on July 3, 2004
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!
on June 21, 2004
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.
on June 6, 2004
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
on May 31, 2004
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.
on May 26, 2004
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 colorful details about country life and of course all those (silently) outspoken animals offering their perspective.
It's fun and an easy, comfortable read. It's a solid entry in the series but not a stand out. I LIKED it but didn't LOVE it for several reasons:
I. The plotting was loose and too often swamped by extraneous details. Often they're rather *interesting* details but enough already. (It's the Diana Gabaldon Syndrome. Colorful details are nice--within limits.) I also guessed the criminal halfway through the book. It really was pretty obvious.
II. This may be a bit unfair, as an overflow from RMB's "foxhunting " series, but her insularity is beginning to interfere with my enjoyment of her books. Her quasi-religious fervor about the absolute superiority of 1. rural life, 2. rural life in VIRGINIA, and 3. those born, reared and preferably with deep family roots in Virginia is wearing thin. It's great to love and be proud of one's home but condescension toward the rest of the world becomes jarring after a while, especially when it's done without the slightest satirical flicker.
Not huge minuses, but there wasn't anything socko enough about the rest of the book to counteract them. All in all, pretty good. You'll like it if you're a series fan.
on May 14, 2004
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 postmistress, as the protagonist. Helping her are her three pets, Mrs. Murphy and Pewter--the cats--and Tucker--the corgi. All three animals carry on lively conversations and investigate along with Harry, even though none of the humans can understand them.
This mystery concerns the death of Barry Monteith, a local horse breeder. Even more mysterious is that fact that Barry, although viciously murdered, was also infected with rabies. Harry soon finds the class ring of Mary Pat Reines, a local horsebreeder who disappeared in 1967 with her prize stallion. Two more deaths soon follow, and the entire close-knit town is shaken, trying to discover the murderer and the source of Barry's rabies.
The only flaw with this book, and the reason I didn't give it 5 stars, is the author's fascination with horses. An excellent horsewoman (horseperson?) herself, she includes quite a bit of breeding information in the novel, which is interesting until she goes on for several pages about it. You can't skip it, though--there are clues enclosed in it. Fans of the series will do fairly well with the information, as Brown has given us a great deal about horses in all of her books, but it does drag after a while.
This book is very integral to the series, and many events that affect the entire series take place in it. For this reason, I don't recommend it to new readers. Pick up "Wish You Were Here" or "Rest in Pieces," the first two books in the series. Not only will you get the horse information, but you'll be better introduced to the marvelous cast of characters. Brown always includes a cast of characters in her novels--one that encompasses both animals and people--but you'll love getting the history of the characters!
Bottom Line: An excellent cozy for small-town people, cat-lovers, horse-lovers, anyone! Series-altering events take place in it, though, so it's not recommended for first-time readers. Other than that, enjoy the wonderful 3-dimensional characters and excellent plot!
on April 22, 2004
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. Harry loves to farm her land, run the local postoffice,and when the oppurtunity comes, solve the perfect murder mystery. As fate has it, yet another murder is dropped into her lap. Barry Monteith, a succesful young horse trainer is found dead with a ripped jugular. Now Harry is hot on
the trail with Mrs. Murphy and her other two pets, gray cat Pewter, and corgi Tee Tucker. Together, this foursome begin to unravel the mystery. But the more that Harry knows, the more danger she is in. With another young trainer found dead and a bad case of rabies in Crozet, Mrs.Murhpy and co. have their hands full with keeping their beloved human, Harry, out of trouble and perhaps out of death. This novel by Rita Mae Brown is an excellent read for the murder mystery lovers out there. Written in third person, it provides a wonderful perception of all that goes on. A captivitaing read, Whiskers of Evil will have the tail scared off of you.
on April 7, 2004
When I bought this book, I realized that it was part of a series and in fact, the very last addition in it. I thought that I may have had a hard time understanding the characters and other important facts about this book. But, it didn't matter that I read the last book. Rita Mae Brown made it possible so that you could read this book first and still understand the whole story. I thouroughly enjoyed this book.
Mary Minor "Harry" Harristeen and her fellow animal companions have another mystery up their sleeves. A local horsebreeder has been murder. The catch is that this man also had rabies. Soon, Harry is following a trail of clues and reopened the disappearance of a horse breeder from 30 years ago. She feels that the 2 cases may be connected.
At the same time, Harry's post office will be moved into a new building with new rules, prohibiting her cats and dog from helping her with her job.
This book has many unsuspecting twists. I highly recommend it to any mystery or animal lovers.
on April 4, 2004
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. He says, "If I'm driving down the road, I don't care if I pass a yellow house with a white picket fence and a dog tied up in the yard. I just want to get to where I'm going." While I've shaken my head at his chauvinistic view, it has caused me to pay more attention to differences in writing styles. Maybe the variety is somewhat gender-based, maybe it isn't.
"Whisker of Evil" includes a lot of detail that doesn't always seem to "get us where we're going." The murder on the first page demands our immediate attention. And those of us who are fans of this series will enjoy watching Harry, Fair, Susan, Miranda, Cooper, Rich, all the animals and the elite of the Crozet equine community figure out what's going on in their neighborhood. But there are multiple instances when the action is stalled by extraneous explanation and back story. It happens often enough that I took notice and wondered how much of the information I'd have to recall down the line. Having faith in the author, I continued on. If not for that, I could easily have abandoned the book and gone on to something else. Maybe I've been reading too many male authors and/or quicker and shorter mysteries lately! Or maybe my reading tastes are changing.
I've read many of Brown's books with pleasure. I love her technique of sharing the animals' communications through the use of italics. This is the first Mrs. Murphy Mystery that was slow for me. It won't stop me from reading her future work, for I especially want to know what ensues from the recent changes in Harry's life. My advice is to pick up this volume knowing that there's A LOT going on in it. (Not that there's anything wrong with that...)
on April 3, 2004
Handsome horse breeder Barry Monteith is found with his throat slit near Potlicker Creek in Crozet, Virginia --- shocking news made even more shocking when the autopsy reveals Monteith had been infected with rabies. As fear of that silent killer increases, along with the fear of a human killer, the residents of Crozet band together with their usual picnic and potluck lunches --- but some among them are afraid that the animal citizens of the town may be dangers.
This notion does not sit well with either Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen or her beloved menage of trois pets: corgi Tee Tucker, tiger cat Mrs. Murphy and the weight-challenged gray feline Pewter. Harry, happily toiling away at the Crozet post office where she has worked since graduating from Smith with an art history degree fifteen years ago, can't imagine that the well-cared-for domestic animals of her beloved hometown are carrying an infectious disease --- any more than she believes that the long-ago disappearance of local horsewoman Mary Pat Reines was a simple accident.
When Harry (accompanied, of course, by Tee, Mrs. M. and Pewter) finds Mary Pat's distinctive signet ring in Potlicker Creek, her formidable brains begin clacking and humming. Despite another hideous rabies-related death and the warnings of her obviously besotted ex-husband Fair, Harry (whose brains don't get much of a workout at the P.O.) starts to put all kinds of dangerous pieces together.
In the first few Sneaky Pie collaborations, the animal dialogue sometimes felt forced and/or got in the way of the plot; in this one, it's downright enjoyable to "listen" as the feisty little Corgi interacts with an owl, or Mrs. Murphy talks to a fox family. However, all this animal talk isn't just for cuteness's sake. The kicker in all of Rita Mae and Sneaky Pie's books is that the animals figure things out well before the humans do --- and they also figure out ways to help those humans save face.
If only the humans could do the same thing for each other consistently. Brown has a lot of homo sapien fish to fry here, from Harry and Fair's awkward second courtship, to a slightly dim policeman's meddling, to the real nature of happiness and what we do for love (in this case, make an unlikely adoption). From time to time, forensics gets in the way of plot progression --- sections with details of rabies transmission and horse breeding, for example, are a bit too dense to wade through and will make readers itch for another catfight between Mrs. Murphy and Pewter. But the good news is that this reader is itching to read the next book and learn what comes next for the engaging Harry, a modern woman with an old-fashioned temperament.
--- Reviewed by Bethanne Kelly Patrick