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"A 20th-anniversary release of the latest entry in the best-selling series finds Mary Minor ""Harry"" Harristeen and her intrepid team of feline, canine and equine helpers investigating a series of inexplicable car accidents that are attributed to freak driver errors. (mystery & detective). Simultaneous."
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Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of several novels, including the Sneaky Pie Brown series; the Sister Jane series; the first two books in her new canine mystery series: A Nose for Justice and Murder Unleashed; Rubyfruit Jungle; In Her Day; and Six of One. 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 nineteen previous 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; Whisker of Evil; Cat’s Eyewitness; Sour Puss; Puss ’n Cahoots; The Purrfect Murder; Santa Clawed; Cat of the Century; and Hiss of Death, in addition to Sneaky Pie’s Cookbook for Mystery Lovers.
A red-shouldered hawk, tiny mouse in her talons, swooped in front of the 2007 Outback rolling along the wet country road. She landed in an old cherry tree covered in pink blossoms, which fluttered to the ground from the hawk’s light impact.
“Will you look at that?” Miranda Hogendobber exclaimed from behind the Outback’s wheel, as she drove to the garden center over in Waynesboro.
“Raptors fascinate me, but they scare me, too,” Harry Haristeen remarked. “Poor little mouse.”
“There is that.” Miranda slowed for a sharp curve.
Central Virginia, celebrating high spring, was also digging out from torrential rains over the weekend.
Harry, forty and fit, and Miranda, late sixties and not advertising, had worked together for years at the old Crozet post office.
When Miranda’s husband, George, died, Harry, fresh from Smith College, took his position as head of the P.O., never thinking the job would last nearly two decades. Miranda, despite her loss, showed up every day to help orient the young woman whom she’d known as a baby. Harry’s youth raised Miranda’s spirits. In mourning, it’s especially good to have a task. Over the years they became extremely close, almost a mother–daughter bond. Harry’s mother had died when Harry was in her early twenties.
Noticing fields filled with the debris of the now-subsiding waters, Harry observed, “What a mess. Can’t turn out stock in that. You just don’t know what else is wrapped up in all those branches and twigs.”
“Hey, there’s a plastic chair. Might look good in your yard.” Miranda smiled.
“Well,” Harry drawled the word out, like the native Southerner she was.
The younger woman, generous with her time and happy to feed anyone, could be tight with the buck. Miranda couldn’t resist teasing Harry about a free if ugly chair.
“This is sure better than my 1961 Falcon,” the older woman said. “Initially I resisted the Outback’s fancy radio. I mean, this is a used car and had the Sirius capabilities, but I didn’t want to pay extra. How did I live without it?” Miranda mused, now a Subaru convert.
“Regular cars can now do more than Mercedes or even Rolls from ten years ago. That’s what amazes me: the speed with which the technological developments of those high-end cars became commonplace in much-lower-priced vehicles. But I still love my old 1978 F-150 and you still drive your old Falcon. Hey, want me to wax it?”
“Would you? What a lovely offer.”
“You know how crazy I get with anything with an engine in it. I’ll clean the tires, refresh your dash. I’m a one-woman detailing operation.”
Her eyebrows knitting together, Miranda said, “Uh-oh.”
An odd pop, then a lurch, made holding the Outback on theroad difficult.
“Put on your flashers and brake.”
They slid toward a narrow drainage ditch, and the airbags billowed up inside as the wheel dipped in the ditch. Miranda couldn’t see.
If there was enough room, narrow drainage ditches, about one to two feet deep, paralleled the country roads. Occasionally, small culverts passed the runoff under farm driveways or sharp curves, moving the water, which could rise very quickly, away from the roads.
Even without vision, Miranda was not one to panic. She braked smoothly, and the right side of the car dropped into the ditch. The car rocked a little.
Asleep on the backseat, Harry’s two cats and dog rolled off.
“Hey!” Pewter, the rotund gray cat, howled.
The tiger cat, Mrs. Murphy, and the corgi, Tee Tucker, scrambled back up on the seat.
“No other cars,” the dog noted.
The tiger cat looked around. “Right.”
“I was asleep.” Pewter hauled herself up to sit next to her friends.
“We all were,” Mrs. Murphy drily noted.
“Well—I was more asleep.”
Harry, already outside, having punctured the air bag with the penknife she always carried in her hip pocket, crouched down to look at the undercarriage. Then she walked to the right front side of the car, front end inthe ditch.
“See anything?” As best she could, Miranda rolled up her air bag, which Harry had also punctured.
Harry called back, “Your right tire is cracked; the rubber’s flat, too. Do you have Triple A?”
“I do.” Miranda slid out as Harry helped her. “But I’m going to call Safe and Sound instead.”
Safe & Sound, founded and run by Alphonse “Latigo” Bly, was headquartered in Charlottesville. Specializing in auto insurance, the company covered the mid-Atlantic and coastal South. Many business people believed Safe & Sound would go national, sooner or later.
As Miranda called, Harry opened the back door of the Outback.
“Does anyone need to go potsie?”
“Must she put it that way?” Pewter grumbled. “And I am not about to get my paws wet.”
“We’re okay.” The corgi answered for the rest of the animals. Not seeing one of her best friends budge, Harry closed the door to the rear, then did her best to fold her air bag back into the dash.
Miranda was already on the phone with Safe & Sound, spilling out details, perhaps too many.
With difficulty, Harry opened the glove compartment, pulling out the manual.
Having concluded her phone conversation, Miranda informed Harry, “Someone will be here in twenty minutes. Says don’t call Triple A. He takes care of this stuff all the time.”
“Always best to do business with friends,” Harry observed. “When you try to save money, you usually waste time or spend even more money. Safe and Sound is local.”
Miranda sighed. “The older I get, the more I realize time is more precious than money.”
Harry, flipping through the manual, stopped at a schematic drawing of the auto frame. “You’re not old. Anyone who sings in the choir, gardens like you do, and is a member of every ‘do-good’ group in the state of Virginia isn’t old.” Changing the subject—a habit with dear friends—Harry declared, “Whatever happened, it wasn’t the engine. It may be a defective wheel, but there was that odd pop sound.”
“Yes. I couldn’t steer after that.”
“Weird.” Harry glanced back at the manual. “Subaru makes great cars for the money.” A fresh breeze brought the aroma of blossoms, flowers, and hay coming up, filling her nostrils.
“I’ll be curious to find out what happened. How lucky we were that the car swerved to the right, not the left into oncoming traffic. Better yet, there wasn’t any traffic.” Miranda exhaled.
“Monday afternoon. Everyone’s at work or in the fields. Herb’s truck is in the shop, too, after his collision last week,” Harry said, thinking of the minister at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, the Very Reverend Herbert Jones. “Things go in threes. Maybe I’m next.”
“I don’t know what happened, but I bet that will cost Herb an arm and a leg. Truck’s still at ReNu,” Miranda said, naming the garage favored by the insurance company. “He was driving his Chevy truck. His ‘bigfib’ truck.”
They laughed, because the Chevy, used for fishing and filled with tackle, was also filled with fish stories. Oh, how Herb could wax poetic on the one that got away! He was also all too happy to show what he had actually snagged, though the cats generally proved more interested in the display than did the humans.
“If you’re going to be stuck on the side of the road, best it happens on a beautiful spring day.” Harry smiled. “We were lucky. Unlike Tara Meola.”
Harry shuddered at the thought of the poor young woman killed last week in the hard rains when a deer smashed into her vehicle.
“True.” Miranda nodded.
“You just never know,” Harry sighed.
After a bitterly cold winter, spring had stayed cool until late April. It was now late May. Nights in the mid-forties or mid-fifties promised days in the sixties. Late-blooming dogwoods dotted the forests and manicured lawns. Over pergolas, the wisteria hung pendulous with lavender or white blossoms. The roses threatened to riot.
Harry walked through her tended acres. The farm maintained a healthy balance of crops, hay, and woodlands. Mrs. Murphy, Tucker, and Pewter followed, taking numerous side trips to investigate rabbit warrens and fox dens. The butterflies danced together, swirling, fluttering their beautiful veined wings.
Eying them deviously, Pewter crouched down.
“They see you,” Tucker said.
Ignoring the ever-practical dog, Pewter wiggled her gray butt, then leapt upward.
Without breaking rhythm, the butterflies flew away.
“Almost had ’em.”
“Dream on,” the corgi teased.
Mrs. Murphy at her heels, Harry turned. “Come on, you two.”
“She’s always giving orders,” Pewter grumbled.
“True,” the handsome dog agreed. “And she also always feeds us on time.”
Considering this, the fat cat trotted toward Harry, who was now leaning over to inspect the tops of sunflower plants just breaking the surface.
“With a little luck, I’m going to have a good year.”Harry smiled, then moved on to her quarter acre of Petit Manseng grapes.
Dr. Thomas Walker, Thomas Jefferson’s gu...
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Book Description Thorndike Press, 2012. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P111410446956
Book Description Thorndike Press. Hardcover. Condition: New. 1410446956 New Condition. Seller Inventory # NEW99.1646604
Book Description Thorndike Press, 2012. Hardcover. Condition: New. Lrg. Ships with Tracking Number! INTERNATIONAL WORLDWIDE Shipping available. Buy with confidence, excellent customer service!. Seller Inventory # 1410446956n