Feline Fatale

A Mrs. Murphy Mystery

Hardcover

April 16, 2024 | ISBN 9780593357637

Ebook

April 16, 2024 | ISBN 9780593357644

About the Book

Politicians fight like cats and dogs, but when things take a deadly turn at the Virginia House of Delegates, Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen calls on her beloved pets to help her crack the case and stop the fur from flying in this latest mystery from Rita Mae Brown and her feline co-author Sneaky Pie Brown.

Spring flowers may be about to bloom in Crozet, Virginia, but Harry is thinking about snow. Her dear friend Ned Tucker is in the House of Delegates, advocating for a bill to improve road clearing during bad weather, and Harry and Ned’s wife, Susan, have gone down to the statehouse to support him. Tensions are high between political parties, and no one can agree on anything for long enough to get something done.

The bill’s chief detractor is the glamorous Amanda Fields, a former newscaster turned delegate whose flair for the dramatic has earned her a formidable reputation—and made her more than a few enemies. Amanda’s claws-out approach to politics might have some of her colleagues wishing she was dead, but the statehouse is rocked when one of the young pages who assists the delegates dies under mysterious circumstances.

Could his death be related to the political infighting? Or is something even more sinister threatening the lives of Virginia’s finest representatives? With help from her feline sidekicks, Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, as well as Tee Tucker the corgi and Irish Greyhound Pirate, Harry is determined to find the answers and restore order once more to the Capitol.
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Excerpt

Feline Fatale

1

A snowdrop peeked out, a little white bloom surrounded by glistening snow. Two inches fell last night. The six-petaled flower was protected by the farmhouse overhang.

Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen knelt down to examine its pristine beauty.

“Spring.” She smiled. Snow or not.

Eventually a palette of color . . . ​peach, yellow, pink shimmering purple, and subtle lavender . . . ​would fill the yard, pastures would begin to turn electric green.

“Those bulbs she planted will all come up once it’s really spring,” Tucker, the corgi, informed the Irish Wolfhound, now mostly grown but still a puppy at a year and a few months.

“She spent a lot of time digging last fall,” the handsome fellow replied. “But she can’t eat flowers. So much effort.”

“Pirate, everything doesn’t need to be food. She likes color. Fragrance. Humans are like that.”

“Oh.” The big fellow sniffed the tiny bloom while Harry watched.

The summer screened-in porch was closed in winter with wooden siding, and windows to allow light in. The animal door remained in the wooden door to the kitchen. The screen door was removed, replaced by a solid door to the outside. This, too, had an animal door.

A gray cat head pushed out the flap, but nothing else. Pewter, the large gray cat, hated the cold. “I am not getting my paws wet.”

“Who asked you to?” Tucker sniffed.

“Everything is more fun when I’m involved,” came the saucy reply.

“You are mental.” Tucker sounded authoritative, then under her breath whispered to Pirate, “Nuts.”

“Oh,” the big youngster again said.

Mrs. Murphy, the pretty tiger cat seated on the old wooden bench alongside one wall, advised Pewter, “Don’t get her started. She’s been in a mood since you snitched her dog biscuit. You don’t even like dog biscuits.”

“Was fun to hear her whine.”

“Are you talking about me?” Tucker asked.

Pewter pulled her head back in, relieved to be away from even a brief time in the cold. “Dogs aren’t worth talking about.”

Deciding she’d go into the kitchen in case Pewter decided to whap Tucker when the corgi’s face pushed through the door flap, Mrs. Murphy flicked her tail up and jumped on the kitchen table. The kitchen, warm, seemed to her the happiest room in the old white clapboard farmhouse.

Tucker, wisely fearing a slap, hung back, waiting for Harry to open the door. As she did, the corgi pressed next to her leg, Pirate behind the two of them. When the slender woman opened the kitchen door, Tucker shot inside, Pewter right behind her, a paw swinging at the tailless butt.

“Pewter, leave her alone,” Harry quietly commanded.

Leaping onto the kitchen table, the gray cat blinked, then washed her paw. “Dogs are a lower life-form. I don’t know why you bother.”

“What are you two doing on the table anyway?”

“All the better to see your pretty face,” Pewter mocked her, although Harry was pretty.

Opening a big porcelain jar on the counter under the window, Harry plucked out two kitty treats. Then she opened a cabinet door for two greenies for the dogs.

“Beggars.”

With everyone happily chewing, she flicked on her new electric teapot. In minutes she poured boiling water over a tea ball filled with loose orange pekoe tea. The aroma lifted her spirits.

Sitting down, she got up again to grab a paper napkin. Linen was so much better, but then you had to wash them.

“Off.” She slid the paper out from under Pewter’s considerable butt.

“I was going to read it,” the cat protested.

“You were going to shred it.” Mrs. Murphy wiped her mouth.

“What’s the difference?” the cat protested.

“I like the pictures.” Mrs. Murphy observed a full-page ad on the back of the paper for Jaeger-LeCoutre, a watch designed in the 1930s for horsemen so they could flip the watch face over, protecting the crystal while they rode or played polo.

“Watches are a waste of money,” Pewter announced. “Look at the sun.”

“What if it’s cloudy?” Pirate sensibly said.

“People pay too much attention to time. It’s not,” the cat thought for a moment, “natural.”

Mrs. Murphy picked at a few crumbs that had fallen while she ate her treat. “Pewter, there isn’t much about human life that is natural. Our mom and dad live closer to real things than most humans. She’ll finish the paper, look at the wall clock, worry about the time, and go get ready to leave.”

Tucker, half a greenie still in her mouth, dropped it but put her paw on it. You never know. “No fur. That had to be the start of it.”

“Some of them have lots of fur.” Mrs. Murphy giggled. “Remember the badminton party they had last summer? Got hot. Some of the men took their shirts off. But I don’t see how that bit of fur can keep them warm. Maybe Tucker is right.”

“I am,” came the forthright answer. “Furthermore, they can’t smell but so much. Their hearing isn’t sharp. They miss a lot. I love our humans no matter what but they are easy prey. They can’t climb a tree like you cats. No claws. Okay, I can’t either, but I have a terrific sense of smell, a golden nose, and I run fast. They are really slow.”

“Their eyes are good.” Mrs. Murphy tried to find advantages.

“Can’t see in the dark.” Pewter really wanted another treat so she patted the newspaper page.

Harry shook the page. “I’m reading.”

“You can’t see in the dark. Big deal, reading,” Pewter huffed. “I’m hungry.”

“We had breakfast. I don’t think she’s going to get up and hand out more goodies,” the small dog predicted.

“Right,” the tiger cat agreed.

Sipping her perfect cup of tea, Harry wondered at the write-up of the county commissioner’s meeting. A contentious issue was whether to sell county-owned land to developers. No details were provided, so it seemed like a rhetorical issue. Then again, the county was growing, facing more demands than before. She then flipped to reading about what was going on in Richmond, seat of the state government. She slapped the paper down.

“Can’t anyone agree on anything?” Looking at the clock she gulped the last of her tea, repairing to the bathroom to smack on a bit of makeup.

“She’s fooling with her face.” Pewter thought it funny when Harry drew the mascara brush over her upper eyelids. Once Pewter had jumped on the sink to bump Harry’s arm. Harry had a big black dot of mascara on the side of her eye. Curses followed.

“Maybe Tucker is right. No fur. They have to buy fur or something.” Mrs. Murphy pondered this from the bed where she now reposed.

The dogs, in the kitchen, were already asleep. Nothing like a morning nap after breakfast to start the day.

As the cats talked, Harry emerged from the bathroom, flipped through her closet, and picked out a long tartan skirt. Then she opened drawers, finally settling on a dark green turtleneck sweater.

“Have no idea how warm or cold the statehouse is.”

“A shawl will take care of that.” The tiger cat had studied clothing.

As if understanding her much-loved cat, Harry walked back to the closet, snatching the shawl off a sturdy hanger.

After putting her clothes on she checked herself in the mirror. “Well, I’ve looked better, but I’ve also looked worse.”

“You look fine,” Pewter reassured her. “Now can I have a treat?”

“Ha.” Murphy laughed.

“Worth a try. Maybe I’ll rub on her leg.”

Pewter didn’t get the chance, because Harry pulled on her hunting boots. Given the cold, she would wear two pair of socks. Anything to help keep her feet warm. The long skirt reached the top of the boots. It was a good look, particularly in cold weather.

Back in the kitchen, she opened a drawer, pulling out a thin notebook plus a ballpoint pen. Slipping these in her winter coat, she again checked the clock. Almost eight-thirty. Just in case she and Susan, her best friend, had to walk far to get into the statehouse in Richmond, she would take her winter coat. Filled with man-made insulating stuff, it wasn’t fat like goose down, but the five-year-old Eddie Bauer kept her warm, plus she had the shawl and her sweater. She hoped she wouldn’t need to bring the coat into the statehouse.

“Susan.” Tucker woke up hearing the tire tread about a quarter of a mile away.

The cats, back in the kitchen, and Pirate, looked at the door.

“She doesn’t hear it yet,” Pewter remarked. “Plus she won’t know it’s Susan’s tires.”

“She’ll know it’s Susan because she’s expecting her,” Pirate chimed in.

Mrs. Murphy Series

Feline Fatale
Hiss & Tell
Claws for Alarm
Furmidable Foes
Whiskers in the Dark
Probable Claws
A Hiss Before Dying
Tall Tail
Tail Gait
Nine Lives to Die
View more

About the Author

Rita Mae Brown
Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of the Sneaky Pie Brown series; the Sister Jane series; the Runnymede novels, including Six of One and Cakewalk; A Nose for Justice and Murder Unleashed; Rubyfruit Jungle; In Her Day; and many other books. An Emmy-nominated screenwriter and a poet, Brown lives in Afton, Virginia, and is a Master of Foxhounds and the huntsman.
 
To inquire about booking Rita Mae Brown for a speaking engagement, please contact the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau at speakers@penguinrandomhouse.com. More by Rita Mae Brown
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