Pawing Through the Past (Mrs. Murphy Mysteries)

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9780553107388: Pawing Through the Past (Mrs. Murphy Mysteries)
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It Takes a Cat to Write the Purr-fect Mystery.

From award-winning author Rita Mae Brown and her equally celebrated feline collaborator, Sneaky Pie Brown, comes another delightfully suspenseful mystery featuring that most cunning of creatures and uncanny of sleuths, famed tiger cat Mrs. Murphy. This time out, the irrepressible Mrs. Murphy finds herself paw-deep in a compelling case of old ties, old sins, and all-too-present danger.

Emotions are running high around tiny Crozet, Virginia, among the Class of 1980, as plans get under way for the upcoming twentieth high school reunion. There's nothing like a reunion to stir up memories, rivalries, and insecurities. It's even put Crozet's normally placid postmistress, Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen, who's on the organizing committee, on edge, as she wonders if everything will come together on time.

Still, when each member of the class receives an anonymous letter edged in the Crozet High School colors that reads "You'll never get old," Harry takes it as a compliment. Others think it's a joke. But even blitzed out on fresh catnip, Mrs. Murphy senses a much more sinister meaning. And the sly tiger cat is soon proven right...when divinely handsome Charlie Ashcraft, the class womanizer, turns up dead with a bullet between his eyes. At first folks around Crozet figure that when a man is sleeping with other men's wives, trouble is sure to follow. But when another threatening note to the members of the Class of 1980 is followed by the murder of a second classmate, it becomes all too clear that someone is determined to spoil this reunion...someone who has waited twenty years to take bitter revenge.

What could have happened so long ago to trigger such rage? While Harry, whose high school memories consist of football games and first love, tries to make sense of the crimes, it's up to Mrs. Murphy, her feline pal Pewter, and the corgi Tee Tucker to try to sniff out the truth. Yet when ugly rumors surface and Harry herself has a brush with violence, Mrs. Murphy is the first to realize that in the killer's mind, Harry's been chosen Most Likely to Die. And now, unless the daring tiger cat and her animal pals can stop a relentless killer, Crozet High's twentieth reunion may very well be Harry Haristeen's last....

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Review:

When a mystery author claims her cat as coauthor, it's a fairly safe bet that the team won't be producing disturbing psychological thrillers or hard-edged legal procedurals. And indeed, Rita Mae Brown and her cat, Sneaky Pie, have carved out a comfortable niche for themselves in the cozy category, spinning tales (Rest in Pieces; Murder, She Meowed; Cat on the Scent) around the goings-on in Crozet, a small Virginia town where everyone knows everyone else and recipes and gossip are exchanged over the post office counter. Mary Minor Haristeen ("Harry") is Crozet's postmistress and the proud owner of two cats, Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and one corgi, Tee Tucker--animals with an uncanny ability to sniff out secrets and hidden motives as well as mice and roast beef.

Pawing Through the Past capitalizes on the myriad subtle relationships that form the backbone of small-town culture, and which Brown and Sneaky Pie have carefully woven throughout the Mrs. Murphy series. In a nicely appropriate nod to that culture's rivalries and alliances, Brown has chosen a high school reunion--traditional hotbed of simmering unease--as her mise-en-scène. When each member of the Crozet High Class of 1980 receives an anonymous note stating, "You'll never get old," most take it as a joke or a compliment. But when the class womanizer turns up with a bullet between his eyes, and more notes--and more bodies--start appearing, Harry and her menagerie find themselves at the center of a revenge plot 20 years in the making.

Brown's latest is replete with the sly asides that have endeared her to animal lovers--"Cats are by instinct and inclination dedicated anarchists"--and with the naively humorous "conversations" between the animals themselves. When Pewter, watching a team of police officers wrestling a stiff corpse out of a dumpster, wonders, "Why don't they just break his arms and legs?" Murphy replies knowingly, "They'd pass out. Humans are touchy about their dead." Unfortunately, these favorable attributes can't quite mask an incoherent plot, nor Brown's awkwardly pompous social commentary: "By and large, the women looked better than the men, testimony to the cultural pressure for women to fuss over themselves." But Brown's legions of fans will doubtlessly forgive these shortcomings, concentrating instead on the antics of a memorable four-legged and furry trio. --Kelly Flynn

From the Back Cover:

"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 Sunday Examiner & Chronicle Book Review

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780553580259: Pawing Through the Past: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery

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ISBN 10:  0553580256 ISBN 13:  9780553580259
Publisher: Bantam, 2001
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9781568951348: Pawing Through the Past

Wheele..., 2001
Hardcover

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