Illustrated by Wendy Wray
Published by Bantam Books, 1990, 284 pages
What An Animal! Challenge
To Be Continued… Perpetual Challenge
Wish You Were Here is the first book in Rita Mae Brown's series of Mrs. Murphy mystery novels. If you're familiar with the books, you know Mrs. Murphy is a tiger cat, who "owns" the main human character of the books, Mary Minor Haristeen. Ms. Haristeen, called "Harry" by one and all, is the post-mistress in the tiny hamlet of Crozet, Virginia (based, oddly enough, on the tiny hamlet of Crozet, Virginia), thirty-something, and recently divorced. And when she's not sorting mail and gossiping with neighbors at the post office, she lives on a farm just outside Crozet proper, along with Mrs. Murphy and the other pet in the family, a Welsh Corgi called Tee Tucker.
The plot of this first book revolves around a series of murders in the town, with each victim having received a postcard with a picture of a tombstone or cemetery on the front and the message "Wish You Were Here" written on the back. This fact only comes to light because Harry has the bad habit of reading the postcards that come into the post office. Naturally, she immediately sets about conducting her own investigation of the crimes – aided by her pets who are intent on seeing that their human doesn't come to any harm. And, of course, with their heightened senses and ability to go places humans can't, the cat and Corgi are always way ahead of her in solving the murders.
Since this is the first book in the series, we get introduced to a lot of characters who are going to turn out to be regulars in the later novels. Of course, you only know that if (like yours truly) you managed to start the series with one of the later books. I think the fact that I was familiar with the books was probably the reason I was able to figure out who the likely culprit was before the big reveal at the end. And of course it turned out to be just the person I was hoping it wouldn't, but that's all I'm going to say about that! Wouldn't want to spoil such a satisfying read.
I love the Mrs. Murphy books. Harry's a very appealing character, and her animal compatriots have wonderful personalities. There's always a lot of humor in the books, and the relationships and conversations between Mrs. Murphy and Tee Tucker and their animal friends are a delight. Take this little chat Mrs. Murphy has with Pewter, one of her feline pals, as they share a beef bone treat:
"Human beings take forty years to grow up and half of them don't do it then. We're ready for the world at six months."If you like cozy mysteries, I can heartily recommend the Mrs. Murphy mystery series. And this first book is definitely the best place to start.
"We're not really grown up though, Pewter." Mrs. Murphy licked her chops. "I'd say we're fully adult at one year. I wonder, why does it take them so long?"
"Retarded," came Pewter's swift reply.
Oh, and by the way, the Sneaky Pie Brown listed as co-author is Rita Mae's own cat. As Sneaky Pie explains in her "Author's Note" at the beginning of the book:
I am seven years old and for the duration of my life I have assisted Mother in writing her books. I never minded that she failed to mention the extent of my contribution. Humans are like that, and since they're such frail creatures…, I let it go.