Mrs. Murphy and crew tackle the legislature

Bob Moyer keeps getting ahead of me to review some of my longstanding favorite series and authors. At least Bob is good enough to write the reviews and let the rest of us know what books we need to get caught up on.

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

FELINE FATALE: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery. By Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown. Bantam. 304 pages. $28.

Don’t expect Rita Mae or Sneaky Pie Brown to get down and noir with a mystery. The one death that takes place here is as stylistically far removed from the genre as the Virginia farmhouse where the cat Mrs. Murphy and the other animals live is geographically distant from Richmond. Most of the time, the cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and the dogs Tee Tucker and Pirate, hang out with their human, Harry Haristeen, in the heated barn. If not there, they go where she goes, plowing snow from the driveways of neighbors and friends, fretting over the danger of encroaching development on a historic school, or fixing the roof on the church. Harry does take on the challenge of learning ham radioing in order to communicate with some of her elders.

It’s only loyalty to her friend Susan that lands Harry and her crew in the cat fight known as the Virginia Legislature. While visiting to watch Susan’s husband Ned offer a bill, she witnesses a former newscaster, now a Republican firebrand in high heels, slap Ned’s colleague. It initiates what appears to be a feud between the two, and Harry watches from a distance….

… Until she is called into service because a page was killed, and many quit, leaving a gap in the needs of the legislators. The authors show us around the political ballfield (they know a good bit about Virginia politics), and Harry pays attention. There’s shenanigans going on. What looks like combat turns out to be communication, and Harry sorts it out, with a click of high heels she’s unaccustomed to.

Of course, the animals are omnipresent. Fortunately, they don’t do any detecting. They do what animals do — talk trash to each other, keep an eye out for food, and look out for Harry. Pet owners may be a bit bemused that both canines and felines travel politely in and out of everywhere Harry visits. They help make this mystery as cozy as a crime can be, and that’s what a Mrs. Murphy book is all about.

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