The Litter of the Law (Mrs. Murphy # 21) by Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown
Rita Mae Brown collaborates with feline co-author Sneaky Pie Brown in a mystery starring Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen, the curious cat detectives Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and Tee Tucker, the valiant crime-solving corgi. Halloween arrives early this year to rural central Virginia, when a twisted killer will stop at nothing to protect a multimillion-dollar scheme.
Publication Date: October 22, 2013
Genres: Fiction, Cozy Mystery
Autumn has descended and crops are being harvested all over Crozet, Virginia, ideal conditions for a scenic drive for Harry and husband Fair. Bucolic views are all well and good, but Harry’s nose for trouble leads her straight to a cornfield’s macabre scarecrow—an all too real murder victim that frightens all but the noisy crows.
This accountant’s gruesome death is only the first of many disturbing events in this normally pastoral corner of the world. While Harry tends her beloved grapes and sunflowers, a killer edges closer—as does Harry’s protective menagerie of animals.
Halloween’s approach brings with it bona fide terror and a beloved local tradition that threatens to become fatal. Rooting out the guilty in the treacherous center of a lucrative conspiracy requires Harry’s farmer’s wisdom—along with the quick wits and extraordinary senses of Sneaky Pie, Pewter, and Tucker. A vicious murderer may know the lay of the land far better than Harry does, but that’s about to change. It’s up to her vigilant four-footed companions to make sure that the unearthing of this plot is not Harry’s last act.
“Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.” – William Cullen Bryant
Autumn is my favorite season of the year. The sweltering heat gives way to gentler breezes and softer crisper nights. The leaves begin to change from green to vibrant shades of flaming red, golden yellow, plum purple, and burning orange, turning an ordinary landscape into an extraordinary vista. I have come to appreciate the splendor of autumn even more now that I live in the northern part of Texas, where greenery slowly fades to brown as winter approaches. I make a point to travel back home to N.C. or to places, such as Tennessee during the fall where I can experience first-hand the bursts of color that signal a time of transformation.
(Trip to Tennessee, Fall 2012)
Another way I can become immersed in the beauty of autumn is through books, vicariously experiencing the season through the story’s setting and characters. One of those novels that does exactly this is Rita Mae Brown’s The Litter of the Law. The series is set in a small rural farming community called Crozet, Virginia, which is also a real town. The Litter of the Law takes place in October and centers on the protagonist, Mary Minor Haristeen or “Harry” who finds herself caught up in solving a series of bizarre murders as Halloween approaches. However, Harry isn’t the only one doing some sleuthing. Her loyal, loving four-legged feline companions, Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, along with Tee Tucker the corgi are right there beside her, helping to find clues and providing backup in case it’s needed. This little band of quirky sidekicks provides an additional layer of amusement as readers can’t help but get caught up in their non-human, often entertaining, bickering and teasing. Since I have my own menagerie of pets, I enjoyed the amusing antics of these furry characters and it reminded me of animal conflicts in my own household:
(Lulu, the Dorkie snuggling with Izzie the Siamese cat: peace has been made….for now)
This is the first book I’ve read in the series, and although it can stand alone, I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had started the series from the beginning. The author has created an entire, detailed fictional community with lots of characters, townspeople, who have ongoing roles in each installment. Brown does provide a list of the “Cast of Characters” at the beginning of the book to explain each character’s connection to Harry and her family and/or their relevance to the plot. However, trying to remember who‘s who overwhelmed me at times and became a distraction from my enjoying the crux of the book: Harry’s search to discover why people are being murdered in her quiet, little close-knit community.
If I followed the series, I may have been more interested in the chit chat that occurs about various characters in the book even though they aren’t involved in this particular plot. This slowed the pacing of the story and I was bored by some of these non-relevant conversations. However, when I wasn’t distracted by these aspects of the book, I did enjoy trying to connect the clues Harry and the others discover in the scenes leading up to my favorite part of the book: the annual Halloween Hayride. The climax was suspenseful and I wasn’t completely sure who the guilty party was until an elaborate scheme is exposed. Of course, Harry and her entourage prove themselves as worthy heroes by the book’s conclusion.
Another aspect of the plot I really enjoyed is the author’s inclusion of the plight of the Monocan people, Native Americans of Virginia who had been stripped of their rights when the state of Virginia refused to officially recognize this indigenous tribe. The author incorporates their struggles into the plot smoothly and effectively, adding an additional layer of interest to the story.
If you like reading cozy mysteries, then I would recommend checking out this series because, as Brown says, “It takes a cat to write the purr-fect mystery.”
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher to provide an honest review
Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of the Sneaky Pie Brown series; the Sister Jane series; the first two books in a new canine mystery 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 twenty previous Mrs. Murphy mysteries. (From the book cover jacket)
You can find a complete list of the Mrs. Murphy series here on Goodreads.
Goodreads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/23511.Rita_Mae_Brown
Purchase The Litter of the Law from Amazon The Litter of the Law: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery
Start the Series
Curiosity just might be the death of Mrs. Murphy–and her human companion, Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen. Small towns are like families: Everyone lives very close together. . .and everyone keeps secrets. Crozet, Virginia, is a typical small town-until its secrets explode into murder. Crozet’s thirty-something post-mistress, Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen, has a tiger cat (Mrs. Murphy) and a Welsh Corgi (Tucker), a pending divorce, and a bad habit of reading postcards not addressed to her. When Crozet’s citizens start turning up murdered, Harry remembers that each received a card with a tombstone on the front and the message “Wish you were here” on the back. Intent on protecting their human friend, Mrs. Murphy and Tucker begin to scent out clues. Meanwhile, Harry is conducting her own investigation, unaware her pets are one step ahead of her. If only Mrs. Murphy could alert her somehow, Harry could uncover the culprit before the murder occurs–and before Harry finds herself on the killer’s mailing list.
Read an interview with the author from Time: Rita Mae Brown: Loves Cats, Hates Marriage (March 2008)
Interested in visiting Crozet, Virginia? Check out Things to Do/Places to Stay/Where to Dine in Crozet, Virginia
Road Trip anyone? Crozet has an Arts & Crafts Festival coming up October 11-12. Maybe this is where I’ll visit to see the fall leaves this year: Crozet Arts & Crafts Festival
What do you like best about Autumn?