Tail Gait: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery by Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown (Bantam, $26.00, 307 pages)
“Smartest thing we ever did, separation of church and state, and we can thank Madison for drawing up those Articles for Virginia when we were a colony.” Ginger’s tone brooked no interference, but then the rest agreed on this issue.
Professor Greg “Ginger” McConnell, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Virginia is a tenacious researcher who has been digging into land ownership matters that must be sensitive to someone who wants to keep the past buried. Ginger is the victim of that someone and he’s found dead in the rough of a golf course by several of his former students.
Tail Gait follows two story threads, one set in the Revolutionary War and the other in 2015. The plight of a brave young British soldier captured by the Americans is contrasted with the murder of the history professor. The locale is Rita Mae Brown’s home turf, Virginia.
Typical of Ms. Brown, there are many teaching moments inserted here and there. Readers familiar with the Sneaky Pie Brown mysteries may be disappointed that the feline Mrs. Murphy and her furry friends are not more prominently featured in the solution to Ginger’s murder.
The two story threads seem unrelated until more than halfway through the book. The reader is left wondering when, if ever, Ms. Brown will get to the point. The writing in both threads is sadly uneven. This reviewer needed to reread passages for clarification. This work is far below the standard earlier set by Brown; thus, it’s not engaging or entertaining. If there’s another book in the series, let’s hope that Mrs. Murphy is returned to her starring role!
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
You can read a review of Cat Striking Back: A Joe Grey Mystery by Shirley Rousseau Murphy here:
The Return of George Washington: 1783-1789 by Edward J. Larson (William Morrow, $29.99, 357 pages)
In retrospect, Washington’s ascent to the presidency seems so foreordained as to need no explanation. It appeared so at the time as well. Virtually everyone expected it, yet Washington’s closest friends and advisors… felt a need to encourage him.
The Return of George Washington by Edward J. Larson may be a totally accurate account of a significant period in the life of Washington, but I found it to be rather flavorless and colorless. The reader learns how it was that Washington was drafted into accepting the role of this country’s first president, but never gets close to understanding who or what he was as a man, a living person. The Washington presented by Larson is gloomy and pessimistic and anguished; writing that he saw “nothing but clouds and darkness before me” in serving as president. Others have painted a portrait of a man who was quite intelligent, cunning and ambitious. He was certainly nothing if not courageous, leading a rag-tag volunteer army against what was then the most powerful nation on earth.
This account contains a few typos that will hopefully be corrected in the trade paper version. Larson also relies upon some strange word selections (“proroguing”) that may reflect an overly academic style.
If one has never read a biography of Washington, this is not a bad place to start but it only covers the period after the Revolutionary War through Washington’s death. There are fuller accounts. The strongest section deals with the machinations of the Constitutional Convention. Law students may find it interesting.
A better choice of a Washington bio fortunately remains in print, Washington: The Indispensable Man by the late James Thomas Flexner (first published in 1974). That account won a National Book Award for biography and a special Pulitzer Prize citation. It is the account of Washington’s life to read; an account that is full, rich, complete and completely convincing when it comes to detailing the greatness of Washington, the man.
Note: The Los Angeles Times labeled Flexner’s biography of Washington, “The most convincing evocation of the man and his deeds in one book.”