Whiskers in the Dark (Mrs. Murphy Series #28)

Whiskers in the Dark (Mrs. Murphy Series #28)

by Rita Mae Brown

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Overview

Death stalks the Blue Ridge Mountains as a centuries-old mystery resurfaces and murder mars the lead-up to an annual beagle competition, in a thrilling new tale from Rita Mae Brown and her feline co-author Sneaky Pie Brown.

“As feline collaborators go, you couldn’t ask for better than Sneaky Pie Brown.”—The New York Times Book Review

A massive nor’easter has hit northern Virginia, where Mary Minor “Harry” Harristeen joins groundskeeping efforts at the National Beagle Club at Aldie as the date for its springtime Hounds for Heroes veterans’ benefit approaches. Harry’s fellow volunteers, including her oldest friend, Susan Tucker, comprise a spirited group of hunting enthusiasts, some former service members themselves. But things take a sinister turn when, after a routine tree cleanup along the Club’s hunting trails, retired foreign services officer Jason Holzknect is found dead, throat slit from ear to ear. Soon enough, another murder in their midst jolts the preparations, convincing Harry that the killer is familiar with the Club—and must be close by, masked in plain sight.

The intrigue extends to the grounds of Harry’s beloved local church, where the identity of an eighteenth-century skeleton wearing precious pearls remains a mystery. The anonymous woman’s neck had been snapped, and marks on the grave where her body was secreted indicate that someone recently tried to remove it, leading Harry to question how well she really knows those around her.

As always, Harry’s crime-solving cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and Tee Tucker the Corgi share her determination to sniff out the foes among friends, even those long buried. Harry will need her four-legged companions’ help more than ever: a ghostly beagle only they can see may hold the key to the culprit.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425287187
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/04/2019
Series: Mrs. Murphy Series , #28
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 25,767
Product dimensions: 6.39(w) x 9.52(h) x 1.05(d)

About the Author

Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of the Sneaky Pie Brown mysteries; the Sister Jane series; the Runnymede novels, including Six of One and Cakewalk; A Nose for Justice and Murder Unleashed; Rubyfruit Jungle; and In Her Day; as well as many other books. An Emmy-nominated screenwriter and a poet, Brown lives in Afton, Virginia, and is a Master of Foxhounds and the huntsman.

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

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.

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Whiskers in the Dark (Signed Book) (Mrs. Murphy Series #28) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Betababe 6 months ago
Past and Present ~~ What looks to be a deceptively simple, animal-based murder mystery is, instead, an extremely complex look at American history, especially Virginia's history, ranging from just post-Revolutionary War to modern times, with overlapping stories many generations apart. There are a lot of characters--and a lovely cheat sheet right at the front--plus an overlying fount of information about hunting with beagles, but the casually included examination of slavery and race relations turns this cozy into a tale of depth and discernment.
Anonymous 8 months ago
I+cannot+recommend+this+book.+The+plot+was+boring.+I+miss+the+characters+from+Crozet.++Thinking+back+to+the+earliest+books+of+the+series%2C+I+really+feel+that+Brown+hasfdaken+this+series+in+the+wrong+direction..++What+happened+to+the+more+mysterious%2C+yet+simple+plots%3F++I+miss+Miranda+and+the+post+office+and+the+Mayberry+feel+of+the+early+books.++I+even+miss+the+tension+with+Fair.++This+series+has+long+been+going+downhill.++Stephanie+Clanahan+
Anonymous 4 months ago
It's always a fun trip when you join Rita Mae Brown's cast of characters. This is the first time she's added a ghost beagle, but he seems to fit in with the regulars. Whiskers in the Dark joins my library right next to all of the other Sneaky Pie Brown adventures. A murder during the run up to the beagle show leaves our cats and dogs investigating along side our ghost. Their shenanigans are always entertaining and they always get their man. But you can count on a very entertaining read along the way.
Anonymous 5 months ago
wonderful
P-Lopez 7 months ago
Whiskers in the Dark by Rita Mae Brown has two murders—one current day and one from the eighteenth century. I loved all the animals written about and involved in this story. It took me a bit to get fully invested in the storyline, and there were several characters to keep track of, but it was relatively easy to follow. The mystery held my interest. I liked the way the author unfolded the story from current day 2018 and the older story in 1787. I enjoyed the characters in the 1787 setting and their storylines. The illustrations were a nice touch to the book.
MerriGib 7 months ago
I have been a fan of the Mrs. Murphy series by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown from the very beginning, and I always look forward to the latest story. As with several recent Mrs. Murphy stories, this one features a dual story line: a new, current story in April, 2018, the other an ongoing story from September 1787, resulting in a multi-layered, multi-century piece that brings historical perspective to the present day. The historical material is thought-provoking. For me, it strikes a chord as my own ancestors settled in Virginia in the 18th century. So many themes appear--including the process that created our country, the effects of slavery, the impact of war on the South--and indeed, on all of us. I learned about hunting with beagle hounds, which is quite a different process than foxhunting (another topic that is dear to Ms. Brown--Rita Mae, that is). As always, we are given an intriguing mystery to solve, we meet again our favorite characters, human and animal. There is an endearing new animal character here, the devoted beagle ghost Ruffy, waiting patiently for his ghostly human to be at peace. I found this an absorbing and touching story. Once again both Browns have woven an intricate and absorbing tale for us to enjoy, even as they move us to ponder some important subjects, both past and present. My thanks to authors, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.
jdowell 8 months ago
This was an interesting mystery set in two time periods - present day and 1787. There are suspicious murders in both time periods. In the present day scenario Harry Harristeen and her pets - cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter (love this name for a cat) and two dogs Tucker and Pirate - investigate both the present day and the 1787 murders. The talking animals are adorable - I enjoyed them. The setting is against a backdrop of an annual Hounds F4R Heroes beagle and basset hunting competition at an estate in Virginia. Unfortunately I didn't find the ending to either scenario very satisfying, but did find the investigation interesting. There's quite a bit of historical discussion that history buffs may enjoy. The descriptions of the dogs competing was enjoyable as well.
kaitlynspet 8 months ago
Rita Mae Brown's Whiskers in the Dark takes place in the late 1700s and 2018. There is the mystery of a person wearing her good jewelry buried in someone else's grave. Has she been there for over 200 years? Harry finds the dead bodies of two of her friends and Mrs. Murphy and her friends try to help Harry solve the murders before she is one of the dead, too.
diane92345 8 months ago
Set at a National Beagle Association event, Whiskers in the Dark is another satisfying entry in the Mrs. Murphy cat cozy mystery series. Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, crime solving cats, plus Tee Tucker, a Corgi dog, and Pirate, an Irish Wolfhound puppy, get clues to two mysteries from a ghostly beagle only they can see. In current day, a man is found murdered before the annual Hounds for Heroes benefit hunt. Then, a woman’s skeleton from the 1780s is found with a broken neck and wearing an expensive necklace. What is her story? I enjoyed the past mystery the most. It tells a story of slavery and freedom. The current day mystery seemed to be a little rushed to make room for the historic one. However, it is always a pleasure to spend a few hours with Harry and Mrs. Murphy. Whiskers in the Dark is no exception. 4 stars! Thanks to Bantam Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
bamcooks 9 months ago
In the 28th outing of this mystery series set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, 'Harry' Haristeen and her friend Susan have joined a crew of workers who are cleaning up the weather-damaged site belonging to the National Beagle Club of America in Aldie, Virginia which is about to host an annual competition put on by Hounds F4R Heroes. Just days before the event occurs, one of the volunteer workers is found brutally murdered, but his wife insists the annual event must go on. When another death occurs, Harry starts putting her considerable mental skills into solving the case. The area itself has seen many deaths, as it was a site involved in the Civil War, and many think it is haunted, including Harry's pets who actually meet the ghost of a beagle. Yes, the animals are a fun addition to the cast of characters of these books. Ms Brown has begun weaving a bit of historical fiction into her mysteries in alternating chapters, giving us a sense of what life was like for both plantation owners and slaves in the years following the Revolutionary War. I recommend this as a quick summer read. If you enjoy an intriguing mystery mixed with a bit of historical fiction, this series is perfect for you. The animals are quite amusing too. Don't worry too much about jumping in in the middle of a series--Ms Brown thoughtfully includes a 'Cast of Characters.' And as always, there are some delightful pen and ink drawings that enhance the enjoyment of the story. Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and author for providing me with an arc of this new mystery for an honest review. It was a delight to spend some time with old 'friends.'
SandySez 9 months ago
This books tells two different, but intertwined stories, told in both modern and historical times. As expected of this author, this book is skillfully written with a tight plot and great 2 and 4 legged characters. I was kept guessing until the very end! I received this book free and chose to make a voluntary, unbiased review.
trulynightwing 9 months ago
A time traveling story *and* a work by Rita Mae Brown. It does not get any better than that! I read this in one sitting and just wished it were longer!!!
Anonymous 9 months ago
In this 28th book in the 'Mrs. Murphy' series, amateur sleuth Harry Haristeen investigates several unnatural deaths with the help of her cadre of 'talking pets': the cats - Mrs. Murphy and Pewter; the corgi - Tucker; and the half-grown Irish wolfhound - Pirate. ***** The story, set in northern Virginia, ping pongs between the present (2018) and the time right after the Revolutionary War (1787). In the present, Harry Haristeen and her best friend Susan Tucker are helping prepare the grounds at the 'Institute Farm' in Aldie, Virginia. The Institute will be the site of a fundraiser called 'Hounds F4R Heroes', being held to benefit veterans. The fundraiser will consist of a beagle hunt and a basset hound hunt, and fallen trees need to be cleared to make the area safe for running dogs and the humans that follow them. A large number of Virginians are involved in the upcoming hunt, including prominent citizens who were formerly in the armed services or diplomatic corps. These include Arlene Billeaud -'Master of Blastoff Beagles', and Jason Holzknect and his wife Clare Holzknect- 'Joint Masters of Chesapeake Beagles.' Many other people will attend the hunt as well, either entering their dogs or just running along for fun. In the meantime, a grave in the cemetery of St. Luke's Lutheran Church has been vandalized, and - when the grave is opened - a woman's body is found on top of two long buried caskets. The caskets were interred in the late 1700s, and it's assumed the body (just bones by now) was thrown in at about the same time. What's really shocking, however, is that the body is wearing a pearl necklace and pearl and diamond earrings estimated to be worth at least $600,000. Of course amateur sleuth Harry, who's intensely curious about odd occurrences, wonders about the dead woman - and hopes to figure out what happened to her. The bejeweled body leads to flashbacks from 1787, when two large farms - called Cloverfields and Big Rawly - occupied the area. The property owners, in addition to running their farms, constantly discuss the Constitutional Convention (occurring at the time) - and we get a big dose of history. Moreover a British prisoner who was captured during the American Revolution married one of the farmer's daughters, and - being an architect - designed St. Luke's Church. As was usual in the 1700s, both Cloverfields and Big Rawly used slaves. Some of the slaves in the story - like the butler, cook and weaver - seemed relatively content and some of the slaves - like the stable boys - became runaways. I was uncomfortable with the author's somewhat rosy-ish depiction of a slave-owning family - which has nothing but the slaves' best interests at heart. Really?? I suspect the author's loyalty to Virginia influenced the writing. As we follow the 1787 storyline, we learn how the bejeweled woman came to be in St. Luke's cemetery. In the chapters that jump back to the present, we find that events take an ominous turn and Harry soon has a lot on her plate. First Harry finds a body with a slit throat and later a body that APPEARS to have died from natural causes.....but Harry suspects foul play. In between investigating the three deaths (one ancient and two current), Harry spends a lot of time talking about the Revolutionary War and the Civil War with her friends - all of whom are knowledgeable about the battles that occurred in Virginia. There's lots of chit-chat about w
RaineyMae-Cupcake 9 months ago
As a cozy mystery, Whiskers in the Dark may seem cute with cats and dogs that talk to one another and try to help their person, Mary Minor Haristeen (known affectionately as Harry), when trouble comes her way. Having read most of Rita Mae Brown’s 28 books in this series, I have grown quite fond of Harry, her cats Pewter and Mrs. Murphy, and her Corgi, Tee Tucker. Now there is a new pup in the family as well, Pirate. We don’t see much at all of Harry’s veterinarian husband Fair in this one, but we do see her friend, Susan Tucker, who accompanies her as she journeys to the Blue Ridge Mountains to help with the cleanup in preparation for the Hounds for Heroes benefit event. The dogs and cats accompany Harry, naturally. Did I say mystery? During the cleanup, one of the volunteers is found brutally slain. Harry, of course, is right in the thick of things. Did I say “mystery”? Make that “mysteries.” Harry also assists at her church, where an eighteenth century skeleton is found. The victim was murdered , most likely a black woman. What makes this even more strange is that the skeleton is wearing what appear to be very expensive pearls. What was her story? In recent “Mrs. Murphy” books, Rita and her co-author have delved into the past. This time, the discovery of the skeleton segues into a tale of two plantations, Big Rawly and Cloverfields. Ms. Brown and Sneaky Pie don’t tell us that slavery was difficult, that it was wrong. They show us. We see the contrast between the treatment of slaves by the two owners, Maureen Selisse Holloway at Big Rawley and Ewing Garth at Cloverfields. I was struck, too, by the portrayal of the slaves. They are not perfect human beings. They are, simply, human. Some are good to the core. Some are untrustworthy thieves. Unlike some other works of literature, Brown’s slaves do not speak in a dialect that distinguishes them from their white owners, even though they lack education. Some care deeply for their white families, and it is mutual. There is even the opportunity for love between slaves from different estates. How will that be dealt with? Both owners have individual slaves upon whom they depend for the operation of their properties. Is someone among them a murderer? Back to the present day, a rare April snowstorm makes the cleanup challenging. When another death occurs, Harry is convinced that it is no accident. In fact, she is certain that it is related to the first one. Her animals are concerned. They know what their mom is like! Everyone, including the cats and dogs, knows that Harry is a busybody who loves playing amateur sleuth. She just can’t help herself. There is another little mystery tucked in here too – a ghost beagle named Ruffy appears. Is he from the eighteenth century, or did he die more recently? Will he be reunited with the ghost of his person? As mysteries go, Whiskers in the Dark is just average. There are just a few modern-day political digs, fewer than in some of Brown’s recent books. However, she focuses on more enduring concepts, like equality and justice. Harry, and ultimately, the reader, must decide whether the surprise ending is acceptable. It took me by surprise, and I am still not sure... I missed some of the banter that is a hallmark of these stories, but I did like the addition of Pirate to the critter family. I also have to mention, once again, that the illustrations are marvelous, as always!
Tangen 9 months ago
pets, urban-fantasy, friendship, basset-hounds, beagles, murder, 18th-century, contemporary, Virginia ***** A fully dressed skeleton complete with obviously expensive jewelry and a neatly snapped neck is found atop a coffin buried in 1787. While preparing the field and kennels after a violent storm prior to the annual competition hosted by Hounds F4R Heroes, a local huntsman well known to the usual participants is discovered almost immediately after having had his throat cut. The investigation into these two murders is followed in alternating narratives to bring each to resolution. Of course Mrs Murphy and her fellow pets of Harry Haristeen are the main detectives, but are helped out in this case by a dog from 1787. Very interesting and engaging! Good sleuthing by all, and a totally unexpected resolution. I requested and received a free ebook copy from Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine via NetGalley. Thank you!
PamMcC 9 months ago
Rita Mae Brown writes of history during the colonies’ struggles and about the people, free, slave, honest, cruel, intelligent and cunning in both good and bad. She writes of today’s world and brings out in the characters of Harry, Susan, Arlene and others the same traits. Her story is rich in fact as well as enjoyable in fiction. The animals ponder humans and although they despair of them at times, they love and defend. In this setting, Harry and Susan are helping with the basset and beagle trials funding Hounds F4R Heroes an actual organization. The animals find a ghost beagle who wants her owner to finally be at rest. When two hunters are murdered, Harry thinks things through and only needs to find out who, and why. Things aren’t just black and white and Harry may be in danger. Meanwhile, the past setting is around the lands inherited by Susan, Harry’s dear friend. The year is 1787, a year of unrest in France and the time of the Constitution written and discussed by our colonies. The people at this time must learn to maneuver with their neighbors in business and personal affairs. It’s obvious that the author will lead us into another book to look forward to. The history is rich and the times and characters are true to their times.
joannefm2 9 months ago
Harry and her friend Susan are helping out clearing the grounds for the Hounds for Heroes run for Bassets and Beagles. Along with other volunteers, they find a problem on the road that needs the help of a tractor, and one of their friends, Jason Holzknect, sets off to find one. But when he doesn't return, they set off to find him...and they do, with his throat slit. While Harry is convinced someone at the club killed Jason, everyone wants her to let the police handle the case. And when another body is found Harry begins to connect the dots, never realizing that the truth is indeed stranger than fiction... Meanwhile, the discovery of a centuries-old skeleton in a grave marked for another leads to other questions: who killed the woman and why put her on top of the casket of someone else? Why a couple of parishioners are more interested in the expensive jewelry she wore, Harry, of course, is interested in her origins and who hated her enough to leave her there... Harry's joined, of course, by her faithful friends: cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, dogs Tucker and new friend Pirate, who's recently adopted and still growing. The animals make their own friend in this book, that of a ghost Beagle named Ruffy who has a tale of his own, and hopes his new found friends can help him. It's a mesmerizing story of love, betrayal, death, revenge, and money, and the author tells it well. As Harry refuses to let go of Jason's murder, she's warned off gently but it doesn't stop her, and she's determined to solve the case. She begins to put the pieces together and convinces herself of the reason why the man was murdered; and through her determination and self-will, she keeps going, knowing there's more to the story. Once again we revisit the eighteenth century where the Ewings and Holloways are neighbors, and we see how difficult life was in that century, where the author puts a different spin on the thoughts of certain beliefs of that era. I do believe that people forget that all souls are products of their time, and to expect anything different is sheer foolishness. I, for one, understand this and never expect the past to be the same as the present, nor would I wish it to be. It was a different world, when America was new and people were learning to survive in this country - any way they could. When the truth of the murder is found, I had already figured out the killer as I read a lot of mysteries and for the most part it's rarely difficult, but I have always stated that it's the journey that's the most fun in mysteries - watching how the protagonist puts the pieces together, and Harry's almost an expert in this. It brings home a few questions of our own to answer, and our answers will tell us how we feel about this book. I, for one, absolutely loved it, and felt that justice was done. I was satisfied with the ending, and look forward to the next in the series, where I can continue visiting with Harry and her friends, and of course the Ewings and Holloways. Highly recommended.
DragonNimbus 9 months ago
Harry, Mrs. Murphy, Pewter and Tucker are back in a new mystery! I was pleased and honored to read an ARC- I love Rita Mae Brown and the Mrs. Murphy mysteries. In this newest mystery, Harry Harristeen joins clean-up efforts in northern Virginia. A fierce storm ran through the National Beagle Club and Harry, best friend Susan, and their loquacious critters are helping to clear the area before the annual Hounds for Heroes benefit begins. While clearing trees from the trails the group uncovers a body with its throat cut. The corpse turned out to be retired foreign services officer Jason Holzknect. Another body turns up soon after, pointing the crew in the direction of members of the Club. Yet another body turns up, but this one is an eighteenth century skeleton with a snapped neck. Moreover it was found in Harry's local church. Marks were found around the skeleton, showing that someone had recently tried to remove it. Could the murderer be someone she knows? The murders are somehow connected and Harry must rely on the help of her four-legged friends to uncover more clues than the human eye can detect. They have the help of a beagle ghost for some inside information. Readers new to Mrs. Murphy will love this book as will long-time fans. The conversations between the pets are hilarious and add a unique voice to a great story. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
The_Brats 9 months ago
Mary Minor "Harry" Harristeen and her best friend, Susan Tucker, have traveled to northern Virginia to help with a clean-up effort at a local Beagle club in preparation for the annual Hounds for Heroes benefit event. The weather is definitely not cooperating and the hunt trails are in a real mess. While preparing to move a large tree root, Jason Holzknect, one of the volunteers and a club member, goes to get a tractor to haul the tree roots away from the trail area. When Jason fails to return, the group goes looking for him. He is found dead, with his throat cut. At the same time, a skeleton with an expensive set of pearls has been found lying on top of another grave in the St. Luke's Cemetery. The skeleton is that of an African-American woman from the era of the American Revolution. The unknown woman's neck had been broken. Mixing in snippets of history from the fall of 1787 really adds to the overall mystery. Who killed Jason Holzknect? Why was he killed? Were the pearls found on the skelton stolen? Who was the person before she died? Who killed her? Can Harry and her animals solve the mysteries without endangering their own lives? Rita Mae Brown does a fantastic job of creating memorable characters and situations. In addition, knowing what the animals are thinking and saying to each other really adds to the story.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Rita Mae Brown began writing poetry before she wrote her first novel, Rubyfruit Jungle in 1973. I read Rubyfruit Jungle shortly after its publication. The second Rita Mae Brown book I read was Starting from Scratch: A Different Kind of Writers’ Manual, published in in 1988. Brown has written more than 60 books which include several series: “Sister Jane” Mysteries (11), Runnymede (4), Mrs. Murphy Mystery Series (28), and Mags Rogers Mystery Series (2), as well as 14 novels, and four nonfiction books. Additionally, as a screenwriter, Rita Mae Brown has written approximately nine screenplays. Whiskers in the Dark: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery is the first book written by Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown that I read to review. I would never have considered that I would give the infamous Rita Mae Brown a four-star review, and yet I have. Brown is one of the best authors I’ve read to date, and I want to be clear that my four-star review has absolutely nothing to do with her writing ability. I found no fault in her writing style in regards to plot, character development, setting, problem, or solution. Brown is an unfettered mystery writer. Had there not been animals talking to one another and at their humans, I would have read Whiskers in the Dark in a day, at the most. However, I could not wrap my mind around the talking animals that were developed characters in Brown’s mystery novel. And each time the animals began conversing, I would stop reading and walk away from the book. I found the historical events that Brown wrote into her novel from the opposing differences of the cruelness of Henry VIII to the Virgin Queen’s compassionate rule fascinating. From the Civil War and the signing of the U.S. Constitution. The similarities of Russia in the days of Julius Caesar to that of today between Russia and its manipulation into our government. For the record, Brown does not come out and explicitly say this; however, it is implied. Brown also speaks to the questioning of the Vietnam war and the antiwar movement to the civil rights movement, and her reference of the Feminist Movement to the #MeTOO movement. The historical references were brilliant. And while Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown wrote a unique murder mystery that baffled me, Brown’s inclusion of humor was refreshing. There is an audience for Brown’s Whiskers in the Dark: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery, but I did find the talking animals distracting. Had there not been any animals, aside from pets, that were characters within Brown’s story, I would have thoroughly enjoyed the mystery as it was, without the talking animals. Thank you to Random House, NetGalley and Rita Mae Brown for the opportunity to read and review Whiskers in the Dark. D.B. Moone
Mama_Cat 9 months ago
It is pure delight to visit Harry, best friend Susan, and Harry’s pets and horses! The setting is interesting, with the backdrop of hunting to raise funds for a worthy cause, Hounds F4R Heroes, present day Crozet, historical events, and the intriguing mysteries occurring before and after the hunts. We visit Aldie, VA, as Susan, Harry, and a group of huntsmen prepare the National Beagle Club of America for the upcoming event that will raise money for military veterans to have sports events. Anything that could cause harm to the hunting dogs and people had to be trimmed or cleared, including trees downed by wind and storms and repairs to buildings as needed. I enjoy our regular characters, the history, and the camaraderie of Harry, Susan, and Coop. Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, Harry’s cats, and Tee Tucker and Pirate, her pups meet a ghost beagle. Ruffy is quiet at first but seems to be on a mission. The second weekend they are there, a tragedy occurred. Jason, a hunter who owns a Toyota and Lexus dealership, is found dead, clearly murdered, when bringing a tractor to where others are clearing a tree. It looks like he knew the person who got up close and personal enough to harm him. Jason had once worked overseas in the Diplomatic Corp, primarily in Turkey. His wife, Clare, was a retired Navy captain who had spent time in a ship outside Finland. A couple years earlier, after some damage was done around headstones of the first two folks buried, in the 1780’s, at St. Luke’s Cemetery, a unique murder was discovered. Laid on top of the two caskets with a snapped neck, no casket of her own, is the skeleton of an African American woman. She wore $600,000 worth of pearls and diamonds. There was no record of a death among the church membership, no missing person’s records found. The question is raised – what should they do with the jewelry now locked safely away? We return to 1787, to the family we met in other novels. Ewing Garth, his daughters and their families on Cloverfields, and the slaves who live at Cloverfields and the neighboring Big Rawley, which has been owned by Susan’s family for many generations are like old friends. I enjoy the characters and concerns of both Ewing’s family and the slaves, as well as learning about the history of the early days of our country. It’s hard to imagine that this is 28th in the Mrs. Murphy series, it has fresh, new elements. I enjoy Harry’s pets and their communications. Herself a Master of Hounds and a Huntsman, the author writes about the hunt, sharing a tale rich in action. While not a hunter, I was fascinated to have a front-page seat to the competition and a setting integral to the murder. It was a learning experience as Harry considers the political climate in which Jason and his wife had met and the drug culture of past employees, then tries to understand what could be behind murder. There was no way I could have discovered the motive for murder in this complex mystery even though I did guess whodunit. There was only one thing I was disappointed by; I felt as if I was on another 1787 cliffhanger with regards to events occurring in their lives. Otherwise, I highly recommend this to those who are fans of this series and author, dogs, cats, and horses, and well-written, intriguing clean mysteries. From a thankful heart: I received a copy of this e-ARC from the publisher through NetGalley, and this is my honest review.
4GranJan 9 months ago
Cozy Virginia Mysteries This story runs 2 murder mysteries side by side. One happens in modern-day Virginia, the other happens in the same area in 1787. It is fun running the two together. What is not fun is the constant soapbox speechifying. From wars to diabetes to the economy it drones on and on in the discussions of the modern day people. While the history lessons caught my interest, most of it did not. This was just not my cup of tea. I received this ARC from Net Galley for free and this is my honest opinion.
Reader4102 9 months ago
This is a slow-moving story that takes place on two time lines – first in 2018 Virginia where Harry Harristeen and her friends are getting ready for the spring Hounds for Heroes benefit – assuming the weather cooperates – hosted by the by the National Beagle Club. The second storyline takes place in 1787 Philadelphia where the Founding Fathers have gathered to create the Constitution. Both storylines are well told but for the unsuspecting reader, perhaps the one who doesn’t pay attention to chapter headings, the changing from the now to the past can take the reader right out of both stories until she becomes used to the way the book is written. And having the animals carry on discussions in the middle of the humans’ activities is a little off-putting as well. And then there may be ghosts hanging about since the benefit is taking place on the grounds where a major Civil War battle occurred. This is the 28th entry in the Mrs. Murphy series, but you needn’t have read the first 27 books to enjoy this one. Brown does a good job of giving enough information about the characters and location so she doesn’t bore her long-time readers, doesn’t leave the new-to-the-series in the dark. Overall, this was an interesting read once Brown got the story in gear. If you like the concept of animals speaking to one another and helping their human solve crimes, this will certainly be the book for you. But if the concept of crime-solving animals is beyond you, then you’ll probably want to pass on this book. Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for a free eArc.
CozyOnUp 9 months ago
Spring has arrived and volunteers are getting the National Beagle Club grounds ready for the first hunt of the season. Winter, however, hasn’t gotten the memo and a snowstorm is coming and completing the work will have to wait for another weekend. The next weekend brings two murders to the forefront as one of the volunteers is found murdered and a long buried woman is buried after her body was discovered in another family’s plot. Here the story line splits to tell both stories from the 1780s and today. I found the current day murder to have been a bit intriguing once it was solved. Having lived In Virginia on a Civil War battle field with mounds of old graves, I found the location and background to be intersting. But I had to get halfway into the book before I actually was fully vested. Not sure I would read another in this series.
nfam 9 months ago
Harry and Her Animal Sleuths Are Faced with Murders Past and Present Harry Haristeen and her friend Susan Tucker are helping with clean up at the National Beagle Club at Aldie for the Hounds for Heroes Benefit. Their efforts are hampered when a major nor’easter his Northern Virginia. Although the weather is not cooperative, Harry, Susan and her pets persevere and cleanup is well underway when Jason Holzknect, a retired foreign service officer is found dead. Soon another murder occurs and Harry and Susan are left with the uncomfortable assumption that the killer must be someone familiar with the National Beagle Club grounds. In addition to this mystery, Harry’s church is the site of vandalism of old tombstones. When an eighteenth-century skeleton is unearthed wearing priceless pearls, this appears to be an old murder, since the skeleton’s neck was snapped and she was buried on top of the remains of the two people for whom the grave was dug. I love the characters in this series. Harry makes a great sleuth with the help of her animal friends: Mrs Murphy, Pewter, Tee Tucker, and a new addition, Pirate. The mysteries in this book were only fair. I didn’t like the way the story toggled back and forth between past and present since there didn’t seem to be a strong relationship between the two crimes. However, if you enjoy the animal characters, this is still a fun read. I received this book from Net Galley for this review.