Cat's Eyewitness (Mrs. Murphy Series #13)

Cat's Eyewitness (Mrs. Murphy Series #13)

Audio CD(Unabridged)

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It’s no secret that cats are a mystery writer’s best friend. Just ask the bestselling team of Rita Mae Brown and her furry partner, Sneaky Pie Brown, back on the prowl with another unforgettable whodunit. This time a controversial miracle in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains sparks religious fervor– and a suspicious death. Now the indefatigable felines Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, along with the dogged corgi Tee Tucker, must trust their animal instincts to sniff out the worst of human nature....

With the holidays approaching, Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen and her best friend, Susan Tucker, take a much-needed time-out at the mountain monastery of Mount Carmel. There, under the benevolent gaze of the statue of the Virgin Mary, their worldly worries are soon overshadowed. For in front of their very eyes the statue begins to cry tears of blood.

Legend has it that Mary’s crimson tears are harbingers of crises. And though skeptical, the ever-practical Harry can already see one on the horizon. If leaked, news of the so-called miracle could turn the monastery and the town of Crozet into a circus. What Harry doesn’t foresee is murder...

When Susan’s great-uncle Thomas, a resident monk, is found frozen to death at the base of the statue, foul play is ruled out– at first. But at Harry’s urging, the body is exhumed for an autopsy. There’s just one problem: the coffin is empty. That’s when Mrs. Murphy, Pewter, and Tucker get involved. Then there’s the shocking revelation of a mystery that has perplexed the citizens of Crozet for ages.

With Christmas around the corner and the monasteryoverrun by the faithful, all Harry’s meddling menagerie can do is stay on her trail as she jumps knee-deep into an unofficial investigation– one that becomes more dangerous when another Crozet citizen meets an untimely demise. In this case it will be a miracle if Harry stays alive....

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781419320606
Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date: 01/31/2005
Series: Mrs. Murphy Series , #13
Edition description: Unabridged

About the Author

Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of the Sneaky Pie Brown series; the Sister Jane series; A Nose for Justice and Murder Unleashed; Rubyfruit Jungle; In Her Day; and Six of One, as well as several other novels. 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 numerous Mrs. Murphy mysteries—in addition to Sneaky Pie’s Cookbook for Mystery Lovers and Sneaky Pie for President.

Read an Excerpt


A thin trickle of water zigzagged over the Virgin Mary's cold face. She gazed westward from her home on top of the Blue Ridge Mountains, between Afton Gap and Humpback Mountain. Her elevation approached two thousand two hundred feet. The fertile expanse of the Shenandoah Valley spread below, rolling westward to the Allegheny Mountains. The Valley, made immortal by the military genius of Stonewall Jackson, had been beloved of the Native Americans long before the European immigrants, refugees, and mountebanks ever beheld its calming beauty.

Had the Blessed Virgin Mother been able to turn her head and look east, undulating hills traversed with ravines and ridges stopping at the Southwest Range would have delighted her eyes. The last spur of the Appalachian Mountain chain, the Southwest Range gives way on its eastern slopes to land with a gentle roll. These rich fields and forests drop until the Fall Line, the true geographic boundary between low country and up-country, between sandy soils, red clay, and loam mixtures. This line also divided the Iroquois-speaking peoples from the Sioux-speaking peoples. Neither side liked the other much, warfare and raids occurring with savage regularity. Into this political hot zone trooped the English, the first surviving colony founded in 1607. Those that lived, learned.

The conclusion of the Revolutionary War in 1781, one hundred and seventy-four years after Jamestown was founded, unleashed an exuberance of trade, exploration, birthrate, and optimism. Even the fierce Monocan tribe and their allies, who had kept the whites from building safe communities ever westward of the Fall Line, couldn't hold them back.

The land onwhich Mary stood was settled in 1794 by Catholics more comfortable on the crest of the mountains than walking among their hustling Protestant neighbors in Richmond or the Tidewater. They built a log chapel. The land and altitude were good for apples. Orchards flourished. After the Constitutional Convention, the new Constitution made crystal clear the separation between church and state. Many of the apple-growing Catholics moved down the mountain into Nelson and Albemarle Counties on the eastern slopes, Augusta County on the western slopes. Nestled in the valleys, the temperature warmer, the winds less fierce than on the mountaintop, the former religious refugees prospered.

The hard-core mountain people, many of them distillers of clear liquor--the mountain streams being wonderful for such endeavors--stayed in the hollows. They didn't want to live on a mountaintop.

Finally in 1866 a war-weary Confederate captain founded a monastic order based on the Carmelites. He called it Mt. Carmel after the original in Palestine. Carmelite orders were being founded in the north after the War Between the States. Captain Ainsly was defiant and remained independent of the international monastic order even though he followed their rules. Instead of being known as Whitefriars, the monks on Afton Mountain were called Greyfriars because of their gray wool robes, an echo of their uniform color.

The monastery itself was not open to the public. The dairy, the chandler's building, the food building with honey and jams, and the ironmonger's forge were open, though, as were the exquisite gardens. The products were made by the monks themselves. Applejack was their biggest seller. Made on the grounds from apples grown in the old orchards, the brothers took special care with their distillery. Folks said Greyfriars' applejack could kick one harder than a mule.

The Virgin Mary stood on the highest point of land, the spring gardens nestled below her. She was carved from native soapstone by another Confederate veteran sick of war and worldly corruption. The Blessed Virgin Mother radiated a sorrow, a forgiveness that touched many who looked upon her. The stones leading to her, worn concave from many feet, bore testimony to her grace and power.

On this day, November 24, Thanksgiving, snow settled in the folds of her raiment. It covered the earth down to a thousand feet above sea level. Below that, freezing rain pelted farm and forest.

Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen had driven up before the rain reached the eastern meadows. But as she squinted upward into a leaden sky, she knew getting down Afton Mountain would take a steady hand and a steady foot, no jamming on the brakes.

Her three dearest companions--Mrs. Murphy, a tiger cat, Pewter, a gray cat, and Tee Tucker, a brave corgi--had smelled the shift in the weather before their human friend knew it was coming. Confident in her driving ability, Harry wouldn't have turned back even if she had foreseen the change. She was determined to spend an hour on the mountain, alone and in thought, before plunging into Thanksgiving cheer. She'd quit her job as postmistress after sixteen years because the U.S. Postal Service was building a large, modern post office in Crozet by the railroad track. In this fit of improvement, the bigwigs decided that Mrs. Murphy, Pewter, and Tucker could no longer "work" with her. How could she live without the cats and dog? How could millions of Americans sit in windowless cubicles without even a bird to keep them connected to real life? Harry couldn't live like that. Not yet forty, she felt a disquieting alienation from so-called modern life. What seemed vital to others, like wading through their e-mail, seemed fake to her. Harry was at a crossroads, not sure which way to jump.

The dear older woman she worked with, Miranda Hogendobber, walked out when she did. But Miranda had her deceased husband's retirement to draw upon; she'd been frugal and was in good shape.

Harry wasn't in good shape financially. Taxes crept upward like kudzu threatening to choke her small farm profits, in particular, and ultimately free enterprise, in general. Services became ever more expensive and gas prices bounced up and down like a basketball in an NBA game.

On top of those worries was her ex-husband, Fair Haristeen, who still loved her and had made significant amends for what Harry saw as bad behavior. Fair had grown up and wanted her back, wanted a mature bond. He was handsome. Harry had a weak spot for a handsome man. Fair qualified at six five, blond hair, all muscle. An equine veterinarian, he specialized in reproduction. They both shared a profound love of horses.

Harry, at last, had made peace with the bombshell Fair had dallied with four years back when their marriage blew up. Olivia "BoomBoom" Craycroft slew men the way longhaired Samson slew his enemies. BoomBoom had enjoyed Fair's impressive physique and his Virginia gentleman ways, but she bored easily, soon dismissing him. "Think of this as recess from class," were her exact words. For all of BoomBoom's heartlessness with men where romance was concerned, she loved animals, was a good athlete, and demonstrated great community spirit. In a word, she was fabulous, until you slept with her or if you were the woman left in the dust by your boyfriend or husband.

As Harry stared up at the unearthly face of the Virgin, she shivered. Tucker, at her feet, shook off the thickening snow.

"She's beautiful," the corgi said.

Harry bent down, patting the glossy head. "Bet you think I'm crazy standing out here. Probably am."

Tucker lifted her nose, breathed deeply. "Susan." The little dog took off toward the enticing scent, skidding to a halt about forty yards away where a curved stone bench overlooked The Valley. The bench, situated on a winding path below the statue, was hidden from view if one was standing in front of the Virgin Mary.

The Valley was usually colder than the eastern slopes. Snow was falling there, a patchwork quilt of white, beige, and corn stubble two thousand feet below.

"Tucker," Susan said, surprised. "Where's Mom?"

Harry, pursuing her dog, slipped along the walkway between tall magnificent English boxwoods, only to be equally surprised when she saw her best friend. "Susan, what are you doing here?"

"I could ask you the same thing," Susan replied, smiling.

Harry brushed off the snow to sit next to Susan. Tucker wedged between them. "I'm here because I, well, I need help. I know the Blessed Virgin Mother has always been reputed to have powers--the statue, I mean. Miranda says whenever times get tough she comes up here and talks with Mary."

"Girl talk." Susan smiled, her auburn hair peeking out from underneath her lad's cap.

"Wish she could talk. I'd like to hear that Jesus wasn't perfect." Harry sighed. "It's too hard having perfect Gods--you know, God the Father, God the Son, and I have no idea who or what the Holy Ghost is. I mean it," she said as Susan laughed. "You went to Bible school in the summers, same as I did; we suffered through two years of catechism together. We only made Confirmation because Reverend Jones took pity on us. I can recite the Nicene Creed but I still can't tell you why I'm supposed to care about it. What is the Holy Ghost?" She threw up her hands, red gloves bright against the gloom. "But I understand Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mother. She's one of us; oh, better, but still, she's one of us."

"Yes." Susan reached for her friend's hand, her tan glove twining with the red. "I talk to her, too.
Questions. Life. Big questions. Little questions." Susan shrugged.

"The questions get bigger as we get older, don't you think?"

"I do."

Harry took a deep breath, the air scouring her lungs. "I'm here because I don't know what I'm doing. I feel dumb and maybe I really am dumb. And Fair asked me to marry him again."

"Ah." Susan smiled.

"That means you think it's a good idea."

"I'm glad he loves you. You're worth loving." She squeezed Harry's hand.

"Susan." Tears filled Harry's eyes, for kindness and praise affected her more deeply than criticism or meanness. She could stand up to that.

"You are, dear heart. You're my best friend and you know you can tell me anything."

"Tell you? Susan, all I've done for the last three months is bitch and moan."

"Oh, you have not. Anyone in your position is bound to be anxious. No money is coming in and you have to be careful. At least the farm is free and clear and so is the equipment."

"There's the dually payment." Harry mentioned the big one-ton Ford truck with the double wheels that she bought at a great price from Art Bushey, Jr., the Ford dealer and a good friend. His sense of humor was as twisted as hers, so of course they adored each other.

"Four hundred something a month."

"Yes. The feed bill, the gas and electric. I mean, I'm okay, but I've got to do something here pretty soon."

"You're still investigating growing grapes, aren't you? Sounds like a good idea." Susan was encouraging.

"I need to bring money in while I study that. I can't afford to get started anytime soon, since the capital outlay is outrageous. Patricia Kluge said she'd sit down with me. Her vineyards are a booming success. Felicia Rogan, who really revived the whole wine industry in Virginia, said she'd talk to me, too. Still, I need to do something, just get some money coming in. Fair said I could work with him as a vet tech. I know the drill but it's not a great idea. I mean, not until I come to a decision, and I've dragged it out far too long. I'm such a chicken." She brightened a moment. "What I understand, know like the back of my hand, is hay. I'm thinking I could become a hay dealer, not just grow it but buy it from the Midwest, Pennsylvania, and Canada, then sell it. As I do that I could keep learning about grape stuff and see if I could add another string to my bow."

"Sounds like a good plan to me."

"Except I need a paycheck now."

"Pug would take you back in the post office." Susan mentioned the federal employee in charge of postal services for the area.


"Pride goeth before a fall."

"It's not pride. I'm not working without my babies."

"Where are Mrs. Murphy and Pewter?"

"In the truck, steaming up the windows." Harry leaned toward Susan. "Why are you here?"

Susan quietly looked over the Shenandoah Valley. "It's really coming down. Let's hope by the time we drive down Route 250 it's snowing on our side."

"Susan." Harry knew her friend inside and out.

"Ned and I are drifting apart."

Harry's face registered shock. "How? You seem close to me."

"He's distant. He doesn't much want sex anymore. He's all wrapped up in being our newly elected senator to Richmond. He's spending more time in the apartment he just rented there than at home."

"Mmm, the sex part is disturbing."

"Tell me."

"He's got a lot to learn about the job." Harry hoped this would help Susan push upsetting thoughts about Ned aside.

"Brooks graduates from high school this year. Danny loves Cornell. The house will soon be empty. He's starting a whole new life. I feel like my life, or at least my usefulness, is vanishing, ending."

Harry leaned into Tucker as Susan did, too. "All of this is a big change for both of you. He's handling it differently than you, that's all."

"I hope so." Tears now ran down Susan's face. "You know I'm not cut out to be a political wife. I'm no good at it." She wiped away a tear. "Ned is handsome. I've heard all those stories about politicians and pretty interns."

Harry wrapped an arm around Susan's shoulders. "Oh, honey, don't cry."

"I remember when it happened to you."

"Fair and Ned are different kinds of men. I knew, like a little seismic rumble underneath, that Fair thought he was missing something marrying his high-school sweetheart. He"--she paused--"well, he just jumped out of the paddock."

Susan cried harder. "I feel so awful. I know now how you felt."

"You were good to me." Harry hugged her.

"But I didn't really know how you felt. I do now."

Harry hugged her again, then straightened up. "Know who can help us?" Susan shook her head, so Harry continued, "BoomBoom. She's got the best radar for men of any of us. If he's up to no good, she'll figure it out. And really, Susan, I don't think he is."

Susan considered this as she again wiped away her tears, the soft leather of the glove cool against her colder skin. "Think she would?"

"Help? Sure."


"Let's call her on my cell in the truck. If she's free we can go down the mountain and meet her. It will ease your mind."

"I can't right this minute," Susan replied. "I came here to think but also to pick up Great-Uncle Thomas for Thanksgiving dinner. He's eighty-two now. Hard to believe. Anyway," she paused, "it's quite strange, really. He said to me, 'Susan, my time is near. I'd like to spend Thanksgiving with you.' He's healthy as a horse. I told him he was a long way from death's door."

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Cat's Eyewitness (Mrs. Murphy Series #13) 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In a small hamlet in Virginia, animals talk to each other across species lines and the only ones unable to understand is the dumbest species: humans. Mary Minor ¿Harry ¿ Haristeen loves her two cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter and her corgi Tee Tucker; they reciprocate her feelings, going so far as to help her when she becomes too deeply involved in a murder investigation and puts her life in danger.--- The Greyfiars Monastery¿s has a Virgin Mary statue on their property that starts weeping bloody tears. Many people including some of the monks think it is a miracle. Monk Thomas is found frozen to death in a kneeling position besides the statue. Harry¿s intuition screams murder and her four legged protectors know a cardinal witnessed the homicide. The journalist covering this phenomenon is killed when someone sticks a pen in his eye. Harry thinks the killings and the tears are linked; she investigates but it is only because of her animal friends that she doesn¿t become the third murder victim.--- It is always a pleasure to read a book starring Harry and Mrs. Murphy but the CAT¿S EYEWITNESS is particularly good as several changes in Harry¿s life has occurred. The heroine¿s ex-husband gives Harry a marriage proposal ultimatum or he will look elsewhere for love. Harry no longer works in the post office because she cannot bring her animals into the new facility. Susan, Harry¿s best friend, reveals a secret she kept for over two decades, and the sexpot Boom Boom finds a surprising new lover. Readers will find it impossible to figure out who the perpetrator is among the even tempered monks. Rita Mae Brown delights her fans with this fantastic feline mystery.--- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
d__m More than 1 year ago
Of course, Mrs. Murphy was superb and very right on with her thinking. All the animals were looking out for the "human". The story line was interesting and led you to the right answers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Another great book in the series. Ms. Brown has done an excellent job of giving the reader insight into new aspects of her family of characters - yet maintaining a good mystry and fun read. Keeps the series fresh & interesting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Neither of us was born rich but we weren't poor, we received excellent educations, we're white--which is still an advantage in this world' Page 209 - Cat's Eyewitness, Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown. As a black woman I find this statement extremely disheartening, and insulting. It's sad to even imagine that in 2005 there are still people who believe that the color of your skin gives you special rights. I will no longer buy, read or recommend the series or author. I also didn't see the point of lesbianism in the story.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Another delightful adventure from the gang in Abmermale. I love Ms Brown's wit and character development. She has a great way of making me feel I am right there with Harry and the gang trying to solve the mystery . I have been a huge fan ever since I read "Six of One" so many years ago. Please keep writing this series and the Fox Hound Hunt Club series!
drebbles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this latest entry in the Sneaky Pie Brown mystery series, many of the residents of Crozet, Virginia are at a crossroads in life. Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen has quit her job as postmistress because her two cats - Mrs. Murphy and Pewter - and her dog, Tee Tucker, are no longer allowed there. As she tries to decide what to do next, Fair, her ex-husband, proposes for what he says will be the last time. Harry's best friend Susan, has problems of her own, including a secret she has kept buried for years; plus she is convinced that her husband, Ned, who has just been elected Senator, is cheating on her. "Boom Boom" who has always been a man killer, finds herself in a surprising relationship. While they are all dealing with these changes, Harry and Susan visit a monastery where they discover a statue of the Virgin Mary that appears to be crying tears of blood. When Susan's Uncle Thomas, a monk, is found dead kneeling at the foot of the statue, Harry suspects he was murdered. When a news reporter is brutally murdered, Harry suspects the two are related, but will she be able to catch the killer before she becomes the next victim? "Cat's Eyewitness" is one of the weaker entries in this cozy mystery series. At times I forgot I was reading a mystery, since the book seemed more about the characters' mid-life crisis rather than the mystery itself. Taking Harry out of the post office seems to have weakened the series, as she no longer interacts as much with many of the characters that helped make this series so interesting. The book focuses on the changes the characters are going through in their lives and while I found most of the changes plausible, Boom Boom's new relationship just didn't work for me. Rita Mae Brown has always used this series as a means of expressing her personal beliefs, but she went overboard in this book with her thinly disguised lectures on issues such as politics, war, and abuse in the Catholic Church. Devoted fans of this series will want to read "Cat's Eyewitness" but casual fans may want to skip it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She padded in and crouched down. <p> A rabbit ate some clover, not noticing the cats.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm glad I read the other reviews, which echoed exactly what I thought. The lesbian theme, and the preachy philosophy did not make for fun reading. I loved the earlier books, but over time noticed a big increase in profanity (there was little in her earlier books)and the philosophy and preachy stuff (including racial remarks), made it no longer a 'fun' read. I don't think I will buy any more of her books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Too preachy. Too much personal philosophy and not enough crime-solving. Plus, a principal supporting character's sudden conversion to lesbianism comes out of nowhere. I've loved Brown's books up until now, but this one was a major disappointment.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was disappointed by the lack of deep plot as I was used to from the past books. Gay characters and preachy statements about race is a way to annoy your fans.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An avid fan of the Mrs. Murphy Mysteries, I was very disappointed in this book. This seemed to be a hastily and poorly written series finale. The mystery plot was uninspired and the writing was lackluster. The previously well written and thought provolking dialogue between the animals was missing, replaced instead with a heavy handed philosophical drone. The human dialogue and descriptive narrative were stilted and tedious. The revelation of Boom Boom's lesbianism seemed awkward and forced. Should this book NOT be the series finale, I'm not certain I would read a sequel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While I have loved the series in the past, I fear Cat's Eyewitness continues a downward trend. The plot itself is a good one, but suffers dearly from an overload of preachiness and lesbianism. Trim the fat; keep the main plotline.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this was preachy and badly plotted. I enjoyed all the other Sneaky Pie books but found this one tedious.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read the entire series with Mrs. Murphy, Tucker and Pewter and have found the last 2 in the series to be lacking. There is too much writing about religion and lesbianism. I want to read about the interaction of the animals with each other and with humans and the solving of a mystery.