Cat got your typewriter: Rita Mae Brown’s Mrs Murphy Mysteries

Not drawn by M GellatlyAccording to the cover, the Mrs Murphy series is written by Rita Mae Brown and her cat, Sneaky Pie Brown. Inside most books you’ll find a note from Sneaky Pie herself asserting that she is the author. This clever feline has, with the help of her human, written 18 books to date in this quirky series. She’s a dab paw with a typewriter.

Heroine Mrs Murphy is a tabby (or tiger cat as she is described in the books, tiger cat apparently being American for tabby). She’s assisted in her crime-solving by corgi Tee Tucker and grey cat Pewter (aka the grey cannonball as Pewter is ruled by her ever-hungry stomach).

Because this is a cat’s fantasy series, for want of a better description, the animals’ conversations are reported in English and these clever beasties can also read and do many other things you don’t even want to think of your cat doing. Cats are pretty smart anyway. Would you want a cat who could read? You’d never hear the end of it! 🙂

The series is set in Virginia in the present day, and the animals assist human heroine Mary Minor (aka Harry) Haristeen out of trouble; murder trouble, with Harry generally finding herself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The cats and dogs are the true crime-solving heroes and heroines, often taking on the villain with tooth and claw. I wonder that their owner Harry doesn’t get sued by the victims!

They are well thought out mysteries, laugh out loud funny, beautifully improbable and highly entertaining. The books are illustrated with line drawings of the animals. Out of the artists who have provided the drawings I prefer the superbly talented Michael Gellatly’s delicate and realistic work.

The human characters grow with the series, and Harry newly divorced in book one, falls in love again with her ex-husband over the series until they remarry. Supporting characters – and there are several regulars – also grow and develop. However, each book can be read independently of another. Heroine Harry changes careers from postmistress to full-time farmer through the series; she’s a very energetic person and I almost feel guilty relaxing with one of these books as her days are long and full – this woman doesn’t seem to ever rest!

If you think you’re going to be reading a childish series full of talking animals, think again. These books are for adults, and adults with a broad sense of humour and fun at that. Um… children’s books do not feature felines with a propensity for profanity: “Give me that back, you striped asshole!”

Much as I have loved devouring this series (rather like Pewter with a ton of tuna in front of her), Rita Mae …er, Sneaky Pie … has a rather annoying way of pointing out the bleeding obvious to those among her readership who may not be particularly savvy or able to put two and two together with a degree of accuracy. This is an example: The conversation is between two characters is about horses and racing…

“She came within a hair of taking the Colonial Cup.” Fair cited a famous steeplechase race. (Sour Puss, 2006)

I think any reader who’d made it to page 113 in a book that also has a horsey flavour to it would have worked out for themselves that the Colonial Cup is a race. Characters “cite”,”name” or “state” an explanation several times in each book. It’s the only downside to this series of ‘cozy’ mysteries with an edge all its own.

Overall, if you have imagination, a sense of humour, and a love of animals, I suggest you give this series a try. You can buy the first book of the series as an e-book on Amazon. Until recently the second was also available electronically. Owing to limited space in my bookshelves and limited funds in my bank account I sincerely wish the entire series had been available as e-books.

You may find a review of some of the books on this series here in the future – I’m sure I won’t be able to resist.

(Thanks to my lovely friend Genevieve for putting me onto this series!)

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