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Whisker of Evil [Hardcover]

Rita Mae Brown
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 30 2004 Brown, Rita Mae
A mysterious death in a Virginia farm town has the locals scratching their heads—while frisky feline Mrs. Murphy and her friends, fat-cat Pewter and corgi Tee Tucker, uncover clues as they curl their way around a cold-blooded killer.

This balmy summer in Crozet, Virginia, postmistress Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen has a lot to think about. Things have been pretty cozy between her and her ex-husband, Fair and her beloved old post office is in danger of being replaced with a modern building—and modern rules. Harry’s thoughtful contemplation is shattered the day she stumbles over a dead body near Potlicker Creek. Barry Monteith, the handsome local horse breeder, has been savagely murdered. A true ladies’ man, Barry was known to have left a string of broken hearts behind him. But could a spurned lover be responsible for his untimely demise?

The plot only thickens when an autopsy reveals that Barry was infected with rabies weeks before he was killed. As usual, Harry can’t resist doing a little digging—with Mrs. Murphy close by to warn of approaching danger. Harry makes a remarkable discovery in the creek—the class ring of Mary Pat Reines, a local woman who disappeared thirty years earlier along with her prized Thoroughbred stallion. Like Barry, Mary Pat was a successful horse breeder—and now all of Crozet is wondering if the two cases are linked. As the police struggle with the evidence, the pressure gets hotter than a June afternoon—especially when another person is found dead of less-than-natural causes. As usual, Mrs. Murphy and her crew are the first to sniff out the truth.

But if they don’t find a way to help Harry piece together the puzzle, she could become the killer’s next target—and even Mrs. Murphy’s slinkiest moves won’t be able to save her.

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From Publishers Weekly

Bestseller Brown (The Tale of the Tip-off, etc.) and her feline collaborator offer another winsome tale of endearing talking animals and fallible, occasionally homicidal humans, many of whom breed and raise horses in the small Piedmont town of Crozet, Va. Near Potlicker Creek, postmistress Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen and her petsâ€"corgi Tee Tucker, tiger cat Mrs. Murphy and fat, gray kitty Pewterâ€"discover 34-year-old breeder Barry Monteith, "fit, handsome... and fun-loving," on the ground, his slashed throat gushing blood. "Death, often so shocking to city dwellers, was part of life here in the country." Later, Harry resigns in a pique when the overzealous, obnoxious animal-control officer prohibits her pets from the post office. A reawakening of affection for Fair, her former husband, and the building of an addition to her barn complicate things further. Her animals figure she's too distracted when Harry misses vital clues to Barry's murderâ€"and to the peculiar death of a second young breeder. The mystery thickens with a strange case of rabies that brings on the state health inspectors as well as the media. Brown perhaps overdoes the details of horse breeding, record-keeping and rabies, but fans are sure to cheer as Tee Tucker, Mrs. Murphy and Pewter rush to their mistress's rescue at the harrowing climax. Illustrations by Michael Gerraty not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–In a unique town in Virginia, the animals speak English to one another and help to solve murders. In this installment in the entertaining series, postmistress Harry finds the body of her friend Barry, a horse breeder, who seems to have been attacked by a bear. But no, it turns out that he died of rabies. When a second mysterious death occurs, the town is concerned that there will be an epidemic, and the officials refuse to let Harry's pets come to work with her. Readers learn details about rabies and horse breeding before the exciting climax in which Harry's animals fly into action to save her life. Delightful line drawings illustrate the creatures, usually in some adorable pose. Witty dialogue will bring a smile to readers' faces as the animals outsmart the humans.–Claudia Moore, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars The title's the best part! July 3 2004
Format:Hardcover
I, too, read all of the Mrs. Murphy mysteries. I found this one difficult to get involved in and was probably a hundred pages into it before I did. The story was interesting, as were the facts about rabies; I also liked that there are some changes for Harry in this installment.
But distractions abound. First, the novel is not well written. Brown wants her characters to speak naturally, but she also wants to provide her readers with necessary information. Consequently, she has natural dialogue, but then adds information in the form of "she mentioned," etc., interrupting the flow of that natural dialogue. Brown also tends to be somewhat repetitive with information (for instance, about Cazenovia and Elocution). I don't recall if the narrator was omniscient in her other books; in this book, the omniscience takes the form of statements like, "Tazio liked Paul"-often information unrelated to the dialogue and so general and bland as to not add to the story.
"Whisker of Evil" also had more of a religious slant than the previous books. It starts with Harry finding a dying man and talking to G-d. Various characters-not just Miranda-quote scripture. And the animals, too, discuss religion. (It's pointed out that each animal believes that his or her own species is G-d.)
Bottom line: read it for the plot developments on Harry, so you won't be lost when the next book comes out!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing entry in series June 21 2004
Format:Hardcover
The Mrs. Murphy mystery series is like a favorite pair of old slippers. I'll read one no matter what, but I think this particular volume shows new life. Although I don't have the objectivity of someone who has never read any of the books by the team of Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown, I think a newcomer could easily join the club with WHISKER OF EVIL. It defines old characters and references to past events and purveys the strengths of the series. Comparing this book to others in the series and to its genre, it gets 5 stars.
The chief strength I find is that Brown succeeds in satirizing the "cozy" mystery genre at the same time she pays homage to it. She has created some genial though not uncomplicated regular characters and a world that she does not puncture even when shaking things up, which she does considerably this time around. She is realistic (well, as realistic as you get when animals have their own lines of dialogue). What began in her first books as a speck on a rural map of Virginia, the town of Crozet in Albemarle County, has become urbanized rural. Government regulations plague postmistress/heroine Mary ("Harry") Hairsteen. You can see the whole South grappling with its past, present and future through this series. In deceptively simple prose, she conveys a strong sense of how time and the world catch up with the individual.
The mystery itself is predictable. But who really reads or even writes "cozies" as brainteasers? Brown is having a lot of fun. She exercises a lot of knowledge about horse culture and airs her views on growth, government, taxes, ageing, and humanity, not to mention tourists who visit the real town of Crozet and don't find it as cute as they think a setting in a "cozy" should be.
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3.0 out of 5 stars As Lightweight and Amusing as Ever June 6 2004
Format:Hardcover
No one in their right mind would suggest that Rita Mae Brown's "Mrs. Murphy" mystery series is in the same league with such earlier works as RUBYFRUIT JUNGLE, but doubtlessly Brown laughs all the way to the bank: the series has proven very popular, and in truth when it comes to ultra-light amusements one could do far worse than waste an afternoon in Brown's fictional Crozet, Virginia.
Like all books in the series, WHISKER OF EVIL returns us to the host of small-town characters of which we've grown so fond. Postmistress Mary "Harry" Harristein reigns supreme over the tiny town's equally tiny post office, surrounded by an amusing assortment of friends and acquaintances--not the least of which are her two cats, Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and her dog, Tucker. And when Harry stumbles over a dying man while walking along Potlicker Creek, her animals are as curious about the situation as she.
Brown has never really bothered to construct a tightly designed plot for any of the Mrs. Murphy novels, and while the motive and means for murder prove particularly ingenious in this novel the story itself is loose even in comparison to previous titles in the series. Still, it's all in good fun, and longtime fans of the series will be greatly interested to note that with WHISKER OF EVIL Brown begins to alter the course of her characters' lives with a host of changes that come for both good and ill. Recommended for a rainy day!
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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1.0 out of 5 stars Too much of a bore to be taken seriously. May 31 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Most people probably realize that the entire premise of this mystery series is stupid and ridiculous. These books are a great read when desiring to restore one's sense of balance, zen, and sense of humor, but not much else. In this latest entry Brown sermonizes more than usual. She preaches down at the reader about health, animal rights, the government, and allowing horse race betting in the state of Virginia.
Brown has actually emproved on two points however: 1) she finally realizes, I suspect, that Cynthia Cooper in fact isn't a police officer as she insisted upon calling Cooper in so many of the earlier books but is, rather, a deputy sheriff; and 2) Brown is starting to treat Sheriff Rick Shaw with a lot more wit and intelligence. In this book he is a lot more than the dimwit we were led to believe he was in the earlier books.
It is amazing how, in these books, Harry has managed to so brazenly defy Postal regulations for so long. Harry is long overdue for a change.
The interaction between Harry and her neighbors take up more space than the actual mystery does. A big disappointment.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Happy with this purchase
I am satisfied with this book. It came on time and is in very good shape. I would recommend it to any of my friends.
Published 15 months ago by Margaret Fay Fleming
3.0 out of 5 stars Whisker of evil
I won't summarize the plot since that's been done already. Anyone familiar with the series can expect the things that make it stand out: distinct setting and characters, plenty of... Read more
Published on May 26 2004 by bookstealth
4.0 out of 5 stars whisker of evil
Much better than the last in the series, ejoyed reading it.
Published on May 22 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, but not the best in the series
Rita Mae Brown, along with her cat Sneaky Pie, writes excellent mysteries set in the small town of Crozet, Virginia, with Mary Minor "Harry" Harristeen, the local... Read more
Published on May 14 2004 by James A. White
5.0 out of 5 stars Catch as Cat Can
Whisker of Evil tells the "tail" of crime sniffing Mrs. Murphy and Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen, a postmistress in the small country town of Crozet. Read more
Published on April 22 2004 by cate jenca
5.0 out of 5 stars great
I always enjoy Rita & Sneaky Pie books. I thought this was one of the best. I hate to see Harry & Miranda leaving the P.O. Read more
Published on April 16 2004 by Michael O. Byrd
5.0 out of 5 stars Sneaky Pie/Rita Mae
This was a wonderful read as usual. I am addicted to Mrs. Murphy and crew. Hated to see Harry leave the PO of course, but enjoyed the book no end.
Published on April 15 2004 by M.R.B.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Read
When I bought this book, I realized that it was part of a series and in fact, the very last addition in it. Read more
Published on April 7 2004 by Allison
3.0 out of 5 stars Details could bog down even diehard fans
A man I know refuses to read any book written by a female, convinced that women feel the need to add too much detail to the narrative. Read more
Published on April 4 2004 by Corinne H. Smith
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