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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.
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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!
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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.
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on May 31, 2005
I picked this up at random. I'm a cat lover so the premise didn't sound bad on the cover. I liked the animals. They were fine. Next time, I will research a series a little better. I expected it to be fluff but I was not prepared for the almost non-stop preaching. Everyone in town is the best. Horse people are better than the rest of Virginia. Virginia is better than the north. Pity those foolish non-hardworking non-Christians. Good writting? Forget it. Just throw in another adverb inexpertly.

If you like Christian mystery fluff, have at. Enjoy. Personnally, I am going now to finish the last three chapters in hopes that at the end, one cat will turn to the other and say "Man, these people are full of crap."
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on December 28, 2004
First off I'd give another half-star rating, as I did enjoy the book, and I must really like the series a lot, as I keep coming back for more.

I won't summarize the plot, as that is the job of the book jacket, and many of the other reviewers have done an excellent job of that already.

I do really enjoy learning about something besides forensics (although those are pretty fascinating too), during the course of a mystery...for instance, I had no IDEA that fox hunting was such a complicated sport, I thought you just got on the horse, used good manners in the field, and chased the critter. Typical nawthenah...

The beauty, grace, complexity and depth of Southern culture is presented here in Ms. Brown's Crozet series and while of COURSE it is seen as superior to that of the Northerners and Westerners, she does not rub your face in it to the point where you just dismiss Crozetians as small-town Southern Snobs.

When having animals use human speech to communicate between species, it is difficult not to fall into either omniscience or over-cuteness, and both the Brown ladies seem to negotiate this fence line fairly well. What I have trouble with are the little errors... for instance, what sex IS Harry's horse Gin Fizz? In one book, she is a mare, in another he is a gelding, and in this book, s/he is both. Now THERE is a mystery if you like....

Also, Harry, who is by her own admission emotionally inhibited, is very much out of character with her accusation "You did it!" directed at the murderer during the burial. This may be sort of rationalized by the preceeding events just sort of blowing the cork out of the bottle, but it is not in character for Harry, who usually does think things through...and THEN she goes ahead and does something risky.

All in all, this was an improvement over the last two of the series, as things are MOVING again. I am looking forward to the next one...and must admit I AM curious as to what kind of foal Boom-Boom's mare will drop.
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VINE VOICEon July 24, 2004
Oh Ms. Brown's books are as some would call 'light-weight'. And others would say she is anthromorphizing the creatures in these books (giving the man-like abilities they don't doesn't do such a hot job with that ability anyway!) These books are fun reads, and no, I am not suggesting murder is 'fun'. For years, I've tried to figure out why so many people enjoy reading murder mysteries. It's kind of like why everyone seems to enjoy CSI and forensics. It's the problem-solving part of the mysteries, as well as the characterization that people enjoy. In Ms. Brown's books, those of us who have and love animals recognize that they often seem to have more abilities then we give them credit for. They certainly love to play as anyone with cats and dogs can attest to.

The plotting in this particular book was a little off this time. And the solution, even though I figured out is was the particular person involved, I certainly would not yell out that fact at a public place, with no regard as to my own or others safety. 'Harry' is a bit impulsive sometimes...a bit too impulsive. I am glad to see her making some changes in her life that have been long in coming (for the readers of these books).

Karen Sadler
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on August 26, 2012
I have read about 15 of Sneaky Pie Brown's mysteries and enjoyed all of them. They are "light" mysteries, an enjoyable read, that's why I keep returning to them & have now branched out to other novels Rita Mae Brown has written. Living in the South I can see the main characters around me every day, also having moved from the north 30 years ago Sneaky Pie has explained alot of the southern thinking & customs that has at times been bewildering to me. One of the main draws to Sneaky's mysteries are the animals and their "outlook/running commentary" on the humans they call their own. If you are new to Sneaky Pie's work start with one of the ealier books to get the "layout of the land" then feast on any of the other mysteries Sneaky has written.
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on August 16, 2014
You really have to start this series from the beginning to appreciate the way the main characters interact and why. Their growth and changing relationships is a thing of beauty. You don't always know "who done it" either.
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on January 24, 2014
We have been reading Rita Mae Browns books for over a decade. They are a wonderful getaway from the stress of daily life and just plain fun and enjoyable. The cats (Pewter and Mrs. Murphy) and the dog (Tucker) are the real stars and the ones who really solve the murders.
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on April 4, 2014
Mindless. Cute, but mindless. Contrived. No intellectual stimulation of any kind. The animals, 2 cats named Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and a Corgi named Tucker, are niceanimal characters. The animals think and speak to one another in English, but the humans cannot understand them. I would like it better if Ms. Brown's books took total leave of reality and made the animals and humans capable of speaking together rather than pursuing two separate realities simultaneously.
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