Two modern murders with ties to the 18th century excite the interest of a Virginian busybody and her animal friends, though perhaps not many others.
First, Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen’s beloved pets—cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, along with their much maligned corgi companion, Tee Tucker—are on the prowl near their farm in Crozet when they see an eagle flying overhead with a strip of skin and a human eyeball dangling from its talons. Next up is Deputy Cynthia Cooper, who responds to a call about a running transport vehicle with the keys still in the ignition. The missing driver turns up dead and wedged beneath a rock, with half his face torn off and no eye. Then the Waldingfield Beagles, a pack of hunting dogs on a horseless, kill-free hunt, find the body of an African-American investigator with an 18th-century brass chit—a slave pass from one of the area’s former plantation owners, Ewing Garth. As the narrative alternates between the earlier century, including Garth, his family, his “people” (delicacy prevents the Garths from calling them slaves), and his neighbors, and the 20th-century citizens of Albermarle County, more questions arise about what the late private eye was investigating, who robbed a high-end shop of Native American artifacts, who disturbed the graves of an 18th-century couple, and who’s taking potshots at the ever curious Harry. The plot inches forward amid debates about currency in the 18th century and modern lessons about Virginia history and discussions of golf, along with commentary from Mrs. Murphy and friends. A couple of tacked-on resolutions will provide small satisfaction to genre fans.
This 27th meandering cozy from Brown and her feline co-author (Tall Tail, 2016, etc.) is cluttered with too many characters too sketchily drawn. Loyal fans may be chagrined to see the franchise menagerie reduced to little more than a furry Greek chorus.