Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Whiskers in the Dark (A Mrs. Murphy Mystery #28)

Author:  Rita Mae Brown
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover: Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780425287187
288 Pages
$18.30; $7.99 Amazon
June 4, 2019


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.


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...

This is the 28th book in the series, and I am happy to say that it's just as intriguing as all the previous ones.  As a matter of fact, I find each book better than the last one I read.  Perhaps it's just that I truly enjoy Ms. Brown's writing, but I also love a good mystery, and these books not only give you that, they give you tales that span the centuries.

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. 

Together both stories make for quite an absorbing narrative, which kept me reading all the way through to the end in nearly one sitting (sleep does reluctantly come).  Just when I would find myself engaged in the past, I was pulled into the present, back again to Harry and her tenacity.  But be aware that I never felt it was an intrusion or disruption of the story, and both seemed to meld together seamlessly.

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 although I do feel that Megs and Janice are just too avaricious for their own good, (although this is a personal feeling and nothing was alluded to it in the book) I 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.


Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2837832766

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

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