Friday, May 8, 2015

Tail Gait (A Mrs. Murphy Mystery #24)

Author:  Rita Mae Brown
Genre:  Mystery

Publisher: Bantam; ISBN 9780553392364; 336 pages
Release Date:  May 26, 2015  

Five Stars

Spring has sprung in Crozet, Virginia - a time for old friends to gather and bid farewell to the doldrums of winter.  Harry and her husband, Fair, are enjoying a cozy dinner with some of the town's leading citizens, including beloved University of Virginia history professor Greg "Ginger" McConnell and several members of UVA's celebrated 1959 football team.  But beneath the cloak of conviviality lurks a sinister specter from the distant past that threatens to put all their lives in jeopardy.

When Professor McConnell is found murdered on the golf course the next day - gunned down in broad daylight by an unseen killer - no one can fathom a motive, let alone find a suspect.  Just as Harry and her furry cohorts begin nosing into the case, however, a homeless UVA alum confesses to the crime.  Trouble is, no one believes that the besotted former All-American could have done the foul deed - especially after Mrs. Murphy, Pewter, and Tucker make another gruesome discovery.

  As the questions surrounding Ginger's death pile up, Harry's search for answers takes her down the fascinating byways of Virginia's Revolutionary past.  The professor was something of a sleuth himself, it seems, and the centuries-old mystery he was unraveling may well have put a target on his back.  As Harry edges closer to identifying an elusive killer, her animal companions sense danger - and rally to find a way to keep Harry from disappearing into history.

********

Harry Harrison and her husband Fair, a veterinarian, are attending a dinner with old friends.  The next day she caddies on the golf course for her friend Susan, never having found enthusiasm for the game herself.  When during the middle of the game it is discovered that there has been a murder - and that the dead man is no less Professor Ginger McConnell, Harry and the others are stunned.  After all, didn't she just see him the night before?  And doesn't everyone truly like him?  You would think so, but obviously someone had a grudge with him, and Harry, her ever-curious nature getting in the way, decides she must help bring the murderer to justice.

You see, Harry really can't help it.  She just has the type of nature that makes her want to find out the truth, and the reason why.  So, against the warnings of her friend and neighbor, Coop, Harry quietly probes the mystery.

Then it's discovered that along with the successful alumni of UVA, there was also at least one not-so-successful at all:  Frank Cresey, who was once in love with one of Ginger's daughters, Olivia.  It seems he hated the professor for breaking up the romance, and Frank blamed him for his fall from grace; he's now a bum living on skid row.  It's not too long after the funeral Frank announces he killed Ginger - even if no one takes him seriously, because  everyone knows he would not be allowed on a private golf course.

Yet the more Harry digs, and the more she finds out, her beloved pets, the cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and her Corgi Tucker, know that they must do whatever it takes to protect their human.

Ms. Brown has another winner in this book, a wonderful entry to her series.  I can't say how delightful it was to read this.  She blends the past with the present so seamlessly that one can't help but be caught up in the story.  I truly enjoyed reading as much about the present-day mystery as I did with that entailing the Revolutionary War, and how the two tied together to create a dual mystery.  She has a such a knack for tying the two stories together that you would think there not only is historical value in reading this, that indeed the fictional story would have basis in fact.

I was especially delighted - and surprised - to find that part of the story involved areas in Pennsylvania, which I know well, and a mention of Hanover (The Shoe Farms, I am sure, since they are well-known for their horses); the town of my husband's birth.  A side note, but as delightful as anything anyone reads when mention is made of their (or their spouse's) home.  It is always a pleasure when fiction in stories blends along with fact; you seem to get a more intense experience when reading the book.

When we finally find out the motive, it was well-hidden until the very end.  No clues were given, and I didn't expect there to be.  Not even many red herrings along the way.  But it all comes together in one solid piece, and gruesome as the ending was, our sharp-witted Harry couldn't have done anything else.  Highly recommended.




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