Book Review-Pay Dirt

Pay Dirt

by Rita Mae Brown

Category: Fiction / Mystery

249 pages; ISBN: 0553572369

Several of Rita Mae Brown’s fans, while waiting in line to greet her at the Oxford Bookstore in Atlanta during her Riding Shotgun tour, noticed aloud the conspicuous absence of the best-selling author’s companion and collaborator, the feline authoress Sneaky Pie Brown, whose rise from a lowly existence in a Virginia SPCA shelter to fame as mystery writer was practically meteoric. I posed the question to Ms. Brown upon meeting her, and her reply was relayed in carefully-chosen words.

It seems Sneaky Pie, who, according to Rita Mae, is wildly popular in Germany, was once a staple at book signings and lectures until one day during a Christmas event when the spritely tiger cat proceeded to shred one bookstore’s holiday decorations. Hardly the proper behavior for a mystery author (one rarely sees Sue Grafton knocking down Christmas trees and wrestling elves on the way to her signing table), Sneaky Pie now stays home with Brown’s other cat Pewter, amongst other animals taking residence at the Brown farm.

Whatever her behavior outside of the literary circle, Sneaky Pie, with some assistance from her human partner in crime, manages to produce a good mystery novel series. Pay Dirt, Or, Adventures at Ash Lawn, the fourth in the Mrs. Murphy mystery series and the latest to be released in mass market paperback, keeps alive a strong, delightful saga of humans and domestic animals living and working together to solve crimes that have inexplicably been plaguing the small town of Crozet near Charlottesville, Virginia since the Browns’ first joint effort, Wish You Were Here, in 1990.

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For those new to the “tails” (sorry, couldn’t resist) of Mrs. Murphy and Company, a brief primer : Mary Minor “Harry” Hairsteen serves as Crozet’s postmistress at the town’s only post office (where gossip is often sorted faster than the mail) and is mother to Mrs. Murphy, a highly intelligent and perceptive tiger cat (Coincidence on the author’s part or creative license? You decide). Also in this nuclear family is Tee Tucker, a corgi who is Watson to Murphy’s Sherlock–she has a nose for clues but is sometimes lost without the wise cat’s guidance. Throw in a cast of colorful characters of human and feline persuasion–including the chubby, constantly hungry cat Pewter (Coincidence?), the down-to-earth widow Miranda Hogendobber, and highbrow societal matron Mim Sanburne–then add some murder, mayhem, and intrigue, and you have a story to rival any Murder, She Wrote rerun.

In Pay Dirt, the victim this time is an unknown, unshaven Hell’s Angel who comes rolling into Ash Lawn, the former home of President James Monroe, searching for his girlfriend, Malibu. Obviously, the generally reserved people of Crozet know, he is from out of town, hopelessly lost for there is nobody in Crozet who goes by the name “Malibu” (though the town is blessed with a buoyant blonde named “Boom Boom,” but she’s not in this book) and likely polluted with some kind of controlled substance. Hence, they pay him no mind–until he turns up dead.

Soon the once lackluster post office gossip (which as of late centered around a fiery love triangle between a married bank executive, his wife, and his ex, and a tense would-be triangle involving Harry, her ex-husband, and her handsome neighbor) experiences new injections of interest, and humans and pets speculate among their respective groups as to the identity of the victim, the identity of his murderer, and whether or not this crime is connected to rumors of a computer virus that is threatening to strike Crozet’s bank. Not one to be left out on the action, Mrs. Murphy enlists the help of her corgi friend to sniff out the killer before the killer finds them, or Harry.

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Fans of Lillian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who mystery series–where cats are focal in bringing mysteries to light, as well as any mystery lover will find this installment of the Browns’ series an amusing yet satisfying read. Rita Mae Brown’s penchant for creating colorful and likable characters is not wasted here–witty dialogue and smooth interaction make for a comfortable setting that draws readers into the busy town of Crozet, Virginia and keeps them guessing until the end.

This is a novel series laced with good humor and well-structured storylines, and Pay Dirt is a fine addition to the genre.

#Book #ReviewPay #Dirt

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