Whisker of Evil
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
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
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 on January 24, 2011