At the top of Afton Mountain, at the Carmelite Greyfriar monastery,
a statue of the Virgin Mary is crying tears of blood. Some of those
in the nearby town of Crozet, Virginia believe it to be a
heaven-sent miracle while others are skeptical. But everyone is
talking. Things on the mountain get even more interesting when
kindly old Brother Thomas is found dead, kneeling in the snow in
front of the statue. Did he die of a heart attack during prayers?
Or is this a case of foul play?
So begins CAT'S EYEWITNESS, the latest "Mrs. Murphy" mystery by
Rita Mae Brown and her fabulous feline co-author, Sneaky Pie Brown.
Brown's intrepid heroine Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen is back,
along with her animal companions, cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter and
corgi Tee Tucker. Harry thinks that the crying statue is a hoax and
Brother Thomas's death anything but natural. And when local
television reporter Nordy Elliot also turns up dead, she cannot
help but get involved in solving what she thinks are related
Brown's writing style is simple and straightforward, and her
characters are, for the most part, too good to be true. Despite its
murders and mid-life crises, Crozet's citizens are an enviable lot.
In fact, there is even a resident movie star. This is a fun
fireside-type read; a winter whodunit to enjoy on a long, cold
Of course, most characteristic of Brown --- and fairly unique in
adult fiction --- are the talking animals. The dogs and cats, and
even birds, mice and possum all have something to say. The animals
are a bit like a Greek chorus --- restating themes, adding
important bits of information and helping to move the story along.
Plus, they are interesting and more developed than many other
characters in the story.
With the two deaths (and one missing corpse), a marriage proposal
from her ex-husband, her best friends' extreme stress, a snowy
winter, financial problems and career issues --- not to mention
Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching --- Harry has her hands
full. Actually, the murders and bleeding statue are almost
secondary here. They give the characters something to talk about
and rally around. But it is the characters themselves who are the
real story. Here we have a glimpse into a small southern town, a
close-knit community where, despite violent and traumatic tragedy,
people are essentially good, honest and trustworthy.
CAT'S EYEWITNESS is not overly complicated or even too complicated.
It is an old-fashioned mystery full of good characters and smart
critters. And there is just enough romance and quite a bit of
religion to make the story well-rounded. It is easy to see why
Brown's original mysteries are bestsellers.
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on December 26, 2010