on March 27, 2015
on May 25, 2004
Rita Mae Brown's earlier, more-literary work--most particularly the widely celebrated RUBYFRUIT JUNGLE--assures her place in the collections of serious readers, who tend to sneer at her "Mrs. Murphy" murder mystery series. But no doubt Brown is laughing all the way to the bank: although no one would take the books seriously as literature, the "Mrs. Murphy" books are long on charm, a good choice to curl up with on a quiet evening. And while it may not be the best of bunch, THE TAIL OF THE TIP-OFF is hardly a bad choice if you're in the mood for something ultralight and amusing.
Crozet, Virginia must surely have the highest per capita murder rate on the face of the earth: Brown is seldom content to have her characters confront a single murder. In this particular episode postmistress Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen finds herself confronting two unexpected deaths--both of which seem to center around a university sports stadium. But Harry isn't the only one with curiosity: her cats, Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and dog, Tucker, are just as determined to bring the killer to light as Harry herself.
The novel revisits all the reoccurring characters Brown has established in previous episodes and introduces a few more, in this case several feuding building contractors, irate building inspectors, and basketball fans, all of whom are caught up in the carnage to one degree or another. As usual in the "Mrs. Murphy" books, you could float a battleship through the holes in Brown's plot--and in this particular instance savvy readers will likely roll their eyes at the very farfetched method of one of the murders, a device lifted straight out of 1920s Edgar Wallace. Even so, it's all in good fun, and if you're looking for something that is non-taxing, enjoyable, and amusing then the population of Crozet, Virginia are just the folks to visit.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
on November 12, 2003
If you are fussy about a challenging, intricately plotted mystery that, in the end, is resolved believably, you might not be extremely happy with this novel. That said, there is much to recommend it to anyone who does not mind that it is a touch fey. (Okay, a lot fey.) It does a fine job of inhabiting but also commenting on the "cozy" tradition of mystery writing. Although she strays over the town line to Charlottesville and the University of Virginia, Rita Mae Brown keeps a lid on the world of Crozet, VA. This is a world made for the amateur sleuth. Police procedure and confidentiality are out the window; town gossip is in. Brown never apologizes for overlooking procedural correctness and in this volume she parodies the "cozy" convention of the amateur sleuth with a scene in which the cops just invite the whole town to the scene of the crime and gets everyone's two cents. She also parodies the human sleuthing by giving voice to the pets who come up with the solutions first, but are stymied at how to communicate them to those with opposable thumbs.
This book is distinguished by the best non-mystery elements of the series--Crozet and its regulars are a pleasant and often hilarious crowd to hang-out with, and it offers sharp comments on small town Southern social code. Her obligatory social brawl scene comes early in this story. There is slapstick. As usual, Brown introduces new characters who are central to the mystery du jour. One of them is very interesting and you hold out hope that she is neither victim nor perpetrator. That's another thing Brown is slyly commenting on: the unfortunate, but most realistic vision of the "cozy" tradition is, the victims and murderers are usually insiders, not mob hitmen or mythically evil serial killers who lucked onto the place.
on July 10, 2003
I am always looking for something different and when I realized I had never checked out any of Brown's works I figured how bad could it be. Many people seem to enjoy them and while it's not a style of mystery I'm normally drawn to, let's try it with an open mind.
The good: The mystery itself is fairly clever. There are a number of red herrings and it will keep you intrigued to see how it falls together. The characters range from likeable to ridiculous stereotypes, but a new comer did not have much trouble figuring out who's who.
The awful: I am sure the reason these books have found a home is the presence of the talking animals. I understand and accept that. However, this "hook" is one of the most annoying affectations that I have ever come across in literature. The animals are portrayed as incredibly intelligent yet can't convey their discoveries. The reason given is that the humans won't pay any attention to them. The real reason is this is being portrayed as a mystery novel not a fantasy. The animal commentary is so cloying and cutesy that I actually yelled at the book for the blatant silliness of it all. It is rare that a book can cause such aggravation.I also realize that there are thousands of fans of this series that love it enough to keep it going for so long. So I will wish Mrs. Murphy and the others well on all their other adventures. I won't be going along with them. I am sure I am now going to get hammered by all the "Sneaky Pie" fans. Sorry, that's just the way I see it.
on June 2, 2003
I read Brown to get a belly laugh. That is about all her mysteries are good for. The rest of her books I never bother with simply because they aren't worth the effort. It is nice to see that Brown has finally gotten around to having some Blacks as characters. It will be interesting to see how long it is before she has Blacks or other minorities as pernament characters in her series.
Sneaky pie has certainly gotten fat along with being vain and egotistical.
on March 26, 2003
Life in rural Virginia seems simple, committee meetings to determine whether the church can afford new carpeting, snowfall, University of Virginia woman's basketball, and casual meetings of women to discuss the weather, children, and relationships. But these superficial goings on don't completely hide the reality of adultery, crime, and murder. When post office manager Harry Harristeen sees a construction contractor die of an apparent heart attack, and then learns that it was a cleverly disguised murder, she resolves to find out the truth. Harry is aided in her relentless curiosity by her two cats and one dog, all superhumanly intelligent but saddened by humans' inability to understand what they say oh too clearly.
Harry has her own problems--problems relating to her ex-husband, Fair, and the woman that Fair once had an affair with (Boomboom). She can't get Fair's unfaithfulness out of her system, but she doesn't want to let him go either. As for Boomboom, Harry likes to believe the worst of her, despite Boomboom's assurances that the affair happened only after Harry and Fair had separated.
Author Rita Mae Brown, along with her cat, Sneaky Pie Brown, create a compelling tone of rural life and death. Brown details a social structure that seems to have survived intact from pre-civil war days with women dominating the important events of the society and men providing entertainment and heartache. Pets, of course, are hugely important and the animal insights into humanity, religion, and nature, add to the enjoyment.
Brown resrains her pets in this story--there are no pet-driven vehicles, for example, but the animals manage to save the day once again as Harry's impetuous curiosity comes close to getting her killed.
on March 22, 2003
It looks as if I'm in the minority here but I was not overly impressed with "The Tail of the Tip-Off." This latest Mrs. Murphy mystery novel is not a terrible read, but it is not vintage Rita Mae Brown either. For me, this book lacked focus. The mystery was an interesting one with plenty of promise, with lots of really interesting character realizations, and the usual humourous antics of Mrs. Murphy, Tucker and Pewter (plus their assorted friends) -- but I still finished the book feeling fairly unsatisfied.
The town of Crozet, Virginia is currently in the grip of both winter and basketball mania. And while tempers are running a little high, no one expected murder to work its way into the latest University of Virginia's women's basketball game. But that's exactly what happens when building contractor H. H. Donaldson suddenly collapses and dies after a game, and an autopsy soon reveals that he was mysteriously poisoned during the game. Bored and restless, Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen (post mistress of Crozet, amateur sleuth and owner of Mrs. Murphy, Tucker and Pewter) is eager to figure out the who, why and how of the murder. (Anything is better than trying to decide once and for all if she should allow her ex-husband, Fair, to work his way back into her life on a more intimate footing.) Was H. H. murdered because of some past project and because he crossed someone in business? Or was he murdered because of his extracurricular marital affairs? How did the murderer manage to poison him in the full view of everyone at the stadium? Was his murderer his long suffering wife, Anne? Or a spurned lover? Harry and her furry friends, Mrs. Murphy, Tucker and Pewter are determined to get to the bottom of this latest murder...
There were loads of things I liked about this novel -- like the descriptions of the Virginian countryside in all its glory; the conversations that the animals had with each other; the (hopefully) new characters that Ms Brown has added to the series; and the murder plot premise. But, there were also (for me at least) things that detracted -- like the fact the plot was not quite tight enough, and the pacing a little off, and the fact even to the very end, the motives and actions of some characters (like the H. H. & the murderer) were never really clearly explained/realised. And there was the fact that the authour doesn't really deal with the fact that the second murder victim might have been saved. Oh, Tucker feels the guilt and the remorse, but the humans never really talk about this. I found this very baffling, and a little disconcerting.
All in all, while "The Tale of the Tip-Off" was not a bad read, it was not one of the better Mrs. Murphy mystery novels either (at least no where near "Rest in Pieces" & "Wish You Were Here"), and as a fan, I was a tad disappointed with this book.
on March 13, 2003
Rita Mae and Sneaky Pie outdo themselves on this one. Full of the usual interaction between the animals and Harry. (Oh if she only could understand what they are trying to tell her!) A new friend "Brinkely" is added. Couldn't really figure out the "bad guy" on this one till the end. Would recommend it to any Rita Mae or Sneaky Pie fan. Very good, really enjoyed it.
on March 13, 2003
I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of this book and I was not disappointed in the contents. The spotlight, this time, falls on the building and construction industry and some new arrivals in Crozet with all the old participants well to the fore. Sheriff Rick and Deputy Coop are deep in an investigation after a mysterious death at a Women's basketball game attended by most of our friends, Harry & Fair, Miranda & Tracy, Susan and family,Little Mim and Blair, Boom Boom et al. The mystery lies in the cause of death and the weapon used. Needless to say, the terrible trio (Mrs Murphy, Tee Tucker and Pewter) are the first to find the answer but their problem is communicating it to the humans, they make the acquaintance of a new canine (Brinkley) in town, a stray, befriended by a beautiful architect who is also new in Crozet. Harry, despite the usual warnings, rushes in where angels fear to tread and puts herself and an unlikely partner, Boom Boom, in danger. Harry is surprised by Boom Boom,(could this be the end to her animosity to Boom?) she also learns more about herself and her feelings for ex-husband Fair. After many alarms, bumps on head, another death, quarrels, fights etc., Harry, Boom and the trio bring things to a satisfactory conclusion. I find myself believing in Mrs Murphy more with each book. When's the next one?
on March 8, 2003
I just finished this book today and I think it is one of Brown's best of the series. I really like this series and this book was great. The characters are really interesting in this book. I thought the plot was believable. I didn't figure out the mystery until the end. If you like this series you will love this book!