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Nine Lives to Die (Mrs. Murphy Series #23)
     

Nine Lives to Die (Mrs. Murphy Series #23)

4.2 48
by Rita Mae Brown
 

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY SUSPENSE MAGAZINE

Rita Mae Brown and her feline co-author Sneaky Pie Brown return with a mystery starring Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen, intrepid kitty sleuths Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and Tee Tucker, the ever-faithful crime-solving corgi. This time around, Harry and

Overview

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY SUSPENSE MAGAZINE

Rita Mae Brown and her feline co-author Sneaky Pie Brown return with a mystery starring Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen, intrepid kitty sleuths Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and Tee Tucker, the ever-faithful crime-solving corgi. This time around, Harry and her animal friends track a killer whose trail has gone as cold as the weather in December.
 
NINE LIVES TO DIE
 
Winter has come to Crozet, Virginia, bringing with it a fresh blanket of snow. Harry and her husband, Fair, are hip deep in their usual end-of-the-year activities: distributing food to needy residents, and shopping for outfits for the Silver Linings youth organization’s annual fundraising gala. But buried beneath the white stuff are dark secrets from Crozet’s past—and Harry and her posse of pet detectives are determined to sniff them out.
 
Two Silver Linings mentors have been found dead in suspicious circumstances. If that weren’t enough to chill the bones of the locals, a pair of severed human fingers has turned up in a pencil jar in the bookkeeper’s office at St. Cyril’s church. What does this grisly display have to do with the mysterious disappearance of Harry’s voluptuous high school Latin teacher, a quarter of a century ago? Maybe nothing. But when the animals make another gruesome discovery in the woods behind Harry’s farm, it becomes clear that terrible crimes have been committed in Crozet—and somebody’s gone to great lengths to cover them up. It’s time to stop shoveling snow and start digging for clues.
 
The truth will be revealed. A cold case will be solved. And a twenty-five-year-old love triangle is about to get untangled. The weather outside may be frightful, but Harry and her four-legged friends refuse to be spooked off the case.

Praise for Nine Lives to Die
 
“Witty and entertaining . . . a recipe for continued success and an engaging read.”Richmond Times-Dispatch
 
“The unabashed loves of [Rita Mae Brown’s] life . . . are infectious. Perhaps because they are so clearly heartfelt, it’s easy to be swept up in the glory of her passions.”New York Journal of Books

“Murder and mayhem are the order of the day in bestseller [Rita Mae] Brown’s well-plotted twenty-second Mrs. Murphy mystery. . . . Brown’s idyllic world, with its Christian values, talking animals, and sympathetic middle-aged pet owners, has understandably struck a chord with many readers.”Publishers Weekly
 
“Rita Mae Brown, along with . . . Sneaky Pie, have made Harry Harristeen and her feline companion, Mrs. Murphy, household names.”Library Journal

Praise for the Mrs. Murphy mysteries
 
“As feline collaborators go, you couldn’t ask for better than Sneaky Pie Brown.”—The New York Times Book Review

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
04/21/2014
Murder and mayhem are the order of the day in bestseller Brown’s well-plotted 22nd Mrs. Murphy mystery (after 2013’s The Litter of the Law). A winter charity function ends badly when wealthy car dealer Pete Vavilov, a leader of the Silver Linings charity, which helps the disadvantaged youth of Albermarle County, Va., is found dead in his car during a snowstorm the same night as the party. Before New Year’s, another member of the Silver Linings Board disappears, series heroine Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen discovers a skeleton, and checks go missing. As usual, the four-footed characters—felines Mrs. Murphy and Pewter and their canine chum, Tee Tucker—do much of the sleuthing, as they provide wry insights into the book’s human characters. Brown’s idyllic world, with its Christian values, talking animals, and sympathetic middle-aged pet owners, has understandably struck a chord with many readers. Agent: Wendy Weil, Wendy Weil Agency. (June)
From the Publisher
Praise for Nine Lives to Die
 
“Witty and entertaining . . . a recipe for continued success and an engaging read.”Richmond Times-Dispatch
 
“The unabashed loves of [Rita Mae Brown’s] life . . . are infectious. Perhaps because they are so clearly heartfelt, it’s easy to be swept up in the glory of her passions.”New York Journal of Books

“Murder and mayhem are the order of the day in bestseller [Rita Mae] Brown’s well-plotted twenty-second Mrs. Murphy mystery. . . . Brown’s idyllic world, with its Christian values, talking animals, and sympathetic middle-aged pet owners, has understandably struck a chord with many readers.”Publishers Weekly
 
“Rita Mae Brown, along with . . . Sneaky Pie, have made Harry Harristeen and her feline companion, Mrs. Murphy, household names.”Library Journal

Praise for the Mrs. Murphy mysteries
 
“As feline collaborators go, you couldn’t ask for better than Sneaky Pie Brown.”—The New York Times Book Review

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780345530509
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/24/2014
Series:
Mrs. Murphy Series , #23
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

1

“Gin!”

“I don’t believe it.” Susan Tucker stared at the cards that her childhood friend, Harriett Haristeen, “Harry,” had smacked down.

The six other women in the room, all slack-­jawed, came over to view the winning card.

“Well, Susan, she did,” BoomBoom Craycroft, another childhood friend, said and smiled.

“Harry can’t play cards worth squat,” Susan complained.

“Well, I did tonight.” Harry beamed. “Susan, mark your calendar, Tuesday, December third, my best friend Harry knocked the stuffing out of me at gin.”

Jessica Hexham was petite and middle-­aged, well dressed even though the evening was relaxed. She murmured, “Maybe something less exuberant for the calendar—­just a red-­letter day?”

“Do you remember when Miss Donleavey lectured us about red-­letter days on the ancient Roman calendar?” Susan rolled her eyes.

BoomBoom, Susan, and Harry had been in the same class at old Crozet High School. While the buildings still stood, students now attended Western Albemarle High School, a large complex consolidating former small community schools. Jessica Hexham, Alicia Palmer, Charlene Vavilov, and Arden Higham had not. Jessica had attended Miss Porter’s; Alicia, Orange High School; Arden, Buck­ingham High; and Charlene, older than the others, had attended St. Catherine’s in Richmond.

With the exception of Jessica, all were central Virginia natives. Jessica, born and raised in Concord, Massachusetts, often found them amusing while contradictory at times, and they were reliably solid friends.

“Alea jacta est,” Susan pronounced with emphasis.

Harry translated. “The die is cast. Said when Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 B.C. at the head of the Thirteenth Legion. He knew civil war would follow.”

“Talk about a red-­letter day,” said BoomBoom.

“Isn’t it something, though, how a device thousands of years old still works, I mean, a red-­letter day? God bless Miss Donleavey. She taught us well.”

Jessica also recalled her Latin teacher at the expensive private school, perhaps less fondly. “I would never bless Miss Greely.”

The others laughed.

“Charlene, bet you took Latin at St. Catherine’s,” Alicia wondered.

“You couldn’t go to college without two years of it,” said Charlene. “I took four. It’s helped me more than I could know when I hated memorizing those conjugations.” She laughed.

“Funny, isn’t it?” the uncommonly beautiful Alicia said. “What we use? What we remember?”

“What I remember, apart from amo, amas, amat, was Miss Donleavey’s mysterious disappearance. Never found her.” Harry picked up the cards to shuffle.

Susan reached across the card table, placing her hand on Harry’s forearm. “Don’t you dare.”

“Huh?” Harry blinked.

“I’ll shuffle.”

“Are you calling me a cheat?” Harry’s voice rose.

“No, but you won the last hand, so it’s my turn to shuffle. Plus, what if you have a hot hand?” Susan used the gambling term.

“I’d better tell that to my husband.”

This evoked more laughter.

The lights flickered, once, twice, then no light.

“Dammit,” Susan cursed the dark. “Stay put, ladies. I’ll get the candles.”

“You need my little flashlight.” Harry reached into her pocket, pulling out a two-­and-­a-­half-­inch LED flashlight made in China.

Susan pressed the button. “Wow.”

“What else do you have in your pocket?” Jessica asked.

“One pocketknife,” BoomBoom answered for Harry. “She always has a pocketknife and a little money.”

“The emphasis is on little,” said Harry, emptying her pockets onto the card table as Susan returned with candles.

“Let me help you.” Thanks to the tiny LED flashlight, Alicia could see. She reached for some candles.

“There’s a hurricane glass lamp. Well, here, let’s do it together. Girls, we’ll be right back.”

True to her word, Susan and Alicia returned to the living room with small brass candleholders, which they placed about and lit. The large hurricane candleholder glowed on the card table. All held six-­ to eight-­inch candles.

Susan noticed the small pile of debris.

“Harry, what’s your stuff doing on the card table?”

“Jessica wanted to know what was in my pocket.”

“In the dark?” Susan questioned.

“We knew there’d be light,” Harry shot back.

Jessica dutifully investigated the contents: one Case pocketknife, a folded cotton handkerchief, twenty-­two dollars in small bills, one dog cookie.

Harry pointed out the cookie. “Never know when I might get hungry.”

The ladies laughed again as Alicia walked to the large triple-­sash windows. “Girls, we’re in for it.”

“No kidding?” Harry hurried over, as did the others.

“The storm’s early.” BoomBoom, like all country people, paid intense attention to the weather.

“We have a little time before we need to worry about the roads,” Harry confidently predicted. “Everyone has four-­wheel drive, right?”

“If not, I’m happy to sell you one.” Charlene smiled. She and her husband, Pete, owned the Ford dealership.

“We’re good,” the others replied.

“Well, let’s not play cards by candlelight. Ladies, I whipped up vegetable hors d’oeuvres, and they’re really tasty, if I do say so myself. I can’t eat them all. You have to help me. Harry, use your flashlight again and let’s bring the food out from the kitchen. BoomBoom, you know where the bar is. Give the girls what they want.”

BoomBoom picked up a candle as she glided to the well-­stocked bar. Susan’s husband, Ned, was a delegate to the state legislature in Richmond, and the couple entertained frequently. In this part of the world, good liquor was considered an essential by any host and hostess. Southerners did drink wine, but many still preferred a high-­octane bourbon or scotch, and then there were the legions of vodka drinkers who believed it didn’t linger on their breath.

Once settled in the living room, comfortable in decidedly not-­modern décor, Jessica, curious, asked, “So what did happen to your Latin teacher?”

“Nobody knows.” BoomBoom shrugged. “She disappeared after a Friday-­night football game. Her car was in the parking lot. Monday, she didn’t come to school.”

“We played the Louisa Dragons that night,” Harry recalled. “Good game. Miss Donleavey never missed a football game.”

“She dated the coach, Mr. Toth,” Susan filled in. “Handsome, handsome, handsome.”

“Coach Toth? That Toth?” Jessica asked. “Silver Linings?” She mentioned a youth organization the coach supported, as did all the husbands of the women in the room. Apart from helping young men, business leaders and former athletes ran Silver Linings. To belong was beneficial to one’s career.

“Jessica, this must be irritating, being in the middle of a bunch of old friends.” Harry handed her a napkin.

“No, it’s fascinating. A vanished Latin teacher.”

“You know the stereotype of the old-­maid Latin teacher? Well, not Miss Donleavey. She was voluptuous, raven-­haired, so pretty,” BoomBoom noted, herself voluptuous.

“Suspects?” Jessica’s eyebrows raised.

Miranda answered. “At first, people thought it might have been a rival of the coach’s. Men were crazy for her.”

Susan added, “Lots of men were questioned. Everyone had an alibi.”

“Anyone else?” Jessica persisted.

“Esther Mercier. Hated Miss Donleavey, just hated her.” Harry bit into a carrot incised with a tiny trench filled with rich cream cheese.

“In love with Coach Toth.” BoomBoom filled in facts. “An attractive enough woman, but not in Miss Donleavey’s league.”

“What was her first name?” Jessica asked. “Miss Donleavey?”

“Uh, Margaret. It’s funny, but I still have a hard time calling my teachers by their first names. I mean, Coach Toth is always Coach Toth.” Susan smiled. “And eventually he did marry Miss Mercier, one of the math teachers.”

“You’d think someone would have known something. Crozet is still a small place,” Charlene wondered.

“If they did, no one noticed. Crozet, like any place anywhere in the world, is full of secrets that people take to their graves,” Harry remarked. “Miss Donleavey’s kin, all older, are gone. It’s one of those persistent small-­town mysteries.”

“Well, people don’t just disappear off the face of the earth.” Alicia twirled a fresh bit of broccoli.

“The Black Dahlia,” BoomBoom countered.

“You’re right, to a degree,” said Alicia. “ ’Course, I wasn’t in Hollywood then. And she didn’t disappear, Sweetie. They never found the killer.”

“You’re right.” BoomBoom got up and walked over to the window, nose almost on the windowpane. “It’s really coming down now. We’d all better head home.”

“Let me help you clean up,” Harry offered.

“A tray of vegetables and a couple of glasses? Anyway, no power, no water. Go on. If your cellphones don’t work you can still text if you have a Droid.”

Arden said, “I hope the Silver Linings fund-­raiser isn’t canceled.”

“We’ll cross our fingers.” Charlene crossed hers.

After a long, careful drive, Harry slowly finally drove down her long farm driveway, windshield wipers flipping as fast as they could. She pulled in front of the old white frame farmhouse, cut the motor, the lights with it.

Golden candlelight cascaded over the snow. The frosted windows glowed pale gold, the wavy imperfections of the hand­blown glass all the more obvious with the candles behind her.

“Mom’s home.” Inside the house, Tucker the corgi barked joyfully.

Pewter flopped on the kitchen table, lifted her head. “About time.”

Mrs. Murphy, the tiger cat, walked alongside Fair, Harry’s husband, as he opened the kitchen door to the porch. He carried a huge flashlight, which he focused on the path to the back porch, screened-­in in summer, glassed-­in in winter.

“Honey, I’m glad you’re home.” He stepped into the snow.

“Fair, get back inside. I can see.”

He didn’t, of course, kissing her as she hurried onto the porch, Tucker and Mrs. Murphy at her feet.

Meet the Author

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

From the Hardcover edition.

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Nine Lives to Die 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 48 reviews.
Beckannie More than 1 year ago
I am a HUGE fan of this series as well as the Sister Jane series by Rita Mae Brown. I always eagerly await her new books and pre-order them so that I have them the day they become available. I was disappointed in this book. It wasn't up to Rita Mae Brown's usual standards in my opinion. I missed all of the regular characters that I've come to feel like I know after all these years and I didn't feel any real connection to any of the new characters in this story. It felt a little disjointed with things veering off into different directions and not coming to what I consider to be an ending that brings everything together or even an ending that made me care about the people and their story. I will continue to buy her books in hopes that her next ones will be as wildly entertaining and as worthy of re-readings as they have been in the past.
TessT More than 1 year ago
Sneaky Pie Brown and his buddies are back, and I for one am very glad. This is the 24th book of this series, and I believe 25 will be released in the fall. Mrs. Murphy and Tee Tucker are of course close by, As is Harry and some of her friends. I did miss Big and Little Mim, it's always fun to catch up with them. It's winter and everyone is really wrapped up in the end of the year activities. Not only parties to celebrate Christmas and the New Year, there are also charity events and fundraisers,  and that's where the trouble start. By the end of the book. we have 3 bodies, 2 recent and 1 at least a 25 year cold case. Sneaky Pie and friends are the ones who discover the cold case, and they are a great help in solving this. Mean while Harry and Fair, find themselves knee deep in the 2 current murders, who happened to be members of the Silver Linings group, who's only reach for fame is to help the under privileged in the area. Who is the killer of the organization members, who is responsible for the murder of the cold case, and by the way, who is the cold case? Sneaky Pie and friends always entertain me, I look forward to each new book that Ms. Browns gives to us. I am so fortunate to be able to read and review advance copies of the books. I look forward to reviewing the one in the fall. Thanks, Sneaky Pie and Ms. Brown for all of the entertainment you have given us with this series.
mysterybook_nerd98 More than 1 year ago
I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. While the mystery itself was pretty good, there wasn't enough focusing on it. Still more talking in these books than doing. At least Rita Mae Brown has toned down on the political stuff. Thank Gawd. I wish she'd bring the old friends back such as Miranda and the Sanburnes. They helped make the stories more interesting.
Earth2LAC More than 1 year ago
I am a huge Rita Mae Brown fan and have been reading her books since the 1970's... This book does not read like a Rita Mae book Mary Minor Haristeen becomes Harriet in the first paragraph? The depth of the characters is missing. The few returning characters say and do things that are our of character... Very disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BuriedUnderBooks More than 1 year ago
It’s hard to believe this series has been going on for so long but, indeed, it has—this is the twenty-second adventure for Harry and her four-footed pals and I still think spending a few hours with this crew is just about the most comforting and entertaining way to indulge my fancy for a cozy mystery. I’m a reader who generally prefers edgier crime fiction but sometimes I need a break from the dark stuff and Rita Mae Brown always delivers or almost always. There have been a few books that I felt were written as a means of sharing an agenda but Nine Lives to Die is back on track. (There is one unexplained oddity when Harry is referred to as “Harriet” which is not her name.) Harry and the rest of her rural locality are appealing people (other than the ones who will turn out to be the bad guys) and, after all these years, I consider them friends. Harry and Fair are a couple I wish were in my life for real and the rest of the town denizens always give me a sense of coming home after a time away. I especially like the faith they have in each other and in a higher power and the way they come together as a community to solve problems. In this case, modern-day murder and some years-old questions become entwined, beginning with what appears at first blush to be a fatal car accident. Missing fingers are one of the first clues that foul play might have occurred. Not long after, Harry’s pets find a great Christmas present for Mom even if it was originally on a human arm bone. Does the rest of this skeleton have anything to do with current events? A cast of characters makes it easy to keep all these folks—and a bunch of critters—straight but it is a couple of cats and a dog who are the real stars of the show. Mrs. Murphy, Pewter and Tee Tucker all have one common goal: keep Mom (Harry) from getting herself into too much trouble. Their conversations with each other and other creatures as they track down clues are a lot of fun and, no, I have no problem with talking animals, whether they talk to humans or only to each other. This is fiction, folks, and we’re allowed to have fun with it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brown continues to show strong characterizations and dialogue for the animals and people but these  do not compensate for the weakness of the  main plot and distracting sub plots.  It was pretty easy to figure how  "who done it" early on in the story.  I think  the for both murders ; the subplot of the delivery of the holiday charity packages went on too long and was distracting.   In sum, I was still glad I read the book because of the animals,  but I think  Brown has lost her creative edge.  I  will save my money and go to the library for any books she writes in the futuer..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all of this series, and I have enjoyed everyone.
Delphimo More than 1 year ago
As a cat lover, I eagerly anticipated reading a Mrs. Murphy mystery, but my thirst was not whetted.  Rita Mae Brown presents some aspects that I wish more authors would utilize.  The beginning of the book contains a cast of characters, which I adore, even if I only use one time.  I dislike trying to read a book and fumble through all the characters and end up writing my own list.  The transition from human and animal talking tripped throughout the story, and did not alter the consequences.  I liked Brown's method of combining cats, dogs, mice, and other animals working together.  This is one of those books, which depends on conversation to progress the tale, therefore depth is missing.  Brown gives an easy and quick book to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would give the book a 3.5 rating.    For me, 4 stars is a top mystery while 3 is an average good read.    This is the first in the series I have read.  I liked the animal part.    I felt it gave a good picture of small town life but the mystery itself was predictable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I look forward to each new book and reading the latest saga of these "friends" that I am now so fond of. I also enjoy the intelligent conversation between the characters. The plot is interesting and, as you would want, slowly unfolds and comes together at the end. Hoping the next book involves some of the previous characters- Big Mim, Aunt Tally, etc.. A great mystery and more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The series' main characters were mostly passive observers to the events of the book this time so there was not allot of action. It was, unfortunately, kind of boring because of this. I did notice the change in Harry's name but assumed that she must have been Mary Harriet Minor before marrying Fair so there is still continuity. I wouldn't recommend this book for anyone who is not already reading the series because they would probably get a poor impression and not give the rest a chance. Stephanie Clanahan
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I go next to Cindertail
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*Nightkit pounced on streamkit.*<p> *Streamkit yowls in surprise .*<p> *Stripekit watches.*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He nods a greeting back to Willowsong.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can i join?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*pads in her piercing red eyes looking around angerly and slams her paw on the ground frustrated and says quietly* where is he...........?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BROWN. Brownfur licked his paws. <p> BLUE. Bluestep looked a Firestr. <p> RED. Redtail asked," May we join? And I be deputy?"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pads in. "May I join?"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Still there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Where do bios go?)))