Book Review/Synopsis











by Rita Mae Brown


Sneaky Pie Brown




This is Number 5 in a 31 series collection of the Mrs. Murphy mysteries. Mrs. Murphy aka Sneaky Pie Brown is the feline who writes along with her author owner Rita Mae Brown.

This book has an interesting panorama as it takes place in the world of steeplechases. The story is off to a slow start. Most of the characters, including the animals, have unusual and even unisex names which make it difficult not only to remember, but also to keep track of who’s who. However, as the pages wear on and the story begins to take shape, the names slowly start to fall into place.

The story begins in Montpelier the Virginia mansion which had belonged to James and Dolley Madison. It is the site for popular steeplechases. Mary Minor Haristeen (Harry) always enjoyed going there for various occasions. She is the postmistress of the nearby charming town of Crozet and lives with her animal companions, Mrs. Murphy the cat and Tucker, her female Welsh corgi.

Harry and Tucker are on their way to the racetrack and once there they mingle with their many friends. Harry is asked to be a fence judge for the race. At her position she witnesses a violent confrontation between two of the jockeys and later on one is found murdered in the stable, killed with a knife plunged through a deck card, the Queen of Hearts.

Several weeks later, another jockey is killed in a similar manner, this time the stiletto has gone through the Queen of Spades. Harry fears there may be even two more murders from the looks of it.

Five years earlier Marylou Valient had disappeared without a trace. She was the mother of Chark, who is now a young horse trainer, and Addie who is a jockey. Was she dead? Was there a connection with these killings? Her son and daughter are soon to be of age and will come into a sizable inheritance left by her.   In turn, they both become potential victims, one way or another.

The mysteries surrounding the deaths of the jockeys revolve around gambling debts, drugs, jealousies, an inheritance and a missing person.

The reader is given a clue here and there but a twist in the story changes the suspect each time. The various animals are able to piece together the solution by communicating among themselves. Mrs. Murphy seems to head their investigation with considerable help from Tucker. There are horses, more corgis, mice, other cats, including a fat gray neighboring one, Pewter, who all contribute to solving the mystery. Their deductions are intelligent as well as the manner they employ to help the humans come to the same conclusions.

It adds an interesting aspect to the tale that the reader gets to “hear” what these animals convey to each other while the humans in the story are unable to do so.

At the end, two murders remain unsolved by the humans, even though the animals are aware of where the bodies are and who did it. It leaves a feeling of an inconclusive conclusion as the animals are unable to convey this information to the humans as they had in the previous murders.

I feel, that even though each book in the series can be read as a standalone, it would probably be more beneficial to read them in chronological order. Despite the fact there is a list of characters provided at the onset, there still is a bit of confusion for the first time reader until they all sort themselves out.

This book is good for light reading. A diehard mystery reader would most likely find it too whimsical to enjoy. It’s a good family story for a reader of any age and could be appreciated at home with a cup of hot chocolate on a blustery day as well as at the seashore on a balmy afternoon by the sound of the gentle waves.  ~ Marilu Shellie

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