Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tall Tail: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery

Author:  Rita Mae Brown
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover, Ebook, Audible
ISBN #:  9780553392463
Bantam Publishing
352 Pages
$18.39, $13.99 Amazon
May 17, 2016

Five Stars

At any moment a perfect summer day in Crozet, Virginia - nestled within the Blue Ridge Mountains - might turn stormy and tempestuous, as Harry knows too well when a squall suddenly sweeps in.  In a blink, Harry's pickup nearly collides with a careening red car that then swerves into a ditch.  Harry recognizes the dead driver slumped over the vehicle's steering wheel:  Barbara Leader was nurse and confidante to former Virginia governor Sam Holloway.

Though Barbara's death is ruled a heart attack, dissenting opinions abound.  After all, she was the picture of health, which gives Harry and her four-legged companions pause.  A baffling break-in at a local business leads Harry to further suspect that a person with malevolent intent lurks just out of sight.  Something evil is afoot.

As it happens, Barbara died in the shadow of the local cemetery's statue of the Avenging Angel.  Just below that imposing funereal monument lie the remains of one Francisco Selisse, brutally murdered in 1784.  Harry's present-day sleuthing draws her back to Virginia's slave-holding past and the hunt for Selisse's killer.  Now it's up to Harry and her furry detectives - Mrs. Murphy, Pewter, and Tee Tucker - to expose the bitter truth, even if it means staring into the unforgiving eyes of history and cornering a callous killer poised to pounce.

********

Mary 'Harry" Haristeen is driving home one afternoon when she is almost in an accident with a red Camry.  When the car finally stops, she finds that the driver is Barbara Leader, nurse to former Virginia governor Sam Holloway, grandfather of her best friend Susan.  She also finds that Barbara is dead.

While it appears to be an accident, everyone agrees that Barbara was in the peak of health, and her husband insists on an autopsy...which only proves Barbara was murdered...

Where Barbara died, though, could be ominous - it was near the statue of the Avenging Angel, an imposing monument which holds the remains of Francisco Selisse, who was murdered in 1784.  The monument still gives Harry the creeps every time she passes it, but in this case, there may be more that ties Selisse to Barbara in ways no one ever thought about...

Ms. Brown has a way of telling a story that merges one within another:  two tales for the price of one, as it were.  We are treated to the modern-day events of Harry and her friends, while also trying to solve another mystery set in the past.  In this, Ms. Brown emerges triumphant.  For while reading about Francisco Selisse and those around him, we are transported to the world of the 1780's, shortly after the Revolutionary War.  In this book, we learn more about the life of those from the previous effort, Tail Gait, and how they connect to Selisse, and he to the future.

We are also treated to the question of why Barbara Leader was murdered, and who would want her dead.  It doesn't seem she had enemies, and there doesn't seem to be any real reason for the murder.  But yet, she is dead, and someone wanted her to be so.  There doesn't seem to be any real front runner in that category, and all are suspect, but it was not easy to discover the killer because no one had a clear motive.  When it was discovered, I was surprised, but not unpleasantly so.

It was truly an interesting book, and I love the fact that Ms. Brown is able to deftly weave fact with fiction, history with modern-day.  It all comes together seamlessly, and it all makes sense.  This is the 25th book in the series, and I hope that there will be many more.  It can be read as a stand-alone, but after doing so, you might just want to go back and start at the beginning.  Highly recommended.



More on Rita Mae Brown's books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/rita-mae-brown/                                                               

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