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:
One Good Dog is a novel by Susan Wilson that was released today on St. Martin’s/Macmillan. We haven’t had a chance to look at it yet but writer Rita Mae Brown says, “One good dog equals one great book!” And here’s what Garth Stein, the author of The Art of Racing in the Rain says: “One Good Dog is a wonderful novel: a moving, tender and brilliantly crafted story about two fighters – one a man, one a dog – hoping to leave the fight behind, who ultimately find their salvation in each other. Susan Wilson’s clear and unflinching style is perfectly suited for her story that strips away the trappings and toys we all hide behind, and exposes our essential need to give and accept love in order to thrive.”
Here is the way One Good Dog opens:
He was a rough-looking thing. Big ears, wiry hair. His muzzle just beginning to grizzle. He looked like the sort who’d been living outside of society for a while, maybe never really been a companion. After a long parade of supplicants appearing before me, each wanting me to choose him or her, their noses pressed up to the chain-link fence that separated us, there was something in this one’s deep brown eyes, not a pleading – pleading I can overlook – but something else. A quiet dignity, maybe even an aloofness, as if he really didn’t need me or my kind being nice to him. Yes. That was it, a haughtiness that declared he needed no one’s pity; he shouldn’t even be here. Don’t look at me; I’m only here by coercion.
Our eyes met and held, but then he turned away. Beta to my alpha. But in that brief gaze, I saw something I recognized. Maybe it was just that I saw my own independent streak, the one that has kept me on top. Or the eyes of a fighter down on his luck, but with memories of recent glory. Maybe I saw that underneath the rough exterior lay a heart, like mine, not entirely hard. You’ve got to be tough to live in the world, whether your lip is curled in real anger or fear aggression, you have to be ready to carry out the threat. This battle-scarred fella understood that, and on that basis I made my decision. He was the one for me.
So I wagged my tail.