Bantam Books, 1999; 320 pages
Things have been pretty exciting lately in Crozet, Virginia -- a little too exciting if you ask resident feline investigator Mrs. Murphy. Just as the town starts to buzz over its Civil War reenactment, a popular local man disappears. No one’s seen Tommy Van Allen’s single-engine plane, either -- except for Mrs. Murphy, who spotted it during a foggy evening’s mousing. Even Mrs. Murphy’s favorite human, postmistress Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen, can sense that something is amiss. But things really take an ugly turn when the town reenacts the battle of Oak Ridge -- and a participant ends up with three very real bullets in his back. While the clever tiger cat and her friends sift through clues that just don’t fit together, more than a few locals fear that the scandal will force well-hidden town secrets into the harsh light of day. And when Mrs. Murphy’s relentless tracking places loved ones in danger, it takes more than a canny kitty and her team of animal sleuths to set things right again.
I always enjoy the Mrs. Murphy series, and this is one of the best of the lot. Rita Mae Brown (or is it maybe Sneaky Pie?) has a tendency to become a bit preachy at times, making conversations among her characters seem stilted and less real. But there's very little of that in this book, I'm happy to say.
There's also a lot more action involving Mrs. Murphy and her critter cohorts -- another plus. Of course, when a cat, a Corgi, and a mixed bag of kitties, birdies, and other pets and domestic animals are the lead investigators in a crime story, there's an awful lot of disbelief to be suspended. Which I love, but others might find hard. In this novel, there's one especially wonderful (and totally not believable) episode where Murphy, along with her pals Tucker the Corgi and Pewter (another cat), manage to save the day by actually driving a vehicle. And without a license, too!
My one real quibble with the book was the ending -- everything was wrapped up, but just not as neatly as I would have liked. I won't say any more -- don't want to give too much away, but I would have ended it a bit differently. Still, a fast, entertaining read. Definitely recommended if you like cozy mysteries.