnel, carved in stone, is the legend: c. crozet, chief engineer; e. t. d. myers, resident engineer; john kelly, contractor. a.d. 1852.

The second tunnel, Brooksville, 864 feet, was also sealed after 1944. This was a treacherous tunnel because the rock proved soft and unreliable.

The third tunnel was the Little Rock, 100 feet long and still in use by the C & O.

The fourth was the Blue Ridge, a long 4,723 feet.

Unused tracks ran to the sealed tunnels. They built things to last in the nineteenth century, for none of the rails had ever warped.

Crozet was reputed to have hidden his fortune in one of the tunnels. This story was taken seriously enough by the C & O Railroad that they carefully inspected the discontinued tunnels before sealing them after World War II. No treasure was ever found.

Mrs. Hogendobber left immediately after being corrected. She passed Ned Tucker, Susan's husband, on his way in. They exchanged pleasantries. Tee Tucker, barking merrily, rushed out to greet Ned. Mrs. Murphy climbed out of the mail bin and jumped onto the counter. She liked Ned. Everyone did.

He winked at Harry. "Well, have you been born again?"

"No, and I wasn't born yesterday either." She laughed.

"Mrs. H. was unusually terse this morning." He grabbed a huge handful of mail, most of it for the law office of Sanburne, Tucker, and Anderson.

"Count your blessings," Harry said.

"I do, every day." Ned smiled. Escaping a tirade of salvation on this hot July morning was just one blessing and Ned was a happy enough man to know there'd be many more. He stooped to rub Tucker's ears.

"You can rub mine, too," Mrs. Murphy pleaded.

"He likes me better than you." Tucker relished being the center of attention.

"Don't you love the sounds they make?" Ned kept scratching. "Sometimes I think they're almost human."

"Can you believe that?" Mrs. Murphy licked her front paws. Being human, the very thought! Humans lacked claws, fur, and their senses were dismal. Why, she could hear a doodlebug burrow in the sand. Furthermore, she understood everything humans said in their guttural way. They rarely understood her or other animals, much less one another. To get a reaction out of even Harry, who she confessed she did love, she had to resort to extravagant behavior.

"Yeah, I don't know what I'd do without my kids. Speaking of which, how're yours?"

Ned's eyes darted for a moment. "Harry, I'm beginning to think that sending Brookie to private school was a mistake. She's twelve going on twenty, and a perfect little snob too. Susan wants her to return to St. Elizabeth's in the fall but I say we yank her out of there and pack her back to public middle school with her brother. There she has to learn how to get along with all different kinds of people. Her grades fell and that's when Susan decided she was going to St. Elizabeth's. We went through public school, we learned, and we turned out all right."

"It's a tough call, Ned. They weren't selling drugs in the bathroom when you were in school."

"They were by the time we got to Crozet High. You had the good sense to ignore it."

"No, I didn't have the money to buy the stuff. Had I been one of those rich little subdivision kids--like today--who's to say?" Harry shrugged.

Ned sighed. "I'd hate to be a child now."

"Me too."

Bob Berryman interrupted. "Hey!" Ozzie, his hyper Australian shepherd, tagged at his heels.

"Hey, Berryman," Harry and Ned both called back to him out of politeness. Berryman's personality hovered on simmer and often flamed up to boil.

Mrs. Murphy and Tucker said hello to Ozzie.

"Hotter than the hinges of hell." Berryman sauntered over to his box and withdrew the mail, including the registered letter slip. "Shit, Harry, gimme a pen." She handed him a leaky ballpoint. He signed the slip and glared at the IRS notice. "The world is going to hell in a handbasket and the goddamned IRS controls the nation! I'd kill every one of those sons of bitches given half the chance!"

Ned walked out of the post office waving goodbye.

Berryman gulped some air, forced a smile, and calmed himself by petting Mrs. Murphy, who liked him although most humans found him brusque. "Well, I've got worms to turn and eggs to lay." He pushed off.

Bob's booted feet clomped on the first step as he closed the front door. As she didn't hear a second footfall, Harry glanced up from her stamp pads.

Walking toward Bob was Kelly Craycroft. His chestnut hair, gleaming in the light, looked like burnished bronze. Kelly, an affable man, wasn't smiling.

Wagging his tail, Ozzie stood next to Bob. Bob still didn't move. Kelly arrived at the bottom step. He waited a moment, said something to Bob which Harry couldn't hear, and then moved up to the second step, whereupon Bob pushed him down the steps.

Furious, his face darkening, Kelly scrambled to his feet. "You asshole!"

Harry heard that loud and clear.

Bob, without replying, sauntered down the steps, but Kelly, not a man to be trifled with, grabbed Bob's shoulder.

"You listen to me and you listen good!" Kelly shouted.

Harry wanted to move out from behind the counter. Good manners got the better of her. It would be too obvious. Instead she strained every fiber to hear what was being said. Tucker and Mrs. Murphy, hardly worried about how they'd look to others, bumped into each other as they ran to the door.

This time Bob raised his voice. "Take your hand off my shoulder."

Kelly squeezed harder and Bob balled up his fist, hitting him in the stomach.

Kelly doubled over but caught his breath. Staying low, he lunged, grabbing Bob's legs and throwing him to the pavement.

Ozzie, moving like a streak, sank his teeth into Kelly's left leg. Kelly hollered and let go of Bob, who jumped up.

"No" was all Bob had to say to Ozzie, and the dog immediately obeyed. Kelly stayed on the ground. He pulled up his pants leg. Ozzie's bite had broken the skin. A trickle of blood ran into his sock.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 52 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(21)

4 Star

(16)

3 Star

(7)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 52 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 2, 2012

    An "R" Rated Book with an entertaining Mystery

    Be prepared for lots of obscenities peppered throughout the book, with the favored being the "F" word uttered by most of the main characters, including Harry. Even Mrs Murphy (yes, the cat), curses toward the end by exclaiming "Holy S--t!"

    The language is so unnecessary and does detract from an entertaining who-done-it. The book is plotted well and gives a view of small town life, even with the grisley murders.

    8 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted February 8, 2011

    Read with Caution - RE: Very disturbing use of language

    This book is for readers that love animal mysteries and do not care about bad language. The book could have been much more enjoyable if it wasn't for bad choices in verbage! The Cat Who: (Lilian Jackson Braun) books were GREAT animal mysteries and did not include the horrible language choices. RITA NEEDS TO TAKE A LESSON FROM THESE! Due to this I probably will not read any more of Rita Mae Brown's books. I would not recommend this for Book Club discussions

    7 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2011

    Love Mysteries

    I first got hook by the movie that was put out 13 years ago " Murder She Purred" with Ricki Lake. How the author makes the animals speak of their human owner. I did like reading the book, although Rita Mae Brown could do with less swearing. I give it 3 stars because of the swearing. It would have been more enjoyable with out it.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    lots of fun!

    a very fun read! i found the end to be a bit predictable but it's well written and the attitudes of the animals seem right on! great, well developed characters! an adorable book! i'm really glad i read it and intend to move on to the next book in the series!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 25, 2014

    Mrs. Murphy reminds me of my own companion

    You can hear your pets thinking like these are written, rolicking fun, danger, and good writing!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2014

    I love this series!

    These books are one of the few series that catch my attention and keep it! I love rereading and will pass them down to my children.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2014

    great book - I really enjoyed the interaction between the animal

    great book - I really enjoyed the interaction between the animals - kept my interest the entire way even though I had already figured out who did it- looking forward to reading another one

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2014

    highly recommended

    The Mrs. Murphy series are among my favorite mysteries! They are easy to read and always enjoyable. The reader also hears what the animals are saying to each other which provides something extra that other mysteries don't have. If you read and enjoyed any books by Lillian Jackson Braun, then definitely try the Mrs. Murphy mysteries.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2014

    Light and easy read

    Always enjoy Sneaky Pie. Have read several of Rita Mae Brown books

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2014

    Good cozy combo of regional small town south divorced federal employ not fbi and eccentric caracters that includes rural

    Where the language review complaint comes from not sure unless it is church comments or views of humans by animals mystery story philosps i ignore as part of scene no potty mouth or grafic sex etc to offend Read most of series and bought this and five others lst series during big cold a fast read a comfort read like comfort food not great literature or five star dining mom

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2014

    Love the Mrs Murphy series. They are my favorite!

    Love the Mrs Murphy series. They are my favorite!

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

    Posted December 2, 2012

    A female thrush and her children

    A female thrush scampers around, trying to teach her 4 children how to scour for food, she tries to tell them the dangers of predators....

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2012

    Dapplepaw

    Dapplepaw ran in and niffed. Two robins were here. Dapplepaw jumped up and caught the first robin. Dapplepaw looked around for te other one. She leaped up too and bite uts neck. Dapplepaw burried glad she finished. Time to tell Whitestar.

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 25, 2012

    Enjoyed it!

    Being a South Central Virginia native, I really enjoyed the references to the area that I am familiar with, but whether you are from VA or not, I enjoyed this first book in the series. I love the characters and the plot, a all in all good mystery. I look forward to reading more of these.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 13, 2012

    A fun introduction to the series.

    This was a fun, light story which convinced me to purchase the entire series to take overseas with other books in my Nook. Enjoyable easy reading.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 14, 2011

    Barffffffff

    Im sik lolololol

    0 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2002

    GOOD BOOK

    This novel was said to be 'Rambunctious and Wacky' as said by the Los Angeles Times. This book is excellent in many ways but mostely with the cat, Mrs. Murphy and the dog, Tee Tucker. Mrs. Murphy is a sassy cat that loves to get her way and be the brains of the opperation. Then there is Tee Tucker who is always have her fun spoiled by Mrs. Murphy. This is a good book for anyone who is interested in a book with some very interesting things happening throughout there town. (ans a murder!)

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 52 Customer Reviews

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