Whiskers in the dark A Mrs. Murphy mystery

Rita Mae Brown

Book - 2019

The discovery of a body in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains dredges up mysteries that have lingered from Revolutionary Virginia through the Civil War and beyond, in a supernaturally thrilling new tale from Rita Mae Brown and her feline co-author Sneaky Pie Brown. A trial is underway in Albemarle County, where Mary Minor "Harry" Harristeen and her trusty crew of two- and four-legged friends hope to catch a killer--who may not be the person accused of the crime. Since an old friend's body was discovered by the hunting club's faithful beagles, it has been up to Harry--with her crime-solving cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and Tee Tucker the corgi--to sniff out a trail of clues. Meanwhile, bloodshed dating back generations co...ntinues to haunt the current grounds of the National Beagle Club of America. Are past claims of ghost sightings still to be ignored? And what do these paranormal apparitions have to do with the very modern drama unfolding in court and the all-too-real threats confronting Harry and her companions at every turn?

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Detective and mystery fiction
Mystery fiction
New York : Bantam Books [2019]
Main Author
Rita Mae Brown (author)
Other Authors
Sneaky Pie Brown, 1982- (author), Michael Gellatly (illustrator)
First Edition
Physical Description
xiv, 268 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Early in bestseller Brown's smoothly written 27th mystery featuring Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen and her talking animals (after 2018's Probably Claws), Harry and her fellow volunteers are clearing away debris at the National Beagle Club in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains in order to make the grounds safe for a proposed hunt when they find retired Foreign Service officer Jason Holzknect with his throat slit. Another murder at the club ups the ante. Meanwhile, a woman's skeleton dating to the 18th century and wearing a pearl necklace is discovered in the local cemetery. Flashbacks to the years after the Revolutionary War tell the story of the woman who wore the pearls, which parallels the circumstances that led to the present-day murders. In lieu of detecting, Harry feels and intuits. For series fans, atmosphere is what counts: walking the dogs, stroking the cats, listening to the birds in the meadows, mucking out the stables, all accompanied by the animals' wise observations. Brown's love of nature shines through. (June)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A present-day killer strikes during the preparations for a veterans' benefit while an 18th-century family attempts to modernize their household routines.After working to ready the Institute at Aldie, Virginia, a site for agricultural programming and the current home of the National Beagle Club of America, for the Hounds F4R Heroes fundraiser for veterans, Harry Haristeen and Susan Tucker join their fellow volunteers for some fireside political musings. Arlene Billeaud and Jason and Clare Holzknect, whose strong political opinions stem from their war experiences, agree on the importance of supporting veterans through the beagle-focused fundraiser. Harry's longtime cat companion, Mrs. Murphy, along with Pewter, veteran dog companion Tee Tucker, and new addition Pirate join the festive preparations. But they're startled when they spy Ruffy, an unfamiliar beagle who has the distinction of being a ghost dog on Aldie's premises. Conversations about politics and beagles are interspersed with the ongoing story of Cloverfields (Probable Claws, 2018, etc.), an 18th-century farm whose upstairs/downstairs dynamics inform the problem of a murdered body that Harry's been pondering almost as an aside. Modern times see a killer at Aldie that Ruffy's trying to keep quiet; the story of past times alternates between a trio of runaway slaves and a romance that may unite two farms. It's never entirely clear why the focus is split between past and present, but that doesn't seem to be Brown's leading concern anyway, though it's hard to say just what that concern is this time or where the series is going.Franchise fans who aren't enamored of the more recent focus on sport hunting or political philosophy will feel even further alienated. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

1 April 5, 2018 Thursday "Did you kill anybody?" Harry asked as the firelight flickered on her face. "Do you think I'm going to answer that question?" Arlene Billeaud laughed at her. Harry Haristeen, her best friend, Susan Tucker, Arlene Billeaud, Jason Holzknect, and his wife, Clare Lazo Holzknect, sat by the fireplace in the large stone building known as the Institute in Aldie, Virginia. Built in the 1850s as the Loudoun Agricultural and Chemical Institute, it had weathered many a storm. In 1855 an advertisement claimed that courses would benefit the farmer, the merchant, the engineer, certainly a broad student base. But the panic of 1857, a damaging depression for so many, ended the Institute. Next came the war. Still it persevered, today being the home of the National Beagle Club of America. The people in the inviting room had come from Maryland and Virginia to clean up paths, move downed trees, and repair the kennels, as violent storms had swept through Loudoun County and much of Northern Virginia. They were there to prepare for the annual competition hosted by Hounds F4R Heroes at the end of the month. Anyone could enter two pairs of beagles--four hounds--to hunt, prizes being given to the top couples. The purpose, to raise money for veterans, drew many spectators and competitors. The funds were used to provide veterans with fishing and hunting events. This was done in other states as well and was growing nationally. The small group arrived early for tomorrow's work. Others would drive in the next morning. Harry and Susan stayed in one of the cabins, the first ones built in 1917 when the Institute was just up and running. Other cabins were added later, tight, warm if you kept the fire going, with enough windows to let in the light. Harry's two cats, Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, along with her two dogs, Tucker, a corgi, and Pirate, a half-grown Irish wolfhound, were back at the cabin. No dirty paws at the Institute. "Another drink?" Jason, tall, maybe mid-fifties, offered, pointing to the opened bottle of wine. "No thanks," Harry, not a drinker, replied. "A smidge." Susan raised her glass as did the other two women. Apart from the work they expected to face tomorrow, they talked about packs of hounds, both bassets and beagles; their hunting season, which had just ended; friends in common. "Oh, come on." Harry tweaked Arlene. "We know you had a dangerous job before you retired." "Not as dangerous as you might think. I was not an undercover agent." Arlene had recently retired from the Central Intelligence Agency. "Rats." Harry pretended to pout. "I want good stories." "Well, this isn't a good story, but my area was Russia, so I was responsible for absorbing and digesting information from that area." "From undercover agents there?" Harry was fascinated. "I would never say we have agents there, but I can promise you we have their agents here." Arlene smiled. Clare, a former Navy captain, sipped her white wine. "Not only does Russia have agents here but so do our allies. Everyone spies on everyone and yes, Harry, we, too, have agents everywhere. One must." "The best way to look at this is that power is amoral." Jason settled into his chair, having poured himself another glass of wine. "I know what you're saying is true, but it drives me crazy," Susan said. "All that money to sift through people's computers, hacking this and hacking that. Following people, and I suppose killing some. Harry isn't far wrong." "So the question is if one must kill, say, a Nigerian undercover agent who is funneling American funds to a terrorist group, thousands are dying, is the murder justified?" Arlene asked a question back. "Well, if we aren't being killed, no." Harry was firm. "What about the terrorists, at least I think of them as terrorists, who kidnapped the girls in Nigeria? It doesn't affect us, but you don't kidnap hundreds of children." Susan tried to think this out. "But sending operatives over there costs a lot of money, sending troops outright even more," Jason said. "When I was in the diplomatic corps, depending on where I was assigned, we were always told and trained, 'Hands off!' " Clare spoke again. "The theory is that every state has sovereign rights. They may treat their people quite differently than we treat ours, but we have no right to interfere in internal issues, no matter how repugnant. Hence agencies like the CIA, which does not necessarily interfere, but provides information to shape our foreign policy that a diplomat going through normal channels may not be able to provide." "Jason, did you ever feel you were in a tight spot?" Harry's curiosity kept her questioning. "Not physically. As you know, my longest posting was in Ankara, Turkey. I speak fluent Turkish, know the culture, and have a smattering of some languages of countries near Turkey. Enough to be able to read, say, a Russian headline. But Turkey's geographic position guarantees it will forever be a trade and political crossroads. Any violence in surrounding countries, such as Greece--remember they've had riots--could spill over into Turkey." "Greece would invade Turkey?" Harry was incredulous. "Not today." Jason smiled. "But riots in Greece or in the Crimea, for instance, might set off the disaffected in Turkey. Every nation has a pool of disaffected people who can take to the streets with or without much provocation. This includes us." "Unfortunately, it does. Which is why Hounds for Heroes is important." Arlene put her feet up on a hassock. "Those men and women, many of them, have seen service in miserable spots. But if you've worn our country's uniform, you deserve some recognition. I'm thrilled we can provide sport." Harry knew that Arlene had lost a leg in the Middle East. She had a good false limb masked by well-tailored slacks and socks. She'd served in the Army before being recruited, not a word that Arlene used, for the CIA. Her analytical skills and her IQ made her particularly valuable. Not that she wasn't valuable in the Army, but while she was recuperating in a Veterans Hospital she was wooed. Turned out to be a wonderful job for her. She liked the Army but she loved the Agency. Then again, she was in no danger of losing her other leg in Washington. "I predict Ashland Bassets will win the basset day. Beagles, maybe Sandanona or Ben Venue." Jason sounded authoritative. "Why aren't we going to win?" His wife raised her eyebrows. "What do you think?" Jason asked Arlene. "Since I'm the director of the event for this year, I plead neutral. I'm hoping for good weather, whoever wins." "Ashland Bassets, Waldingfield Beagles." Harry gave her favorites. "Can't do that, Harry. We know those hunts. Of course, we want them to win, but who knows?" Susan looked at her watch. "You know what, I'm turning in. We should be up and out at first light tomorrow, especially since we don't know how much damage there is. We have five hundred and twelve acres to canvas." "Glad as I am that the founders of the National Beagle Club had the foresight to buy all this, it is a lot to maintain," Clare posited. "Is, but there's no place like it." Harry stood up with Susan. "Cold though, isn't it?" "Going to be a late spring." Arlene knew she should rouse herself, but she was ready to fall asleep where she was. Harry and Susan left the building, hurrying to their cabin, smoke curling out of the chimney since Harry had built a solid fire before they joined the others. As the humans opened the door, the dogs awakened, hurried up, tails wagging. "Oh, I missed you." Tucker, the corgi, licked Harry's hand. "Me, too," the growing giant, Pirate, agreed. One eye now open, fat, gray Pewter, grumbled, "Suck-ups." Mrs. Murphy, sprawled on the comforter on the narrow bed with Pewter, flicked the tip of her tail. "We can at least purr." Harry carefully placed two more logs on the fire, adjusting the grate cover. "That should see us through the night." "You build good fires. I kind of think there's going to be a lot to do." "Yeah." Harry agreed with Susan. "Wasn't Clare in the Navy?" "She speaks fluent Russian. She was, according to her, mostly on a giant ship out in the Gulf of Finland, listening to the Russians, not far away." "I wouldn't have the patience for that. Would you?" "I suppose I could do it, but I wouldn't like it. Well, I wouldn't mind being on a ship for months at a time." Susan took off her shoes and socks, stripped off her clothes, quickly jumped into bed. "I'd think of it as a long respite from housework." The room was warm but the bed would be warmer. Excerpted from Whiskers in the Dark: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery by Rita Mae Brown All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.