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Mrs. Murphy #26

A Hiss Before Dying

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Rita Mae Brown and her feline co-author Sneaky Pie Brown are back chasing mystery with their unique circle of Southern sleuths. And though the changing colors of fall are a beauty to behold, this year the scattered leaves hide a grim surprise.

Autumn is in the air in the Blue Ridge Mountain community of Crozet, Virginia--and all the traditions of the changing seasons are under way. Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen cleans her cupboards, her husband, Fair, prepares the horses for the shorter days ahead, and the clamorous barking of beagles signals the annual rabbit chase through the central Virginia hills. But the last thing the local beaglers and their hounds expect to flush out is a dead body.

Disturbingly, it's the second corpse to turn up, after that of a missing truck driver too disfigured to identify. The deaths seem unrelated--until Harry picks up a trail of clues dating back to the state's post-Revolutionary past.

The echoes of the Shot Heard Round the World pale in comparison to the dangerous shootout Harry narrowly escapes unscathed. Next time, it may be the killer who gets lucky. But not if Harry's furry friends Mrs. Murphy, Pewter, and Tucker can help it. Lending their sharp-nosed talents to the hunt, they'll help their mistress keep more lives from being lost--and right an injustice buried since the early days of America's independence.

"As feline collaborators go, you couldn't ask for better than Sneaky Pie Brown."--The New York Times Book Review

359 pages, Hardcover

First published May 30, 2017

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About the author

Rita Mae Brown

122 books1,945 followers
Rita Mae Brown is a prolific American writer, most known for her mysteries and other novels (Rubyfruit Jungle). She is also an Emmy-nominated screenwriter.

Brown was born illegitimate in Hanover, Pennsylvania. She was raised by her biological mother's female cousin and the cousin's husband in York, Pennsylvania and later in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Starting in the fall of 1962, Brown attended the University of Florida at Gainesville on a scholarship. In the spring of 1964, the administrators of the racially segregated university expelled her for participating in the civil rights movement. She subsequently enrolled at Broward Community College[3] with the hope of transferring eventually to a more tolerant four-year institution.

Between fall 1964 and 1969, she lived in New York City, sometimes homeless, while attending New York University[6] where she received a degree in Classics and English. Later,[when?] she received another degree in cinematography from the New York School of Visual Arts.[citation needed] Brown received a Ph.D. in literature from Union Institute & University in 1976 and holds a doctorate in political science from the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C.

Starting in 1973, Brown lived in the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles. In 1977, she bought a farm in Charlottesville, Virginia where she still lives.[9] In 1982, a screenplay Brown wrote while living in Los Angeles, Sleepless Nights, was retitled The Slumber Party Massacre and given a limited release theatrically.

During Brown's spring 1964 semester at the University of Florida at Gainesville, she became active in the American Civil Rights Movement. Later in the 1960s, she participated in the anti-war movement, the feminist movement and the Gay Liberation movement.

Brown took an administrative position with the fledgling National Organization for Women, but resigned in January 1970 over Betty Friedan's anti-gay remarks and NOW's attempts to distance itself from lesbian organizations. She claims she played a leading role in the "Lavender Menace" zap of the Second Congress to Unite Women on May 1, 1970, which protested Friedan's remarks and the exclusion of lesbians from the women's movement.

In the early 1970s, she became a founding member of The Furies Collective, a lesbian feminist newspaper collective in Washington, DC, which held that heterosexuality was the root of all oppression.

Brown told Time magazine in 2008, "I don't believe in straight or gay. I really don't. I think we're all degrees of bisexual. There may be a few people on the extreme if it's a bell curve who really truly are gay or really truly are straight. Because nobody had ever said these things and used their real name, I suddenly became [in the late 1970s] the only lesbian in America."

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 194 reviews
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,393 reviews4,903 followers
July 23, 2021

In this 26th book in the 'Mrs. Murphy' series, farmer/amateur sleuth Harry Haristeen becomes involved in the investigation of two deaths.

As usual, Harry's 'talking pets' - the cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter and the corgi Tucker - add their comments to the story.

The book can be read as a standalone.


Harry Haristeen, a lifelong resident of Crozet - in Albemarle County, Virginia - has a lot going on.

She's married to a large animal veterinarian; she takes care of her farm and horses; she's on a committee to preserve Virginia wildlife; she's in charge of buildings and preservation at St. Luke's Church; and she pokes into homicides being investigated by her friend, Deputy Sheriff Cynthia Cooper.

Harry's fur babies, Mrs. Murphy, Pewter, and Tucker, accompany Harry everywhere, discuss her activities, and sometimes find clues to murders being probed. Unfortunately the animals can't communicate this to people, which frustrates them greatly.

The story opens when Harry's pets observe an eagle flying off with an eyeball hanging from it's beak. Soon afterward Deputy Sheriff Cooper gets a call about an abandoned car-hauler - a truck that transports automobiles around the country. The vehicle is found on the side of the road, with no driver in sight.

When the driver is discovered, he's dead, and one of his eyeball's is missing. It looks like death by misadventure, but murder can't be ruled out.

Soon afterwards, another body is discovered, with two bullet holes in the back. This time it's clearly murder, and the victim is an African-American man wearing a slave tag on a chain. The historic tag, which has the plantation name and a number, would have been carried by a slave out and about doing the master's bidding.

The dead Black man is identified as a private detective, but his business is unknown.....as is his possible connection to the dead truck driver.

While these deaths are being investigated, there's a burglary at a Crozet shop that sells Native American garb adorned with fur/feathers from endangered species.

The use of endangered species is illegal, but Indians get special dispensation for religious reasons. Additionally, someone is setting traps for animals whose body parts are sold as aphrodisiacs and the like.

While Harry and her friends discuss the felonious occurrences in Crozet, Harry speculates that the dead men may be connected with the trade in illegal animal parts. Soon afterwards, someone starts shooting at Harry as she drives around in her truck.

The investigation into the current crimes in Crozet alternates with scenes set in the 1780s, a decade after the Revolutionary War. The newly independent colonies are rivals for trade and commerce, can't get their currency aligned, and have different attitudes about slavery. All this is the subject of discussion among local Virginians, so the reader gets a little lesson in American history.

Historic Albemarle County has two large plantations, one owned by newly widowed (and re-married) Maureen Selise Holloway - a cruel, vain woman who mistreats her slaves;

and one run by Ewing Garth and his married daughters, who are kindly slave owners.

(I'm uncomfortable with the author's somewhat rosy-ish depiction of the slave-owning Garth family - which has nothing but the slaves' best interests at heart. Really?? I suspect the author's loyalty to Virginia influenced the writing.)

In the chapters set in the old days, a young kitchen slave named Mignon, who belongs to brutal Maureen, is unfairly accused of stealing jewelry and runs away.

A bounty is put on Mignon's head, and she lives in fear of being discovered.

This drives much of the historic action, and - in the end - connects the past and present in an ingenious way.

Author Rita Mae Brown

As in her other recent books, Rita Mae Brown injects her personal politics, opinions, and interests into the story by way of discussions among the characters. Thus we read about the need for a profit-making economy; politicians serving their own self-interests; the welfare of wild creatures; correct farming practices; restoration of slave schools; art forgery; church renovation; southern manners; and more.

In truth, this really isn't much of a mystery, but more a book about central Virginia then and now. Still, I'd recommend the book to fans of the Mrs. Murphy series and/or historic novels.

You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Rickie Budnek.
3 reviews
March 22, 2017
The story in the present time is good, but I am getting really tired of paying money to read about my favorite characters, only to find them in half the book. The other half is history that takes place more than a hundred years ago. I want the books to go back to my favorite characters. The author may be tired of them, but I am not.
Profile Image for Juli.
1,899 reviews491 followers
June 2, 2017
I have been a fan of the Mrs. Murphy series by Rita Mae Brown (with the assistance of Sneaky Pie Brown) since the very beginning when Mary Minor "Harry'' Harristeen was the postmaster of Crozet, Virginia and took her lovely pets to work with her at the post office. The series now has 26 books! Alas, I have not read all of them.....life got in the way and somewhere back just after Harry remarried her ex-husband Fair (the local vet) I lost track of the series. Now that I'm a bit older (just how old I refuse to admit discuss lol) and no longer have little ones getting in to everything, I have more time to read. I've come back to one of my most favorite mystery series! When I saw this newest book as available for review, I jumped right on it! I wanted to know just what Harry, Fair, Mrs. Murphy, Tee Tucker, Pewter, Boom Boom and all the other lovely folks in Crozet have been up to in my absence.

A Hiss Before Dying is a mystery within a mystery. Two men are murdered in present day Crozet. One of the men had just purchased a bronze slave pass medallion dating from the post-revolution era in Virginia. That medallion ties in with events that occurred in the 1780s. The story switches back and forth between present and past. At first it was a bit difficult keeping the characters straight with all the switching back and forth, but luckily the author included a list of all the characters in the front of the book. When I got confused about who was who in the post-revolutionary story line, I just paged back to the list and got a reminder.

While I'm not normally a big fan of stories that jump back and forth in time, I enjoyed the double-mystery. I didn't know what a slave pass (or chit) was and I found the historical information the author provided to be very interesting. The story is well-written and paced. I enjoyed how the two mysteries intertwined. The antics of Harry's furry pals are still much the same as earlier in the series, adding a bit of humor and animal wisdom to the story. Harry is still her pragmatic, hard-working, spunky self, surrounded by a cast of friends and citizens of Crozet who make these stories so enjoyable. I definitely need to backtrack a bit and read the books in the series that I missed. All 11 of them! :) I have a lot of reading to do!

It really isn't necessary to read the other books before this one. It's enough of a stand-alone story that a reader could jump in at book 26 and still enjoy the story. The series is great though, so I highly recommend reading the earlier books.

Rita Mae Brown is the author of many books including Rubyfruit Jungle and the Sister Jane series. For more information on the author and her books, check out her website: http://www.ritamaebrownbooks.com/

**I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book from Random House Publishing via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**

657 reviews
July 23, 2017
It had been some time since I'd read a book by Rita Mae Brown. When I saw this title, it was like seeing an old friend who I had missed and was happy to spend time with. Since it has been so long, I don't know if the author had changed her methodology in more recent books, but loved that the story wove back and forth between present day and the late 18th century. It was easy to read, but kept me wondering how the two stories would finally come together. Although I tend to think of Rita Mae Brown as a mystery writer, I think we can add historical fiction to her list of genres.

There were references in the book to historical fiction. I had finished shortly before a work by Philippa Gregory! Harry says, "Some people have the knack of making history come to life. Academics are snotty about historical fiction. I think it's a great way to learn." I agree completely! For example, even though I lived in Charlottesville for over 5 years, I had never given much thought to the reason for the name of Barracks Rd. In this book I learned that during the Revolutionary War, British prisoners were held there in the Albemarle Barracks. And I believe that Rita Mae Brown is one of those people who has a "knack of making history come to life."

Her characters from the 18th c. are well developed. I feel like if I met any of them, I would know them instantly. The recurring characters are all old friends. The relationships between characters went perfectly with the personalities.

I am happy that the animals still communicate with each other and the wild animals that appear in the story line. I do wish that the cats weren't such smarty-pants, but I guess that is just the nature of cats.
Profile Image for Susan.
1,561 reviews12 followers
May 15, 2017
I have read all of the Sneaky Pie mysteries and, overall, have enjoyed every one - some more than others. I still do enjoy the characters of the present day mysteries - Harry and all of her friends, family and assorted pets. Yes, I also like learning American history. However, I am not really enjoying her new formula with these last books, that of two stories alternating chapters. Honestly, I want one or the other. It's confusing and, as a reader of her stories from the very first book, those are the stories I want to read. Having said that, I will add that this mystery can be read as a stand alone and both periods are good mysteries. I just would rather she would write either contemporary or historical mysteries.
My thanks to the publisher, Bantam and to NetGalley for an advance review copy in return for my honest review.
Profile Image for Jeimy.
4,733 reviews32 followers
June 20, 2017
I have to say this is not what I expected. The animals are a contrived idea and they do not contribute anything to the solving of the mystery. As for the plot, at first I thought that the interwoven plot lines could have stood alone. Upon reflection I see that it is the hasty ending that makes it seem like so.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the ride and I am not entirely convinced I will not give Brown another shot in the future.
824 reviews11 followers
June 13, 2018
Not my favorite. Too much history. I like history, but not the back and forth. Not enough from the main characters. I also missed the antics of all the animals.😩😩
Profile Image for Clare O'Beara.
Author 21 books345 followers
June 19, 2017
Looking at history of Virginia and the life of slaves, as interludes between modern day crime solving. The two periods are interlinked by tokens such as a slave pass which a slave could use to leave the plantation on an errand.

We meet Harry and her cats and dog, and many of the usual cast of locals. I always enjoy the animals and chatter and the friendship of local people. We see much of the countryside in autumn.
I was less interested in the past section which, though well realised, felt like padding at times. But well done for looking at history bravely.

I downloaded an ARC from Net Galley. This is an unbiased review.
Profile Image for Drebbles.
625 reviews8 followers
July 18, 2017
It is autumn 2016 and in Crozet Virginia people are beginning to prep for the long winter ahead. Mary Minor “Harry” Harristeen certainly has enough chores to do as well as her work on various committees but Harry being Harry, she can't help getting involved when not one but two bodies turn up. Harry thinks the deaths may be related but how? In 1785 Virginia it is winter and folks are just trying to make it through - both slaves and their owners. Life is not easy, especially for the slaves who work for Maureen Selise at Big Rawly. Maureen is always losing slaves - the latest is Mignon who may have stolen some of Maureen's jewelry. Little does anyone realize that events in the past will influence events in the present day.

I admit I always approach a new Rita Mae Brown book with a bit of trepidation. I love her characters - Harry, Fair, the rest of the humans, as well as Harry’s pets Mrs. Murphy, Tucker, and Pewter - but I dislike the preachiness the creeps into each book. I have also had mixed feelings about the Revolutionary War flashbacks that have been in her last few books along with the modern mystery.

To my surprise and delight I really enjoyed “A Hiss Before Dying”. Yes, the preachiness is there - particularly in the current day story and solution to that mystery - but it didn't overshadow the book like it has in other books in the series. Brown does an excellent job of writing both the Revolutionary war storyline and current storyline. If I did have to pick a favorite of the two, I would pick the Revolutionary war storyline. Readers have followed several characters throughout the past few books in the series and I have mostly enjoyed the storylines. Brown manages to let us realize how awful slavery was without getting preachy about it. I don't know if this is the last book that will feature flashbacks to the Revolutionary War but if it is Brown did an excellent job of wrapping up the story arc and this may be one of the rare times that I have clapped for a murderer! Unfortunately, Brown does not do as neat a job of wrapping up the modern storyline. This is deliberate not sloppy writing but, while I realize not everything in real life is tied up neatly, I want more closure when reading this type of mystery.

“A Hiss Before Dying” is not perfect but for the most part I really enjoyed it.

927 reviews8 followers
August 23, 2017
In 1933 the first Welsh Corgis were brought to the United States by American breeder Mrs Lewis Roesler (from Wikipedia) which means there wasn't one in the US in the 18th century. The other problem I have with this is the total tin ear or insensitivity Brown displays when she discusses the slave "chits" (they were like a dog tag that showed your owner) used to identify slaves that had permission to leave their plantation on an errand for their owner. I've always thought that Brown has a black deputy sheriff in her stories just to show how open-minded she is and this books proves she isn't. She has an African-American woman say she doesn't have any problem with white people wearing one of the chits. I think that if you asked any black person if they think it's ok for a white person to wear a slave's chit as jewelry they wouldn't like it. As a white person I find it offensive. She also has the owners and slaves socializing together as they have a birthday party for one of the slaves- another example of the sugar-coating of slavery by a southerner.

This book continues the dual story line of Tall Tail with Harry in the present and Garths etc. in the 18th century. I see no reason for the 2 stories being together in this one since there is no connection between the two except for a finding in the present at the very end.
Profile Image for Mary Ann.
1,756 reviews
September 15, 2018
Issues with this book:

1. Breast Cancer run in April - usually held in October as that is the pink ribbon month.

2. Have surgery and starts doing weighted lifting before 6 weeks have passed.

3. All the radiation treatments so close together (I have a friend who just did these).

On the whole, the book was fun, but I had so many issues that I had to just ignore them and let the book move on. I felt like the book was going over 6 to 8 weeks, but it was all taking place in 8 days. It just was not a good timeline. I liked that it dealt with cancer and the aftermath, but in order to move the book along, she shortened how long everything took and made it hard to believe that they were dealing with one of their own battling cancer.

The story was okay but was unrealistic for the timeline.
Profile Image for Debbie Maskus.
1,398 reviews14 followers
June 15, 2017
Sneaky Pie' s editing shows that cats can make mistakes, such as the sentence "an elderly men". In whole the book presented many facets of life in Virginia through the eyes of animals and the people. I love the adage the "idle hands do the Devil's work." The lack of a centralized currency shows one of the many problems facing the "new" United States. No matter what, greed and cunning dominate the quest to control. I felt that the animals talked too often, and I missed hearing from their humans. I enjoyed the alternating chapters set in current times and in 1786. The illustrations by Michael Gellatly enhanced the story.
Profile Image for Joy Smith.
Author 19 books38 followers
June 16, 2017
This is the second of her recent mysteries that include historical segments. (I haven't read the first one, and I don't recall the title.) I preferred the current storyline with Harry and her companions. (I confess that I skimmed some of the historical interludes.) Lots of background about slavery, politics, and the environment; but I love most the interplay between Tucker and the cats, the hounds, and the wildlife. Exciting climax, and I appreciated the wrap up on the plantations and back in the current time (Afterword). Be sure to read the notes at the end from Pewter, Sneaky Pie, Tucker (love that Corgi), and Rita Mae.
Profile Image for Randee.
849 reviews32 followers
March 18, 2019
My 26th Mrs. Murphy and only one more to go before I am current and caught up with this wonderful series! I have come to like the dual stories that have recently begun to appear in the most recent Mrs. Murphy's. The story of the 1700's families have grown interesting in their little piece of Americana they impart about those days. As usual, there were lots of fun with Pewter and Tucker fighting with each other. I hope Rita Mae Brown continues to write them for many more years. I know there is a new one coming out this May, so hopefully the fans will not have to wait much more than a year to have more adventures of the animals and their companions!!
September 10, 2018

I am a big Rita Mae Brown fan but this book tried to include too much in it. It was confusing at times in its attempt to merge history with the present day. This was a bit disappointing.
Profile Image for Carol.
702 reviews13 followers
June 20, 2017
I'm not really a fan of the split timeline books. There's too many characters and plot lines, and I didn't see much connection between the two stories. I'd rather read about more of the present-day characters from the earlier books who seem to have disappeared in these later books. What's happening with Miranda, Big Mim, Little Mim, and others that I remember? Even Harry's animals had smaller parts this time, mainly spats between Pewter and Tucker.
Profile Image for Caramelia.
47 reviews
June 27, 2017
This is the second book in the Mrs. Murphy series which alternates between present time and long long ago. I don't enjoy those time jumps, I don't enjoy the storyline about the slaves and their (mis)treatment.

When I pick up a Mrs. Murphy book, I want to read about Harry, Faith, their animals, their friends and a well written present day mystery.

I don't want to read about some historical stuff which happens to cause some bad things today, but is finished off in a way I can't even remember the conclusion a week after finishing the book.

If this way of writing continues, I won't be picking up any more of the books in the series.
Profile Image for Ann.
5,291 reviews62 followers
March 25, 2017
This is a long running series with animals narrating the story. Usually a murder to solve has Sneaky Pie and her friends helping Mary solve the case. The last couple of books in this series have been using the duel timeline which is not my favorite style of reading. Set in the Blueridge mountains the story is always good and animal lovers will enjoy the cats, dogs, horses and wild animals interacting. Rita Mae Brown also writes the Sister Jane books which share the animal interaction.
Profile Image for Brenda Freeman.
792 reviews9 followers
March 3, 2017
Two mysteries in one. Always enjoy the animal perspectives in this series.
Profile Image for Lynn Hayward-Bisbee.
161 reviews2 followers
September 6, 2020
So difficult to give a review of this book as it was with the previous two. I have been a fan of Rita Mae Brown and her Sneaky Pie series since the very beginning and I love them for all the usual reasons given by readers: I love the characters, the setting, but most of all, the animals and their take on the world. Being an animal lover and living in the country myself, the best things about these novels has always been the humans' interaction with the animals.

However, in this novel as well as the last two, the author seems to be taking a different approach to writing this series. She has included an alternate time line in the eighteenth century and a complete new mystery, new characters and animals in that one. Therefore, the book really entails two books in one and two complete mysteries in one. I suppose the author would say that the two timelines are necessary and that the reader can find clues in the eighteenth century timeline to help solve the mystery in the current century. I find this to be only minimally correct and pretty much altogether unnecessary in most instances.

I actually do love history and grew up in a household where my father was a military officer, but a lover of history and geography and after retirement, he spent many years teaching the same in various universities. As a child, I couldn't go on a trip anywhere with him without him giving a history lesson. BUT, history is NOT the reason I read Mrs. Murphy mysteries and I am really missing the animals in these current novels.

Furthermore, Ms. Brown's books have gotten all too political. Ironically, even though I don't like reading the constant pontificating of the characters, I do agree with most of their politics. It's just that reading political views and history is not the reason I loved the quirky characters in Mrs. Murphy books. Especially in this time period, there are plenty political books I can pick up and read--and have--without missing one of my favorite mystery series.

I always enjoy the way she describes the south, the people and customs. She really gets the "nail on the head" and is even spot on about how most Southerners (stereotype, yes) feel about Northerners. I have lived in Virginia and in South Carolina during my husband's and my career and definitely experienced those views as we are actually Yankees. So, it is always with a smile that I read the statements that sometimes flow about we northerners. Funny.

Once I saw that this book too was going to be in two timelines (and I have not now nor will ever be a fan of going back and forth in timelines in a book EXCEPT for the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon), I didn't even read the eighteenth century part of the book. I skimmed a very, very little and mostly in the last chapter of the eighteenth century bit and by the last chapter of the entire novel, I understood from that very little bit what the connection was between the two centuries. But, I didn't even read that entire timeline. So what does it say that I get to the end of this novel and the synopsis makes sense and I don't feel like I have missed absolutely anything? What it say to me is that there were about 150 pages too many in this novel and the other timeline was completely unnecessary other than the fact that Rita Mae Brown has decided she likes to add this history in her books. (I do appreciate all the time it must have taken her to do research to add this history.)

I've read the reviews and feelings appear to be absolutely split on her last three novels. Either the reader loves having all the history, politics and two timelines in the novels or the reader is not a fan. Count me as not a fan. In fact, I am so discouraged after reading this one because I want to read all of this series, but I just don't think I can carry on reading two timelines. And, unfortunately, since I'm reading these books in 2020 during the most divisive United States in history, perhaps I am just not interested in reading anymore politics. I miss the antics of Tucker, Pewter, and Mrs. Murphy. I miss the relationships between Harry and all her friends, without the politics. I just don't know if I can stomach the next novel.
Profile Image for Jeanie.
1,201 reviews1 follower
May 30, 2017
It is always a pleasure to open a new Mrs. Murphy mystery! A Hiss Before Dying is exciting, a charming blend of 18th and 21st century Crozet, plantations and farms, slaves and hired hands. We meet many 18th century people while enjoying the ‘regulars’ – Harry and Fair, Susan and Ned, Reverend Jones, and Mrs. Hoggendobber, and of course, Mrs. Murphy, Pewter, and Tee Tucker.

Mignon, a young slave, runs away in 1786. How will her story and resulting actions effect Harry and her friends today? Of the two plantations we visit, one family cares about their slaves and treats them well while the other allows even the head female slave to browbeat and betray those she doesn’t like. Her disappearance will affect Reverend Jones and friends in present-day Virginia. There is also a talented young horseman who will go far; he also leaves a footprint on future generations.

Murder and mayhem are afoot in Crozet, Virginia as truck driver who died mysteriously and the body of a murdered man are discovered a few days apart. Harry, best friend Susan, and other long-time friends seek solutions to local wildlife conservancy. Harry, notorious for getting involved with mysteries in the past tries hard to keep her curiosity at bay, somewhat satisfied with hearing what morsels their deputy friend, Cynthia aka Coop, can share. A robbery occurs, then Harry begins to catch bullets when she isn’t looking for them. Minding one’s business can be just as dangerous! I miss her sleuthing adventures, yet I see even more depth to her in this novel than in previous ones.

Harry, Fair, Susan, and Reverend Jones are the most well-defined in the mystery; many characters are or become three-dimensional as the novel progresses. Even some of the new people from 1786 become well-known, people who this reader appreciated and enjoyed. They would be fascinating to follow through changes in legislation and the Civil War years.

It is a delight to see sketches throughout, especially those of our furry friends. The history of Virginia and various aspects of government and wildlife management will delight those who appreciate the time line. Learning about lifestyles of those in the post-Revolutionary War era is enlightening. Even hearing the creatures communicate (or bicker) adds to the tale. One historical item this reader noted is that in the West family (1700’s) attending St. Luke’s Lutheran because of Charles’ designs for the new church, then studied about Martin Luther and his beliefs and joined the church; it is interesting as this novel is published in a special anniversary year.

There is so much to enjoy in this mystery! At times it seems like a new series as we go between the two centuries and see Virginia during the early days of our nation. It is sure to be enjoyed by those who love historical fiction, well-researched and relayed with fabulous descriptions allowing the reader to feel a part of the action in either century. Rita Mae Brown has outdone herself by keeping the series fresh and exciting with beloved characters and pets integrated with history and its mysteries. The bad guy(s)/ gals(s) are difficult to determine, one of whom was a complete surprise as Harry and Coop face the explosive denouement. The ending satisfying, and as others in the series, totally leaving me looking forward to the next. Love and highly recommend it!

From a grateful heart: I received this eBook from the publisher and NetGalley and this is my honest review.
Profile Image for Judie.
728 reviews17 followers
June 15, 2017
Fans of Mary Haristeen (Harry), her family and friends, and her animals–cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and Corgi Tee Tucker–will find all of them up to their usual activities in A HISS BEFORE DYING, the twenty seventh in the Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown series. She adds people and pets who lived in the same Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia locale in 1785. At the beginning of the book, here is a list of main characters, human and animal, divided by time and location.
The plot of the 2016 story begins with the discovery of two bodies, at different times: A automobile transport driver who left his running truck on the road and disappeared and an unidentified man in a hoodie. The investigation quickly turns to protecting the environment and animals.
The 1785 story’s main plot is about slavery and its effects on the people involved, both free and slaves.
A HISS BEFORE DYING alternates between the two stories with seemingly no connection except the location. It eventually does converge briefly. Merging their stories doesn’t advance either one. It would have been more interesting comparing the differences in their concerns. The book must have been written before last November 8 and not edited afterwards. The election is mentioned on that date but there is no follow up, even on November 9. That was much too big a story to be omitted.
While generally well-written in a grammatical sense, the plots are a bit thin and stretched out. There was no real excitement. I resent the overuse of fat shamming. Pewter may be overweight, but that doesn’t have to be mentioned in almost every conversation involving the other animals. A couple of human characters are also described by their size or looks more than once. The title had no connection to the story.
Tidbits: The animals in conversation: “Humans attach theories and ideologies to habits, some correct, some not correct. The two cats and dogs never did that. They always looked life square in the eye, which doesn’t mean they always liked what they saw.” But they do talk about how they are superior to humans and find clues that the humans miss.
“People love to talk and they don’t much care if it’s the truth or not. What they care about is looking as though they have the real story.” Very true, especially on the internet social media.
In the 1786 sections, it explains the needs for national programs.. Individual locations (cities, counties, states) didn’t have the consistency and authority to work with other areas and countries about financial matters. States raised and supported militias but only Congress could declare war.
“Council meeting droned on and on....Show me a political meeting where there isn’t hand-wringing and finger pointing.” “What we need is a good sex scandal. That will wake us up.”
“Like many women, she appreciated a super-strong man.” NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!
“When I was at Smith, I’d stay up all night for bull sessions. I thought that was friendship, you know, all this talk. Then one day I realized I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was. I felt closer to people by working with them instead of showing off how smart I thought I was. I like accomplishing something. Talk doesn’t do that.
I haven’t read any of the books in this series for quite awhile and thought I would get back into it. I don’t think I’ll try again.
This book was a preview copy from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Profile Image for DelAnne Frazee.
2,027 reviews18 followers
August 30, 2017
Title: A Hiss Before Dying - Mrs Murphy Mystery Book 26
Author: Rita Mae Brown - & Sneaky Pie Brown
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Published: 5-30-2017
Pages: 384
Genre: Thriller & Mystery
Sub-Genre: Cozy Mystery, Animals, Suspense, Amateur Sleuths, Humor & Satire, Adventure
ISBN: 9780554492494
ASIN: B01LK9H976
Reviewed For NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group
Reviewer: DelAnne
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Autumn is in the air in the Blue Ridge Mountain community of Crozet, Virginia—and all the traditions of the changing seasons are under way. Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen cleans her cupboards, her husband, Fair, prepares the horses for the shorter days ahead, and the clamorous barking of beagles signals the annual rabbit chase through the central Virginia hills. But the last thing the local beaglers and their hounds expect to flush out is a dead body.

Disturbingly, it’s the second corpse to turn up, after that of a missing truck driver too disfigured to identify. The deaths seem unrelated—until Harry picks up a trail of clues dating back to the state’s post-Revolutionary past.

The echoes of the Shot Heard Round the World pale in comparison to the dangerous shootout Harry narrowly escapes unscathed. Next time, it may be the killer who gets lucky. But not if Harry’s furry friends Mrs. Murphy, Pewter, and Tucker can help it. Lending their sharp-nosed talents to the hunt, they’ll help their mistress keep more lives from being lost—and right an injustice buried since the early days of America’s independence.

Uniquely to this story is the corresponding murder from the 1700's. Harry's role is not front and center in the investigation this time. Coop steps up and shows his talents and expertise. Both past and present times have the input from their animal counterparts and make the story richer and a more fun read. The tie in between the two keeps you turning the pages as you try and find the solution before the reveal.

I have to admit Mrs. Murphy, Pewter and Tucker are one of the reasons I started and continue to read the series. I fell in love with them in book one and our love affair continues. Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie bring the characters, bot two and four-legged to life and I can't get enough. I eagerly await the next book in the series.

My rating of "A Hiss Before Dying - Mrs Murphy Mystery Book 26" is 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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Profile Image for JoAnne McMaster (Any Good Book).
1,268 reviews20 followers
May 22, 2017
Harry Haristeen and her husband Fair live on a farm in Virginia along with their two cats, Pewter and Mrs. Murphy, and corgi Tucker. It's coming on autumn, the days are cooler and nights shorter. While attending the annual rabbit chase on a friend's land, the pack of beagles discovers the dead body of a man. While he's unknown to anyone, Harry does recognize what's around his neck: a chit from the American Revolution with the number 5 on it. Why he would have it is a mystery until Harry informs her friend Coop, a local police officer, that it came from a group of them owned by her friend Liz Turner, who has an antique store.

But why he was found there, and what he was doing there, is a question that can't be answered right now. No one even knows who he is, until a clue comes out from left field that might just identify him, and answer all the questions swirling around in everyone's head.

Also, Liz's shop is broken into, and thousands of dollars worth of items taken, adding to the mystery of what's been going on. Even though Harry has been lightly warned to stay out of the investigation, it isn't until she finds herself in danger that the pieces start coming together, and when they do, the result is something no one could have imagined, and something that stuns everyone in their circle of friends.

First off, let me say that I absolutely love Ms. Brown's books. They not only create a delicious mystery to dig into, but a bit of history as well - another 'mini-book' within the first one, and that one dealing with times around the American Revolution; in this one the year is 1768. It deals with life revolving around the Ewing family and their circle of friends and those on neighboring farms. This time out, we have intrigue with a runaway slave, neighbors Maureen and Jeffery Holloway, how the church St. Luke's came to be built, and even a duel. It is fascinating, to say the least, and the author ties the past in with the present in a seamless manner that connects the two easily.

Back to the present story, the mystery itself is well-crafted, and we watch while Harry, without even trying, is thrown into the middle of a conspiracy by uttering only words; we see that while she might be worried, she's angry as well and refuses to play the victim. Harry, indeed, is the type of strong woman I love to see in a book, one that refuses to be intimidated and can hold her own, but isn't rash enough to run into danger headlong.

When we come to the end and the killer is revealed, it is bittersweet closure; an end that was truly not expected and may change the lives of some of those in Crozet, Virginia; and leaving us looking forward to the next book in the series where we can visit with the past and the present together. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Marilyn Watson.
102 reviews6 followers
May 30, 2017
Rita Mae Brown wrote a multi-layered story of friends and family, interspersed with historical facts, in this cozy. There are two mysteries occurring in the book. I found myself wishing I had started with the first book, because the animals in this series are full of personality and quite amusing. The beauty of fall in the Blue Ridge Mountain area of Crozet, Virginia had lovely descriptions, almost like poetry at times.

In the opening Chapter, the three animals, Pewter, Tucker, and Mrs. Murphy are wandering along as an Eagle goes over. I felt the same terror that the small animals do, at this large predator on the hunt. From the Eagle's huge talons hangs a blue eyeball. A seamless start to the new Mystery and one- I was prepared to enjoy.

The gorgeous scenery and bits of history had me so enthralled I actually forgot this was a mystery at times. Then the bodies started turning up and Mary Minor Haristeen ( Harry) identifies a slave pass...well, I won't say anymore.

The Mystery moves slow, layering the time frames, while the personalities of the animals and people work well together. I do like getting to know historical facts and different time frames. But the heart of this series is in the current day I felt and the charm of the animals too, while they talked, fussed and helped. The recent format of switching back and forth between past and present could be confusing to new Readers but not long- time followers. Finally, I enjoyed getting to know all the characters very much and will be adding the first few books of the Mrs. Murphy series to my reading list.

My thanks to Netgalley and Random House
Profile Image for Lindsay Luke.
494 reviews2 followers
April 2, 2023
Mrs. Murphy #26. Mrs. Murphy, Pewter, and Tucker see an eagle carrying a human eye. A trailer hauling cars is found unattended. The driver is later found dead. Soon, another body is found shot in the back. The shooting victim is an African American man. It turns out he is a private investigator. He lives in DC. He also has ties to central VA but it's not clear what he brought him there this time. He was wearing a metal slave pass. Deputy Cooper isn't sure what it is or if it is valuable, so she asks Harry since Harry knows a lot of history. Of course, that gets her and the animals involved investigating. Harry does know what the slave pass is and it turns out a local shop has several of them on sale. They were found when a local man was cleaning out his attic. Of course, Harry wonders what all this is about and starts investigating.
Meanwhile, two tombstones at a local cemetery are mysteriously knocked over. Then the shop, which specializes in antiques and Native American goods, is robbed. As the locals have their usual political discussions, talk turns to environmentalism and protection of endangered species. Harry gets to wondering if all of this could have to do with trafficking in rare animal parts. The PI turns out to be a gay man and an art collector, so we learn about both.
Meanwhile, the story from the 1780s continues. Through that we learn why the graveyard is being disturbed, read about the slave passes being used, and hear the locals complaining about government and politics.
The animals figure it out before the humans, but it all works out in the end. There are still loose ends in the 1780s story that will probably come up in the next book.
Profile Image for Shannon.
266 reviews10 followers
January 29, 2018
This is my first Rita Mae Brown novel, and I'm not really sure what to say. I'd love to say good things about it; she's a prolific author with a strong following, and I understand that her Rubyfruit Jungle remains groundbreaking. This, though...well, I'll just jump right in.

Okay, here's the thing: it's fine as a stand-alone novel, but I kind of wondered if the huge number of characters would have been easier to track if I'd read the first in this series. Brown introduces her characters before the story starts, but after several pages of introductions my eyes began to glaze over. There are 37 people - from both present day and 1787 - to track, and 14 animals. Why??? Many of these characters contribute nothing to the story; they walk into a room, say a word or two, and walk out. And the animals contribute even less, unless they're intended to be comic relief, which they mostly aren't. How many times do we have to read about Tucker, the corgi, and Pewter, the gray cat, arguing? Honestly?

The mystery is solved in that we learn - mostly - who did what, but the resolution is so hasty that it seemed like an afterthought. Considering the amount of detail Brown provides on a variety of topics - animal protection, 18th-century illnesses, firearms, and others - it seems that more time could have been spent on the ending of the book.

I read this for BookRiot's Read Harder Challenge, and I have no regrets for having done so, but I'm not sure I'd reach for another Rita Mae Brown book in the future.
Profile Image for Paul Lunger.
1,020 reviews6 followers
July 6, 2018
The 26th installment in Rita Mae Brown's "Mrs. Murphy" series, "A Hiss Before Dying", is another split mystery between 2016 & 1786 as we the reader again deal with a pair of stories that at times really don't need the other. In 2016, we start with the discovery of a body near Crozet along with a murder of another person which is confirmed as such. In 1786, we have more of the story of the Cloverfield area along w/ an escaped slave & brothel in Richmond. Both stories at times for the most part function independently enough of each other & Brown at times especially with the 2016 story tends to reveal things at the end of chapters as if she's transitioning either a play, movie, or TV show which at times is beyond off for this series. Additionally, the animal interactions especially in 2016 are limited which can (& in this case does) throw this story off a bit & make it less interesting. Granted, we still have the same interactions of these characters we've grown to know & love throughout this series, but with the interactions of the 1786 story-line which is really only necessary for a reveal at the end, Brown makes this novel a lot longer than it probably should be. The 1786 story at times is almost useful to turn parts of this book into a work of historical fiction as it does get into the issues of a young USA & the troubles facing Virginia post-Revolutionary War. Overall a mixed bag of an entry in this series which right now doesn't appear to know which era it wants to be in.
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