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Literature / Mrs. Murphy Mysteries

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Mrs. Murphy Mysteries is a long-running book series by Rita Mae Brown. The stories focus on a postmistress named Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen, and her pets tiger cat named Mrs. Murphy, a corgi named Tee Tucker, and a fat grey cat named Pewter, who actually originally belonged to the local market owner during the first seven books. All of the stories involve a series of murders occurring, usually when newcomers start appearing in the town of Crozet, Virginia. Harry usually tries to solve the mystery of the murders herself, despite warnings from friends and the local police. Her pets are usually one step ahead of her in solving the mystery.

The series consists of:

  • #1: Wish You Were Here (1990)
  • #2: Rest In Pieces (1992)
  • #3: Murder at Monticello (1994)
  • #4: Pay Dirt (1995)
  • #5: Murder, She Meowed (1996)
  • #6: Murder on the Prowl (1998)
  • #7: Cat on the Scent (1999)
  • #8: Pawing Through the Past (2000)
  • #9: Claws and Effect (2001)
  • #10: Catch As Cat Can (2002)
  • #11: The Tail of the Tip-Off (2003)
  • #12: Whisker of Evil (2004)
  • #13: Cat's Eyewitness (2005)
  • #14: Sour Puss (2006)
  • #15: Puss 'n Cahoots (2007)
  • #16: The Purrfect Murder (2008)
  • #17: Santa Clawed (2008)
  • #18: Cat of the Century (2010)
  • #19: Hiss of Death (2011)
  • #20: The Big Cat Nap (2012)
  • #21: Sneaky Pie for President (2012)
  • #22: The Litter of the Law (2013)
  • #23: Nine Lives to Die (2014)
  • #24: Tail Gait (2015)
  • #25: Tall Tail (2016)
  • #26: A Hiss Before Dying (2017)
  • #27: Probable Claws (2018)
  • #28: Whiskers in the Dark (2019)
  • #29: Furmidable Foes (2020)
  • #30: Claws for Alarm (2021)

Tropes featured in the book series include:

  • Always Murder: Although other crimes are involved as well.
  • Animal Talk: A very important part of the series. Much of the plot follows the titular Mrs. Murphy, a cat, who gains information speaking with various other animals related in some way to the crimes.
  • Ascended Extra: Pewter, was a very minor character in the first three or four books. Not becoming as involved in the stories as Mrs. Murphy and Tucker until book #5 (Murder, She Meowed), in which she actually starts living with the main characters.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Harry never learns to just mind her own business, and not venture into strange places where a killer is known to lurk. Amazing she's even still alive by the 3rd book.
  • Asshole Victim: At least one of victims is not a very nice person.
  • Author Avatar: Mrs. Murphy is expressly noted to be based on supposed co-authoress Sneaky Pie.
  • The Beautiful Elite: All of the recurring characters in this series are beautiful, fit and appealing to members of the opposite sex. Even if they didn't start out that way.
  • Berserk Button: Murphy and Tucker do not like being left home alone, especially if they had planned to do some undercover work. If Harry leaves her pets by themselves, she's sure to return home and find her home ransacked.
  • Big Eater: Pewter.
  • Big Fancy House: The wealthier citizens of Crozet have huge, beautiful houses, and there are a lot of wealthy people living there.
  • Butt-Monkey: Pewter. Of the human characters, Harry's ex-husband, Fair, tends to be the butt of many insulting comments. Little Marilyn is also rarely respected by her political parents.
  • Cats Are Snarkers: Mrs. Murphy qualifies. As does the supposed co-authoress, Sneaky Pie.
  • Cats Are Superior: Mrs. Murphy and Pewter certainly think so. As does the supposed co-authoress, Sneaky Pie.
  • Comic-Book Time: Four books equal one year, and each book represents a season.
    • Which leads to Fridge Logic, as the series began in 1990, and theoretically the most recent books should take place around 1993 or so. Yet the most recent books make reference to things such as "economy troubles", and movies that came out in the late 90s/early 00s.
    • This can be explained by some things in books 4 (Pay Dirt) and 5 (Murder, She Meowed) — one of the biggest being that Rita Brown makes references to current events of the mid-90s and with no actual calendar dates in most of the books aside for the months and days and season it could be possible the books are actually set in the mid/late 90s and thus books 15 (Puss n' Cahoots) and 16 (The Purrfect Murder) could be taking place in the early 2000s, when the economy began a downturn in the world, depending on how you read them.
  • Comic Trio: Murphy, Tucker and Pewter.
  • Detective Animal: Mrs. Murphy.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: Proves to be the case, as Harry remarries her ex-husband in the very first chapter of book 14 ("Sour Puss").
  • Exposition Victim: Harry almost becomes one during the very first book.
  • Heroic Dog: Tucker has saved Harry's life time and time again by bravely attacking her assailants. Actually, come to think of it, the cats tend to do the exact same thing. In one book the murderer actually incapacitates Tucker and ends up being attacked when she goes to kill Harry in her barn anyway because she ignored the cats.
  • Holier Than Thou: Harry's neighbor Mrs. Hoggendobber starts out this way in the first few books, but then mellows down.
  • Long-Runners: This series began in 1990, and is still going.
  • Mystery Magnet: With the crime rate what it is, why would anyone move to Crozet?
  • Never One Murder: Ever, ever, ever.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: "Boom-Boom" is almost always identified or addressed as such. Her real name is Olivia Craycroft. Then you have the lead character Mary Minor Haristeen, who's always been called "Harry" since she was little and wanted fur like a cat (well before her first marriage to Pharamond "Fair" Haristeen).
  • Put on a Bus: Mrs. Hoggendobber.
  • Retcon: As the series has progressed from the first novel, some of the explanations for things have mutated, including the reason for the divorce, the remarriage, and the way she obtained Mrs. Murphy.
  • Reunion Revenge: Book #8 (Pawing Through the Past) revolves around this — when each member of the Crozet High Class of 1980 receives an anonymous note stating, "You'll never get old," most take it as a joke or a compliment. But when the class womanizer turns up with a bullet between his eyes, and more notes — and more bodies — start appearing, Harry and her menagerie find themselves at the center of a revenge plot 20 years in the making.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Harry.
  • Southern-Fried Genius: Almost everyone is very intelligent as well as beautiful.
  • Take That, Audience!: Rita Mae Brown, writing as her cat Sneaky Pie Brown, usually writes intros and closings to each story, often mocking humans for their obliviousness and stupidity.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Female variant in "Little Marilyn" Sanburne, who is this way with her parents, the joint mayors of Crozet.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Harry really doesn't think sometimes when she plays Murder, She Wrote / Nancy Drew.